Into the woods: Sam Lee, the singer who duets with nightingales

Sam Lee built a studio in a wood, found a nightingale to sing with, hooked up a backing band, and livestreamed their concerts. But it is a race against time – for the song of the nightingale may soon be lost for ever

Building your artistic life around duetting with a rare bird that only sings at night for six weeks each year might seem a quixotic quest. But for Sam Lee, folk singer, song collector and environmental activist who has now written his first book, singing with nightingales is, like folksong, “a language of connectedness and enchantment”.

This spring sees the publication of Lee’s book, The Nightingale, alongside a daunting schedule of concerts where the singer dives into the spinneys of England with guest musicians and a small audience to collaborate with the most celebrated of British birds. “I’m there as the agent for the nightingale, to bring people to his thickets to pay our respects,” says Lee from his home in London. “It’s a journey into how to immerse into nature and be outside in the night-time, which doesn’t happen enough in our lives. And it’s a way of actively putting out gratitude for what we have and what returns – what creatures make it home.”

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