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Classical Notes

Pieces of Spring No. 6

Posted at 8:00 AM on May 7, 2007 by John Birge

Welcome May, and Classical Minnesota Public Radio's Pieces of Spring.

Every day, we'll play a springtime classic. Visit our online playlist to find each day's spring piece or, in the Twin Cities, listen to 99.5 every morning at 8. Enter the correct title here, and you have another chance to win fresh flowers delivered to your door for a year! Check back here every day to see if you got it right.

Yesterday's piece was the Frederick Delius' "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring."

The cuckoo has long been regarded as the bringer of Spring in many countries. Writers have penned many a verse connecting the bird’s call with the blooming of flowers, from a brief mention in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour Lost” to lengthy poems from William Wordsworth and Robert Browning. It’s almost an obsession in England, where April 14th is traditionally First Cuckoo Day. Local newspapers report on the first cuckoo call in the town, and fairs and feasts are held to celebrate the arrival of Spring.

The cuckoo is perhaps the most popular bird in England, since its arrival every April traditionally signals the beginning of spring. Legends and folklore surround the cuckoo, some that might seem a bit silly:

-On hearing the first cuckoo in spring, you should run in a circle three times, which grants good luck for the rest of the year;

-If the sound of the first cuckoo is to your right you will have good fortune, but if is to the left, bad luck is assured;

-When you hear the first cuckoo, you must run to the nearest gate and sit on the top bar to drive away the spirit of laziness, otherwise there will be no inclination to work and you will remain weak and listless all year;

-If you hear the bird after the 31st of July, there will be misfortune;

-The song of the cuckoo calls the salmon to swim upstream;

-The cuckoo steals the color blue, and if blue clothing fades, the bird is to blame.