Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

City of London Sinfonia and guests present an evening of three parts in which chamber works inspired by birdsong are preceded by a pre-concert talk with TV/radio presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff and followed by a late-night improvised set with award-winning folksinger Sam Lee.

Many 20th- and 21st-century composers have famously translated birdsong in their music, including in the suites for chamber forces by Respighi (The Birds) and more recently John Luther Adams (Songbirdsongs)—and not least the French composer Messiaen, who painstakingly transcribed birdsong in his inspiring compositions.

Adding another naturalist perspective to the performance, Alice Zawadzki lends her voice to the nest, performing songs with City of London Sinfonia and acapella.

JOHN LUTHER ADAMS ‘Morningfieldsong’ from Songbirdsongs
DELIUS On Hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring
RESPIGHI ‘The Cuckoo’ from The Birds
MESSIAEN Le Merle Bleu (Blue Rock Thrush)
RESPIGHI ‘The Dove’ from The Birds
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS ‘Woodthrush’ from Songbirdsongs
RESPIGHI ‘The Nightingale’ from The Birds
MESSIAEN L’Alouette Calandrelle (Greater Short-toed Lark)
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS ‘Meadowdance’ from Songbirdsongs
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS The Lark Ascending

City of London Sinfonia
Sian Edwards Conductor
Alice Zawadzki Vocalist
Huw Watkins Piano
Alexandra Wood Violin

Pre-concert talk with Miranda Krestovnikoff
7.00pm (c.30-40mins)

TV/Radio presenter and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) President Miranda Krestovnikoff recounts her amazing experiences of creating musical conversations with wrens. We'll also be joined by Huw Watkins and Roderick Chadwick who discuss classical composers' use of birdsong in their compositions.

Singing with Nightingales Live
10.00pm (c.75mins)

Folksinger and naturalist Sam Lee has been inviting audiences to hear the most mercurial of songbirds, nightingales, for the past few years in England’s few remaining ancient woodlands. Nightingales were at one time the ever-present background music to this country’s crisp spring nights, but their numbers and habitats have fallen sharply in the last 50 years, with fewer than 5,000 breeding pairs remaining.

In this late-night post-concert performance, musicians from City of London Sinfonia join Sam Lee and Alice Zawadzki in an improvised set in response to a live broadcast from special winged guests singing in an ancient English woodland.

City of London Sinfonia musicians
Sam Lee Presenter/Vocalist
Alice Zawadzki Vocalist/Violin



Ticket information

Please note that you must be a ticketholder to the main performance to be able to attend the pre- and post-concert events.

Front Stalls: £30, £20
Rear Stalls: £30, £20, £10

Available offers/discounts:
Wheelchair user: £20 Rear Stalls, £10 Front Stalls; Carer/companion: free
Child (under 16): 25% off all standard ticket prices
CLS 5IVER (16-25yrs/students): £5 (limited availability)
Unwaged: 25% off lower two standard ticket prices (limited availability)
Groups (4+): 20% off
Series saver: 20% off when you book for all 3 concerts (standard ticket types only)

All bookings are subject to availability. Read our terms and conditions of sale for more information.


Absolute Bird is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and by David and Molly Lowell Borthwick, The John S Cohen Foundation, Derek Hill Foundation, John Ellerman Foundation and Kirby Laing Foundation.

Arts Council England John Ellerman Foundation