Kirke Mechem


Kirke Mechem small image

the jayhawk
magic bird overture

Commissioned by The Topeka Symphony Orchestra

Duration: 8 minutes
Orch: 3232 4331 Timp 2 Perc Pno Str
Premiere: March 19, 1975
Topeka Symphony Orchestra,
Everett Fetter, Conductor
Recording: Russian Disc 005
USSR Radio-TV Concert Orchestra
Publisher: G. Schirmer, New York


Santa Rosa Symphony Orchestra
Corrick Brown, Conductor

The Jayhawk is a mythical bird that has come to be identified with Kansas, the composer's native state. Most of his legendary adventures are practical jokes, but he has also been depicted as a martial guardian of the range with miraculous powers of disguise and transformation. The opening depicts his birth in the rock chalk of Kansas hills, woodwinds portraying the first fluttering of his wings.

The Jayhawk is the adopted symbol of the University of Kansas athletic teams, who at moments of dire peril are rallied by one of the best-known college yells, “Rock-chalk, Jay-hawk, K. U-u-u-u.” This cheer forms the basis of the overture’s introduction. The Kansas state song, “Home on The Range,” makes a brief appearance, although it is mockingly distorted by this most irreverent of birds.


"The audience reacted immediately . . . a programmatic piece with the kind of striking, expressive details which always find their way into the hearts of the large public. . . a virtuoso score no less interesting than the two symphonies.”

— Musical Observer, Moscow

“ . . . a thoroughly enchanting piece . . . earned a standing ovation.”

— Topeka State Journal