Baroque organs sometimes have a playful effect register that imitates a bird, the Nightingale, Rossignol or Vogelsang. Unfortunately, we hardly find them in the Netherlands. Fortunately, imitating a soundscape with bird sounds in the church can also be done in another way. Older students can also take on a technical challenge to build a nightingale register themselves, based on the water flute.

Imitating birds

There are original whistles that can be used to imitate birds. The Audubon Bird Call is a small instrument made of wood and metal. If the blade is turned around, the metal spindle with light pressure, sounds are created in which all kinds of songbirds can recognize some of their sounds. Combined with the acoustics of the church, this produces a fantastic effect. A few children play for “bird” and together with the organist they improvise, for example, a walk in the woods.

Birds concert in church

Organ literature with bird imitations, fits perfectly as a concert repertoire, such as:

  • Capriccio sopra il Cucu by Johann Caspar Kerll
  • Englische Nachtigall – anonymus from the ‘Celler Clavierbuch’
  • Engels Nachtegaeltje by Jacob van Eyck
  • Le Coucou by Louis Claude Daquin
  • Eine Nachahmung der Nachtigall auf die Orgel by Johann Ludwig Krebs
  • La Poule by Jean-Philippe Rameau
  • Organ Concerto ‘The Cuckoo and the Nightingale’ by Georg Friedrich Händel
  • Chants d’Oiseaux by Olivier Messiaen.
  • Select the organ literature you want to play in a concert.
  • Invite a few children to prepare for the concert together (the improvisation part).
  • Invite the desired audience to the concert.
  • Some bird whistles (e.g. from Audubon,, sales addresses on this website)
  • Cuckoo whistle and any other appropriate sound effects (e.g. rain maker)
  • Sheet music for organ, see list above for literature.

Tips for the concert:

  • Don’t tell the audience about the birdsounds beforehand. Only mention the concert program in the invitation. The surprise will be greater.
  • Determine if the bird concert is already sounding when the audience enters the church. One then does not enter a church, but a forest full of birds.
  • Think about whether the children with the whistles are in a fixed place in the church (where and how divided?) Or walk through the church.
  • The surprise effect is greater if the children are not immediately visible.
  • Agree with the children on the course of the improvisation. For example: the children start with the birdsounds. At some point, the organist starts to play gently, but the children also continue with their sounds. As soon as the organ sounds louder or starts an agreed melody, the “birds” stop for a moment.
  • The birds can also resound at the end as a transition from music to silence.
  • Allow the children to receive the applause, even if they were not visible during the concert.
  • The children learn about imitations of bird sounds in the music of the Baroque and the way organ builders created this and other effect registers on an organ.
  • The children participate in an improvisation concert with bird sounds and organ.


  • time for rehearsing concert music
  • invite children


  • try out instruction and improvisation: 15 minutes
  • concert: 30 minutes