I’m a nonsinging pianist. I’m not sure if I can’t sing—or I won’t. But I don’t. Not out loud, anyway. I often sing the melody of a piece in my head when I play; that helps to produce what many call a “singing tone” on the piano. But silent singing isn’t much use to my audiences. Once in a while, feathered friends compensate for my vocal deficiency.
A few of the places I volunteer have indoor aviaries in a central location near the piano. The energy and color in the aviary is a welcome change for elderly residents, whose lives have become slower-paced, sometimes a bit dull. A few have told me that watching birds beats watching television.
An indoor aviary typically has Plexiglas sides for maximum viewing and a screened top for ventilation, and is large enough to allow flight. The birds flit from perches to nesting baskets to hanging feeders, or swoop to the ground to feed from dishes placed in the pebbly bedding. Residents with limited mobility need nothing more than a comfortable chair by the enclosure to enjoy the action.
This indoor aviary, located in an assisted-living facility where I volunteer, features an assortment of birds. Shown here, foreground: Orange Weaver (left) and Blue Cap Waxbill. In back: a rear view of the spectacular Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, another Waxbill sitting between two multi-color Gouldian Finches.
I’ve noticed that aviaries also serve as gathering places. They’re popular destinations for volunteers and visitors who want to get residents out of their rooms for a change of pace. Identifying birds, observing their habits and antics, maybe even seeing babies hatch, all stimulate conversation.
Best of all, an aviary brings the soothing sounds of the natural world indoors. Residents take pleasure in the birds’ melodic chirps and tweets (the old-fashioned kind), often whistling or talking to the birds to encourage them to sing.
During a recent gig where the piano was next to an aviary, the birds sang their hearts out when I played, but fell silent when I paused between songs. They seemed to be accompanying me. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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