29 August 2022
Recording of the week: Learning garden birdsong with Charles and Heather Myers
This week's selection comes from Greg Green, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage.
Above: Charles and Heather Myers, used with permission from the Wildlife Sound Recording Society. Photographer unknown.
Charles and Heather Myers were a husband-and-wife recording duo. They met through their shared love of nature and sound recordings. Their impressive collection here at the library (BL shelfmark: WA 2010/017) consists of a whopping 559 open reel tapes and over 5,000 recordings. All are meticulously edited, catalogued, and organised by species and subject. The duo’s dedication and technical prowess make every recording in this collection a joy to listen to, and the time they spent organising and documenting made it a pleasure to digitise and catalogue as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. Any recordist should aspire to have a collection half as good as this!
Charles and Heather were both active members of the Wildlife Sound Recording Society (WSRS) and regularly met at field meetings before they got married and set up home together in Shropshire. They were always more than happy to share their knowledge and recordings with anyone interested, and often sent in material to the WSRS journals and members’ recording compilations, as well as entering, and often winning, the society’s annual recording competition. Heather took over as the society’s secretary from 1983 to 1994. Both Charles and Heather’s obituaries in the Wildlife Sound journals are filled with kind tributes from members who saw them as friends and mentors.
Above: Heather Myers with reflector, used with permission from the Wildlife Sound Recording Society. Photographer unknown.
As well as contributing to the WSRS, they often submitted recordings and prepared pieces to their local talking newspaper for the blind. Many of these submissions are preserved in the collection, including this piece titled ‘Garden Birds No. 3’. In it, Mr and Mrs Myers welcome the listener into their garden in Shrewsbury, and introduce them to some of the regular avian visitors and their vocalisations. In this excerpt, Charles explains the difference between song thrush and mistle thrush songs. The full-length recording, archived here as British Library call number WA 2010/017/502 C6, also features the sounds of magpies, crows, house sparrows and dunnocks, with the latter two introduced by Heather. This is one of many precious recordings from the collection in which Heather and Charles’s passion and personality shines through.
Above: Charles Myers with reflector, used with permission from the Wildlife Sound Recording Society. Photographer unknown.
Sadly the recording ends abruptly. The piece is incomplete, and neither ‘Garden Birds No.1’ nor ‘Garden Birds No. 2’ can be found elsewhere in the archive.
If you enjoyed this recording and would like to hear more from Charles and Heather Myers, a 60-minute mix of ambient sounds and talk from the collection can be found in the NTS Radio archive.