Classical music uplifts listeners. It can excite, inspire, surprise and confuse. Attendees at OLLI Orchestra’s free concert, “Melody Takes Flight,” on Sunday, December 4, will probably find the last piece, “Chicken Reel,” funny. Forget traditional holiday music! This concert’s music is all about birds. OLLI’s music will spark your imagination. You’ll hear the music while your mind’s eye sees a serious hen walking and a silly chicken dancing. You’ll see soaring birds and hear beautiful bird song.

“The Birds” (Italian: Gli Uccelli), was composed by Italian Ottorino Respighi. Dating from 1928, the composer transcribed birdsong into musical notation, and illustrated bird actions, such as fluttering wings or scratching feet. Movements include “The Dove,” “The Nightingale” and “The Cuckoo.” It’s exciting, delightful music that, when you close your eyes, you’ll soar among the trees with the violins.

“Lark Ascending” is a short work by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, “The piece portrays the lark’s song, movement and ‘lifts us with him as he goes.’ Larks nest on the ground then fly up. The poem helps make sense of the piece,” explains violin soloist Jolán Friedhoff. The poem the music is based on is in the concert program.

Franz Joseph Haydn is called “Father of the Symphony.” OLLI will perform his “Symphony No. 83 in G minor,” popularly known as “The Hen” (French: La Poule). The nickname comes from the clucking second subject in the first movement, which reminded listeners of the jerky back-and-forth head motion of a walking hen.

This is not silly chicken music, though. You’ll have to wait until the last piece of the concert, “Chicken Reel,” for the folk song arranged for orchestra by Leroy Anderson. It’s been used for countless cartoons.

OLLI Orchestra’s concert “Melody Takes Flight” concert takes place at 2 p.m. at Sierra College in Grass Valley on Sunday, December 4. Parking is free and there will be signs at the college entrance pointing to the Multipurpose Room N12. Although the concert is free, OLLI requests that you sign up on EventBrite so we may collect your name and email address. Click here for a map to the event location. Visit www.olliorchestra.org for more info.

Register for FREE Tickets to OLLI’s Dec. 4 Concert