Making Music's Chief Executive, Barbara Eifler, reflects on her first week of brass banding the digital way.
Like all leisure-time music groups, my brass band, which includes three bands (main band, training band and starter band) has stopped its weekly rehearsals due to the coronavirus and we are all at home, working in ‘home offices’ or twiddling our thumbs.
I had been practising my cornet a bit – on the grounds that your lip otherwise goes completely, so long breaks are not advisable! And our lovely conductor has been trying to encourage us by emailing exercises and good tips, as well as posting inspirational videos on our closed Facebook group.
"...noticeable straight away was how happy everyone was to see each other! Lots and lots of smiles."
But it was all a bit desultory – I mean, what to practice when there are no gigs coming up? So when one band member emailed with details of a Zoom meeting on our usual band night, I was definitely up for that. Another band member put the parts for a couple of hymns and a march into a google drive for us all to print out our own.
22 of us – across all three bands – logged in at 8pm on Wednesday. There was quite a bit of chatting and Zoom-instructioning going on for the first 10 minutes. But noticeable straight away was how happy everyone was to see each other! Lots and lots of smiles.
Then we decided to have a go at actually playing something. We all worked out how to ‘pin’ our conductor’s image, so we could always see him over and above everyone else, and off we went.
"The best thing was the laughter. We did not get very far into the march – thank goodness, since I lost the plot almost immediately. At least one band member was in a state of helpless giggles which made everyone else laugh."
I was lucky to catch the beat at the beginning and for the first few bars, before the conductor’s image froze. Having been told to keep going in such a situation, I did. And I even arrived at the end of the hymn vaguely at the same time as everyone else. Not sure what the conductor made of it… I don’t think he was too impressed…
The best thing was the laughter that followed this attempt. We did not get very far into our next attempt, the march – thank goodness, since I lost the plot almost immediately. At least one band member was in a state of helpless giggles which made everyone else laugh.
Musically, we gave up at that point (better for everyone’s ears I think), but we decided we’d had such fun chatting and making some sort of noise with our instruments – including a good drum roll from our percussionst – that the next meeting has now been arranged for 7pm next Wednesday, with drink in hand (soft drinks for the under-18s, thank you).
We all signed off, and I for one had a broad grin on my face for a good while afterwards. So I look forward to my G&T band meetup next week!
Meanwhile, though, another band member has offered his services to ‘do a Cory Band’. We’re all to practise the hymn, record it at a certain speed and send him the file. He will stitch it all together. Can we make that a weekly thing? Is it going to work and what are the technical secrets?
More from the hilarious world of online brass banding next week….
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