Our history and cultures are littered with nature references and so it's no surprise to find that this year's Brighton Festival has taken inspiration from the world around us.

Musician and Brighton Festival star Sam Lee has written a guest blog all about his performances with NIGHTINGALES to share the joy he gets from nature. You can share the joy you get by joining our "For the Love of...." event in London on 17 June.

Here's Sam's blog:

Sam Lee

For six short weeks around this time of year when the dusk turns to gloaming and the gloaming to dark, the land softens its throb and hustle and one of the most virtuosic singers the world has born takes to his lofty stage and commences a symphony sculpted in liquid so supple it intoxifies the spirit like a swig of crisp moonshine.

But better that the moon doesn’t shine as legend tells us the Nightingales go shy around fulls. This spring however the lunar calendar has been consulted and Brighton Festival’s scheduled walks will be in the cover of the Downs darkest enclaves deep amongst the blackthorn where these dusky brown songsters salute to the skies. Above them passing females winding their way north from their Africa residencies are lured down by these well-landed avian bachelors.

This rare and rather unspectacular looking bird is, as I always say, an African bird that flies to England for the summer. His song is too exotic, too magnificent, to agile and flirtatious to be British against the modesty of say a song thrush or skylark or even a skydiving snipe. Their dusk till dawn timekeeping is more of a Chicago blues bar busker full of hollers and croons and syncopated backbeats dancing, shuffling and diving. They are lonely canopy cowboys whooping a high lonesome chorus, reaching up and out in giddy pulses. Their heads arched back and proud projecting, throwing sound out across the landscape as would an imam, with prayers to the land, sonnets to the silent arenas of undulating hedgerows. This is nightingale time and I am daring to enter into a long tradition of bestial musical duetery but this time with an audience in tow.

After a love affair with their singing a sample found its way onto an interpretation of the traditional song ‘The Tanyard Side’ I recorded a few years back. Many conversations with Brighton Festival ensued and subsequently an unexpectedly successful BBC R4 mini doc ‘Singing With The Nightingales’ aired last May to celebrate 90 years of outside broadcasting after Elgar’s favourite cellist Beatrice Harrison’s iconic duet with the birds made radio history.

Sam Lee performing on stage with Omer Ihas

Suddenly nightingales, which are today dropping in numbers at horrific rates, are very ‘Du Jour’ (or more accurately ‘Du Nuit’) and so this year, with an avian and migratory theme at the festival, the dream role has fallen on my shoulders to be the songful guide of six unique nocturnal safaris; to seek out some class singers and share in a symbiotic musical exchange other ancient folk songs I have gathered as a singer and song collector that speak of the land, of bird worlds and of the relationship that man has with nature. Some very special musical guests have also been invited to join these excursions and a promise of the most exquisite musical journey has been made. Who knows what will happen, who knows if they will sing. So far their artist contracts have not be signed or returned and with such delicate feathered beasts, as with all of nature, one can never be too sure what will happen.

Sam Lee's Nightingale Walks will take place on Wed 13 - Fri 15, and Tue 19 - Thu 21 May, 9pm until late as part of Brighton Festival. For more information visit http://brightonfestival.org/event/5857/sam_lees_nightingale_walk/


We are blessed to have nightingales in the south east of England, and who knows, maybe we'll get some venturing into London this year. We have one of the most important sites in the country for nightingales in Kent, which is currently under threat of development. Read more about our campaign to save the nightingales and the Lodge Hill sites other scarce wildlife here.