In March of 2005, my oldest brother Ted celebrated his 80th birthday with a banquet for kith and kin at Ivar’s Acres of Clams. It was a family custom that whenever the Dorpat boys returned home for a reunion or whatever, they would join with their father, a robust bass, in another singing of the song “What Will the Poor Birdies Do Then.”
We never knew the actual title for the song, but that may well be it for the line appears in all four verses, which follow and may be named for the four seasons. Ordinarily we began with the Winter stanza.
There are two important tips for the performance of this pathetic song. First, whenever possible, Norwegian pronunciations are substituted for English – e.g. “Vinter” for “Winter”. Second, with the singing of the same last line in all four verses, “…and put their heads under their wings”, the singers are obliged to do just that: bend or dip their head and crook their arm over it, as if protecting themselves from something falling from the sky.
So here, left to right, are Ted, David, Norm and Paul, the four sons of Rev. Theo Dorpat and Eda Gerina Christiansen Dorpat, singing in a kind of unison “What Will the Poor Birdies Do Then.” It was the last time, for before they could meet and sing and raise their arms again Ted and Norm passed. Actually, Ted never confessed to singing, and if you listen closely, at the beginning of this clip you will hear him announce, “I can’t sing.”
(For those planning to attend ‘Up the Down Chimney’ with Paul and Jean at the Good Shepherd Center on Monday the 22nd, please use the preceding video as a rehearsal tape.)