memories & nightingales
The sounds of our everyday life coexist as music. From the beginning of the recorded history, several artists and producers recorded individually or in combination with original musical works, nature (field) recordings and environmental sounds. But there is always a first time.
"...the four Harrison sisters, all leading lights of the British musical scene. They attained celebrity after Beatrice's cello duets with a nightingale were broadcast in the 1920's. George V told her that she had "drawn the Empire closer together through the song of the nightingale and your cello." The sisters showed musical gifts early in life. Beatrice as a cellist, Monica as a singer and Margaret & May as violinists. During their careers, the sisters worked with many international performers and conductors, including Kreisler, Casals, Melba, Beecham, Rachmaninov, Nikisch, and Weingartner. They were friends with such composers as Delius, Elgar, Bax, Glazunov, Kodaly, Ireland & Quilter. Several works were dedicated to the sisters, particularly by Delius."
Margaret Harrison, for her sister Beatrice:
"My sister loved going out in the garden or the edge of the wood and she liked to work and practice there in the evening. One night she heard a lovely bird singing and she was so excited. Next morning she spoke to one of our two dear old gardeners and said, 'Hockham, I heard a wonderful bird last night', and he said, 'The nightingales have come back. They've been gone a long time from here but they've heard your playing and come back.'
Every night Beatrice used to go out and play, if it wasn't raining, of course. She was playing the Elgar concerto with Elgar at the Central Hall in London and, talking to the announcer, said, 'I've got such a wonderful nightingale in the wood, I do wish you could broadcast it so other people can hear it, even abroad.' He replied, 'Well, I'll have a word with Captain Eckersley, the head engineer, and see what he thinks.'
Two or three days later Captain Eckersley (Captain Peter Pendleton Eckersley, the pioneer of British broadcasting and the first Chief Engineer of the BBC from 1922 to 1927) rang and said, 'I think it would be possible; I'll come down and see you.' Beatrice showed him where she played to the nightingale and he said, 'We'll try it.' So they brought down their paraphernalia, tested it and found it feasible, and one night in May (the 19th of May, 1924) they did it, and again the next week and the following year with two microphones. (The live broadcast session was repeated every spring for the following 12 years!)
It was heard in Italy, Paris and London, even as far away as New Zealand, and we got thousands and thousands of enthusiastic letters from people all over the world."
That was the first time that radio listeners heard a cello playing while nightingales sang live from the woods around Harrison's home in Oxted, attracted by the sound of her cello.