Sunday, March 28, 2010

Singing in spring

Ricky Tims--quilter extraordinaire, music producer and fellow tenor in the Donald B. Cowan Legacy Choir--in the midst of yet another blizzard blowing down the front range the other day asked, "What's a sure sign of spring in your neck of the woods?" Ricky, you see, calls Colorado home these days, and the question was posed to his hundreds of far-flung friends, fans and followers of his Facebook page. I pondered Ricky's timely question for a couple of nanoseconds and watched my fingers respond, "The return of the storm chasers!"

Okay, so I'm given to sarcasm. It's a curse; my cross to bear. Truth is--for those who do not live in Tornado alley--storm chasers are fairly late spring arrivals. Generally speaking, it takes a bit more heat than the ides of March typically muster to make our Rolling Plains weather get seriously interesting.

So how does one know spring has arrived on the soft underbelly of the Great Plains? It woke me this morning just as the sun was peeking in at my bedroom window; a male mockingbird proudly proclaiming his territory from the topmost branch of my neighbor's pecan tree. Mockingbird song may not do it for everyone, but it's good enough for me.

The Northern mockingbird inhabits all of North America from southern Canada down to Central America, but it seems to have a preference for the Gulf Coast. The Texas legislature named Mimus polyglottos, roughly translated "mimics many tongues", as Texas' official State Bird back in 1927. The mocker also has been adopted by Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee.

While mockingbirds remain year round in this neck of the plains, they are at their vocal peak when their avian hormones push them to songs of nesting and all that goes along with that. Other males invest in showy Easter finery to strut their stuff and woe the ladies. Not the mockers. Males maintain their gray and white feathers year round and depend on stitching together a prize-winning string of vocal strains to go a-courting. Spring inspired males may string together up to a couple dozen measures borrowed from the sounds of their habitat, including cell phone ring tones.

Henbit may bloom, crocus and daffodils may lift their showy heads and the air fill with the explosive sounds of allergy-inspired sneezing. All fickle signs of spring at best. When the pre-dawn chill is broken by the mockingbird's trill, it's time to pack away the long johns and dust off the weather-alert radio! The storm chasers won't be long in appearing.

Well, the first mass rehearsal of the Donald B. Cowan Legacy Choir is set for 2 o'clock this afternoon. Singers from 32 years of Don Cowan's Rider High School A Cappella Choirs will meet in Wichita Falls to begin work on a grand concert scheduled for June 25, 2011. Follow our progress at LegacyChoir.org.
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