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Nashville Symphony Says Farewell to 100,000 Roosting Singers

A Purple Martin in flight against a soft blue sky
National Audubon Society
Purple Martin in flight

It's the Nashville Symphony vs. the Purple Martins. Also in this roundup: kids in Africa find pure joy in Vivaldi, a pianist finds his way back from a stroke, and fantastic creatures emerge from worn-out instruments.

1. Our roundup of stories from the classical world starts with a jolt of pure happiness! South African students at a primary school near Johannesburg are reconnecting with their Zulu heritage through the marimba. This Vivaldi mashup will make your day:

2. When pianist/composer Haskell Small suffered a stroke, his left side suffered the brunt of the damage. Fighting back has been hard work, requiring humor and perseverance. But as his physical therapist told him, “one of the best therapies for recovery from a stroke is playing piano.” Small has used “mirror therapy,” focusing on a mirror image of the functioning hand while trying to move the other. And he’s written a new piece for right hand alone called Diary of a Stroke: The Adventures of Herb and Pete (the names he’s affectionately given his left leg and hand!)

Diary of a Stroke The Adventures of Herb and Pete – Pianist-Composer Haskell Small

3. Willie Cole makes incredible things from worn-out instruments which, he says, he doesn’t really find … instead, they find him. His latest is a jaw-dropping menagerie (and I covet the piano bird!)

4. While that piano bird is a work of art, a gathering of Purple Martins at the Nashville Symphony has people feeling more like they're in a scene from Hitchcock. The 100,000 migrating Purple Martins haven't attacked anyone, but they have been wreaking havoc at Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center each summer since 2020 — damaging trees and Symphony property, and posing a public health risk to the city's residents.

Facing another summer of destruction, the decision has been made to remove the 40 roosting trees which grow in cement planters around the building. They'll be replaced with other trees, including Chinese pistache, Royal White Redbud, Sweet Bay Magnolia and Yoshino cherry trees — and the Symphony has been working with the Tennessee Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy to help those marvelous Martins find other, though less musical, stopovers.

Check out this video of the Purple Martin migration:

Cathy Fuller is a Host and Producer for CRB.