Tuesday, 20 March 2012

It's time to play the music...

I've been really appreciating band lately.  I play first clarinet in Loughborough Concert Band, which I joined after I graudated and was trying to find cheap ways to occupy myself whilst jobhunting.  Since picking it up in high school (although I'd dabbled in a few other instruments beforehand - we're a pretty musical family) I'd been playing pretty constantly throughout the years but it fell by the wayside in uni due to my lectures not fitting with the days their band practised.

I didn't really realise how much I'd missed playing in a group until I started up again, but there's something about playing alongside others that really takes you out of yourself.  Practising on your own just isn't the same, even if you try and play with a backing track.  I think other people have the same thing with sports.  I spoke to a friend who does rock-climbing recently and part of why she finds it so relaxing is that when you're dangling off a cliff-face you really can't think about anything else.  It's the same with music.  When you're playing you have to concentrate on one thing and one thing only, because if you don't play your best it ripples throughout the band.  Everyone's got their heads down (or up, rather - observez le conducteur!) and is pulling together to produce this sound, this movement of music.  Everyone is vital, everyone is necessary, and if they don't play, you notice.  The balance is thrown off.  This is especially true of the lower instruments; the trombone, tuba, french horns and bassoon.  Those instruments whose parts are often simpler, or don't play the tune.  It may seem like they don't get a lot of time in the spotlight but I miss them when they aren't there.  There's a depth and breadth to the sound that is absent without them. 

My favourite thing about playing isn't the sparkling solos or the racing melodies, although those are fun, it's when all the different section of the band, playing their own different parts, meet at one point in the music and magic just happens.  Sometimes it's a fight to get there; you're tired and can't focus, or someone's playing flat (usually it's you), your fingers just won't move fast enough, somebody's contesting the conductor or there's dissent between the band members.  But you push through it because for some reason it matters more than anything else that you get this thing right, and then we hit that chord together and the harmony just sings between all of us. 

It makes me grin, or close my eyes in the middle of a piece, which is really unhelpful when you're trying to play!

We've played in some pretty neat places as well.  We're a performance band so we make our money for hiring the club we practise in and buying our sheet music by putting on concerts, usually in local halls or churches in Loughborough and the surrounding villages, once in a retirement village, and a few times in the bandstand in the town centre.  It's nice because you get to see parts of the local area that you wouldn't normally visit.  Most recently we played in a church in East Leake as part of a series of charity concerts, and the building was absolutely beautiful!  Although they'd given it some mod-cons a lot of effort had been made to preserve the beautiful craftmanship in the original building.  Antonia, the solo flautist, and I couldn't resist going round and taking photos of it all during the interval.  For some reason the lights were all very yellow in there, but it doesn't hurt the aesthetics too badly!

Trombones left in the lecturn during the interval

The church graveyard, in the light from the pub opposite!
 My favourite find was this ornately carved gravestone (detail below)  We spent ages poring over it, trying to read the calligraphy and figure out just how much time and care must have gone into making it.

Our final applause of the concert

See, I grin :D

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