'Flee' or 'Free' as a Bird (to the Mountain)


23/12/17 -  "I’ve just enjoyed listening to a BBC radio play Don Taylor: “Flee as a Bird to the Mountain” about a New Orleans jazz group, with music by Bob Dwyer". - Peter Jezard.   I remember it well, an excellent play and I'm glad they have repeated it, although I have a recording from the first time round. It's described - "A group of male friends in their 60s revive the schoolboy New Orleans Jazz band that expressed their purist youthful idealism. Youth and its high ideals have a brief musical re-flowering, until tragedy strikes. Has their time has finally passed?   Don Taylor's drama stars Jack Shepherd as Dave, Philip Jackson as Colin, Trevor Cooper as Derek, Thomas Arnold as Dick, Philip Joseph as Bob, Elizabeth Bell as Jenny and Martin Hyder as Chris.  Music by Bob Dwyer's Hot Six.  Director: Peter Kavanagh.  First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2003.".  Now available by clicking here


23/12/17 -

This music, popular at New Orleans Funerals, was the title of a BBC play, resulting in the following News items.

06/08/03 - A reminder that the afternoon play tomorrow, Thursday 7th. August at 2-15 pm. (FM) on Radio 4 is "Flee As A Bird To The Mountain" about a group of sixty somethings who meet up and reform the jazz band of their youth.

13/08/03 - The recent play on Radio 4 has created a lot of discussion over whether the correct title for the piece of music is Flee or Free as a Bird, with speculation that there may have been Chinese influences at work in New Orleans as well as the Spanish tinge beloved of Jelly Roll Morton. Frank Whitehead says, "I am  confused about the title- "Flee as a bird." I have an old 78 of Louis Armstrong playing the New Orleans Function.  Part 1 which is the slow journey to the cemetery is titled "Free as a Bird" which to me makes more sense than fleeing to the mountains". I have a Lake CD LACD 81, entitled "Sonny (Morris) meets Pat (Halcock)" with the Delta Jazz Band, and the 10th track is entitled "FLEE AS A BIRD + DIDN'T HE RAMBLE". So what should it be?

25/08/03 - Nick Telfer sent me a copy of some sheet  music entitled, "Flee as a bird" which he reckons solves the question of "Free" or "Flee" once and for all. 

From: Frank Whitehead 
Sent: 27 August 2003 21:42
Subject: "Flee or Free", that is the question.

I have been searching the internet to try and solve the "Flee or Free" question. The various New Orleans Function recordings refer to both but on balance I think the Flee must win. Attached is a label of the Louis Armstrong record which refers to "Free", but an extract from his interview refers to "Flee". "Flee as a bird" is a quote from the bible and there is a hymn with that title written in 1842.

I have come to the conclusion that there was a typing error or misunderstanding at the recording studio and it was never corrected.

I think I will leave it there before people start dodging me for being an anorak

Keep up the good work,


Flee as a Bird to the Mountain


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