Mr Joe – Concert of the Birds by Frans Snyders

Concert of the Birds by Frans Snyders (Via Museo del Prado)

‘Ahem, ahem is everyone here?’ exclaims Joe the magpie to the small flock. He pauses, peering over the black framed glasses perched on his beak at the other birds sat on the branches of an old tree.

‘Well I think we are missing Cordelia, but she says she needed to take care of her mother and wouldn’t be here anyway’ replies obedient Pat the parrot, casually holding on to a twig with his right claw.  With his other claw, he clears the leaves obscuring the view of his feathered classmates gathered on this early evening.

‘Ahem, that’s right she mentioned last week she would miss rehearsal’, acknowledges Joe while clearing his throat. His voice is coarse revealing his advanced years compared to the rest of the group. He is the only one wearing glasses and white feathers spread out across his frail body.
Joe is the conductor of the Liberty School junior choir. He has been teaching students to use their instruments and taking them to play at national events since he can even remember.

Today, everyone is present for the last rehearsal of the summer, well, except Cordelia, as Pat promptly remembered. Before Autumn cools down the temperature and sends its winds into the sky, the orchestra uses the warmer air to repeat the highest melodies which they will have to perform in the winter one more time.

The Russian twins Piotr and Gambor, Margaret, Sidony and Alicia are on the left. On/ the right, Jimmy and Alistair fight about nothing, but for attention, as usual. In the first row, Birgit watches her disobedient classmates and, like a good student, raises her voice in vain, in an attempt to silence everyone: ‘Mr Joe is heeeeeeeeeere. Silence everyooooooooone’.
Hopping from one branch to the other Birgit finds her way to Joe and out of breath screeches: ‘I, I set up the score over there, and I, I, counted everyone, there are twenty of us. Twenty including me Mr, Mr Joe.’
‘Well done Birgit, thank you. I appreciate your effort, but calm down now, as you need your breath to sing properly. Birgit nods along as Joe painfully deploys his wings to reach the top of the class. ‘Thank, thank you Mr Joe, will do’.

‘All right birdies let’s take it from the top. I assume that everyone at least peeked at today’s section of the score. Jimmy and Alistair, we need your baritone voices so don’t force me to discipline or separate you so early in the rehearsal.’ As everyone sets their eyes on the two friends, both cease their spectacle and proudly puff out their chests to their make-believe audience.
‘Good, ok that’s settled.’
That was easy today, mumbles Joe under his breath.

‘Mr Joe! I have a question before we begin!’ The group is loud again as the question is asked.
‘Yes Lucille, what is it. Everyone else silence!” replies the conductor a little annoyed and conscious that he, in fact, shares the group’s reaction. They are wasting precious time.
‘I just wanted to make sure that the first part did not include the mezzo nor sopranos.’
Challenged by the question, Mr Joe squawks: ‘Well, everyone that is a very good question’ and then to himself ‘for once’.
‘Mezzo-sopranos or sopranos are indeed do not sing in the first part. Is everyone clear on that?’ As nobody replies, Joe lifts his beak and cues his singers. The concert is about to start.


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