This exciting, rather unusual concert was brought to us by Camerata, Queensland’s chamber orchestra, and was  filmed at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane. They bring to life the epic poem of the same name. They tell the tale as written by twelfth century Persian mystic and poet, Attar of Nishapur, using Lembit Beecher’s music and interspersed with actor, Liz Buchanan, giving an impassioned expressive reading of the Peter Sis book based on the allegorical tale. The stage has a wonderful setting as if it is like a bird’s nest and there are screens with projections of the illustrations.

First up was Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia in B Minor, where you could hear the birds having an anxious discussion. At first it is gentle and lyrical, then changes to emphatic, scurrying, swooping circles. A rhythmic, waltz-like melody is stated and developed, with a vigorous beat, but the Sinfonia returns to a fluttering, anxious mood as if a bird is trapped in a cage. 

Peter Sis’ book, his first for adults, is based on the allegorical quest as told by Attar of Nishapur. It is a journey of self discovery,  of meditation,  of love and faith and what it means to be human. The birds,  led by the hoopoe, set off in search of a king and traverse seven valleys- quest, love, understanding, detachment, unity, amazement and death. .The birds that make it to the mountain are brought to realise that the king is actually all and each of them. Sis’s illustrations are magnificent, and at times incredibly detailed (for example, the illustration of the peacock) Buchanan reads five parts of the book .

Beecher’s complex, multi layered work of the same name is given a shimmering, rippling performance by Camerata.At times, it is soft and slow, quivering, with delicate violin, enfolding and entwined, at other times,sharp and spiky with flurries of a heartbeat sound (plucked double  bass) or palpitates with whirling, spiky flourishes. One violinist also plays the triangle and at one point the ensemble rubbed sandpaper. 

This was complemented by a passionate performance of Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending with Brendan Joyce the soloist on violin, poised ,rhapsodic and translucent. Vaughan Williams’ work is evocatively pastoral, with the lark clearly conjured in the music. In the first half with Joyce the piece  softly hovers in the English fields. With touching accompaniment from the strings and five woodwind players, Joyce dazzled with bewitching, technically virtuoso cadenzas. 

Part 2, the Allegretto tranquillo, began pianissimo with an impressive clarinet and euphonious,. vivid performances from the woodwind and violins. Joyce on violin as the soaring lark was delicate yet fragile in the shimmering, captivating conclusion.

Running time roughly 80 minutes


Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra


Brendan Joyce – Violin

Peter Sis – Author/Illustrator


Mendelssohn – Sinfonia in B Minor

Beecher – The Conference of the Birds for 19 Solo Strings

Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending