In Annika Kahrs A Concert for the Birds a host of songbirds take up residence in a 13th Century Chapel. Every hour, a concert pianist will perform music inspired by their song. The birds are audience to an enchanting recital of one of composer Franz Liszt’s best-loved piano solos – Preaching to the Birds.

The 19th Century Austro-Hungarian pianist and composer composed La prédication aux oiseaux (Preaching to the Birds) as a sincere attempt to capture the mystery and beauty of birds in song, taking the literary legend of Saint Francis of Assisi as the model for his virtuosic piano piece. This story, which is often illustrated in the arts, tells of the following episode: Francis of Assisi, the beggar-friar, gave a sermon before a flock of birds that he came across in a field.

As he came closer, the birds didn’t fly away, but rather remained reacting to his words. What is of significance in this story is that Francis believed that not only did humans have souls, but also the entire animal world. The consequence being, that each creature had a conscience and was blessed with the ability to understand. Liszt translated this narrative into the language of music, which serves as a model for universal understanding.

For Kahrs this work explores the power of music as a universal language. By giving the music back to the birds, she captures its narrative potential.

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