Of Birds and Beasts

Two original folk-like melodies and three European folk songs, set for two-part treble
chorus (or two soloists) and piano. Winner of the 1979 Music Teachers Association of California “Composers Today” Competition.

Excerpt from The Owl:

View/download score PDF

1) The Owl — melody by Michael Kimbell, text by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the faroff stream is dumb,
And the whirling sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.

When merry milkmaids click the latch,
And rarely smells the new-mown hay,
And the cock hath sung beneath the thatch
Twice or thrice his roundelay;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.

2) The Little Forest Bird — Transylvanian folk song, transl. Edmund Kimbell

There sat a little forest bird
Upon a dark green branchlet;
It sang the night of winter through,
Its note was clear and dulcet.

“O sing still more, sing more to me,
You little forest treasure!
About your feathers fine and soft
This gold and silk I’ll measure.”

“Keep all your gold and all your silk!
I’ll never sing to you, see;
I am a little forest bird,
And no-one can command me.”

“Come fly to me, out from this vale.
Grim Frost will grip you also!”
“And should Frost grip, grim Frost so cold,
Fair Sun will make my chill go.”

3) The Two Rats — melody by Michael Kimbell, anonymous text

He was a rat, and she was a rat,
And down in one hole they did dwell,
And both were as black as a witch’s cat
And they loved one another well.

He had a tail, and she had a tail,
Both long and curling and fine;
And each said, “Yours is the finest tail
In the world, excepting mine.”

He smelt the cheese, and she smelt the cheese,
And they both pronounced it good;
And both remarked it would greatly add
To the charms of their daily food.

So he ventured out, and she ventured out,
And I saw them go with pain;
But what befell them I never can tell,
For they never came back again.

4) Song of the Whales — Albanian folk melody, new text by Edith Kimbell

Dim grey shadows, ever wand’ring,
Leaping through the foaming spray,
On the deep swift flowing rivers,
There wend we our way.

How far leads the path that beckons?
Whither flows the wine dark sea?
Lonely mountains, deep blue heavens,
Where can the end be?

What lies far beyond the starlight?
Whither blows the eastern wind?
Sparkling waters, hollow caverns,
How shall the play end?

5) The Cuckoo — melody and text by Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben,
English performing translation by Edith Kimbell

Cuckoo, cuckoo, calling I hear.
Children are singing,
Dancing and swinging:
Listen, listen, Springtime is near!

Cuckoo, cuckoo, I hear your cry,
Come to the hollows,
Forests and meadows,
Listen, listen, Springtime is nigh.

Cuckoo, cuckoo, knight of the field,
What you were singing
Now is beginning:
Winter, winter quickly must yield.