The Long Road to the Champs

With the State Band Champs fast approaching, it was decided that we should do the decent thing and have a little look at the music in our “spare time.”  Yes sir, that means practice (yes, I’m well aware that I put that in bold).  Practice is a thing that most musicians, be they young or old, usually studiously avoid.  I’ll put my hands up to actually fudging the numbers in my daughters PSIM diary in year 11 and 12 because I already had grey hairs over her ATAR stress and getting on her case about music practice wasn’t something that was overly appealing.  Guilty as charged.  Back to that P word. There has to be a venue for our little section of band to meet at.  Last time it was my place and this time we alighted on our newcomer’s house which is some distance further afield than we’re used to...

Mandurah is the place to go on a sunny day for fish and chips and the dolphins.  Maybe you might go with the world and his Aunty for the Crab Fest too.  You don’t tend to go on a very wet, cold day, but that was the mission we signed up for.  It took just on an hour to get there on that delightful drive (I do love the Freeway, NOT) and it struck me how much this person must love both their music and playing in the band.  They’re not the only one either – there’s two of them and they car pool.  A two hour round trip every Wednesday night.  That’s dedication!  Not only are they members of our band, but they are members of their local band too plus other musical groups AND they wanted to practice for the champs on top of all that.  The Wayne’s World thing now pops up – “We’re not worthy!!”  These two are not the only ones that I’m not personally worthy of either, we have members who travel from North of the River too.

As it was a long drive there and back, I started to muse about the general musical journey we all take.  My personal journey started at age 13 in another country with a school instrument.  I travelled to parts of Europe with a community band until age 23 and then I parked my musical bus under the bed for almost 21 years after I joined the married persons with house and children brigade.  TJ the flute went into semi-retirement, only coming out of his house for “pleasure trips” in the living room whilst nobody else was home.  Finally, my kids were old enough and I signed up for the band family.  My family joined the band family and now the only family members not involved directly are the man and the dog (though she does say a very cheery hello to members of the committee when they come for meetings).  My musical journey has covered thousands of miles across continents.  Lucky me!  

I know that my story is not uncommon, nor is my dislike of practice – a healthy distaste for that has been passed to my next generation (job done!)  But I have a healthy respect for those amongst us who travel so many hours in pursuit of music-making.  

The practice (oh that word) thankfully had the desired effect and we had good fortune on our side when the Champs came round.  Not only was the sun shining outside, but it shone for our band in the auditorium too!  Whilst patting ourselves on the back on our win, we were very aware that we had stiff competition.  A huge well done to the other bands competing that day.  

The Greatest Show

What constitutes a great show? That leaves you walking away, thinking that was incredible. As you may have guessed (whatever gave it away?), I have been to the movies to see The Greatest Showman. Twice. Because apparently once was not enough. Why did I enjoy this movie so much? Was it because if felt like somebody sat down with a sheet of butcher’s paper and brainstormed everything that is great about musicals and circuses and then crammed it all into the one movie? Maybe. Or was it the acting? The costumes? The stunts? The cinematography?

After I saw it for the first time, I went home, walked inside and ordered the soundtrack online (yes, I do still buy CDs. Because that is what plays in my car). That was New Years Eve. Thursday morning, I was singing my way to work. Sunday, I was back at the cinema, trying not to sing along. And there’s my answer. I really enjoyed this movie. But I love the soundtrack (and in case you’re interested, the dudes that wrote the songs for this also wrote for songs for La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen. The latter having spent a year on Broadway before cleaning up at the 71st Tony Awards). But the question still remains – why did I enjoy the music to this so much when other musical soundtracks I’m not particularly fussed about? 

How do you answer a question about taste? Why one person will love something and another could hardly care less. In the world of music, for me, it’s jazz. I can appreciate the talent and skill but it’s all just a bit of a shoulder shrug. I don’t even hate it, I just feel nothing (to express this using modern vernacular, the correct terminology would be ‘meh’). And I think that’s the thing with music. You have to feel something. You have to love it or hate it. It can be technically correct and performed perfectly. But if you don’t feel anything, it hasn’t achieved what it set out to do. And the opposite can be true. A few things can be a bit off but if it’s still giving you all the feels, then that’s a success story. 

That’s what makes a great show. When you are emotionally engaged. And if you add in a bit of fire and freedom, that’s when you’ve got the greatest.


Blue Moon

Or a super blue blood moon, to be more precise. For those of you that are not astrologically minded, have an aversion to news and hide away from social media, this means a few things came into play all on the same night (pull out your notepad, things are going to start to resemble a lecture series while we break this down). A super moon is when the moon is closer to the Earth than usual, so it appears bigger. A blue moon refers to the second full moon in a month, which as you can imagine doesn’t happen very often – about once in a blue moon (See? This is why you’ve got to love language and how it evolves). A blood moon is when the moon lives up to the description on the package and does look a bit reddish (and eerie) due to a total lunar eclipse. For all these to occur on one night is pretty exciting. For them to occur on rehearsal night? Uncanny.


While definitely a once in 150 year event if you live in North America (they last saw a total lunar eclipse during a blue moon on March 31, 1866), the last time this occurred in Australia on December 30, 1982 (if you hang around until 2037, you can catch the next one). Since it has been 36 years since this happened here in Western Australia, we had to sneak outside for a peak. Before we could do that though, we had to play through an arrangement of Blue Moon (we’re not joking when we say we have music for every occasion). It was then time to down tools (or instruments, rather) a bit earlier than usual and head outside to look up at the night sky. There was a bit of an excursion vibe as the organised ones amongst us passed around binoculars. Weather wise it was very pleasant, so we stood around with our cups of tea, chatting away, checking in on the progress of eclipse.


Taking the time to look up at the moon, you can’t help but notice the stars and everything else that is hiding up in the night sky. You also can’t help but notice how often you don’t do this. Day or night, how often do you just stop and look up at the sky? Take the time to do it. Throw down a blanket, grab some cushions and get comfy. It’s very calming and puts everything into perspective. Like anything though, it is best done in moderation. Done for too long or too often, you’ll end up in the middle of an existential crisis. 


Break over, it was back inside to rehearse a few more pieces heading home with only a couple of hours left until the end of January (I know. Already!). With our free, introductory, trail month over, 2018 is off to a good start. It’s time to take out a year’s subscription and really get stuck in. There’s plenty to work towards and to look forward to. Best of all, we get to share it all with you!


Now let’s see if we can turn this blue moon of ours to gold.

This Is Me

A couple of weeks into 2018 and we’ve hit the ground running! With a jam-packed first half of the year, we’ve had to embrace an early start to the year. So even though there is still a summer holiday vibe everywhere you go (and some are still away enjoying some awesome holidays, lucky things!) we are getting 2018 off to a cracking start.

We hope you’ve had a safe and enjoyable festive season, we certainly have! Of course with the New Year, there is always talk of resolutions and what you want to achieve throughout the following year. And I’m sure there are people out there who can sit down in January (though being organised they probably sat down in December), work out a list of goals, how they are going to achieve them and then just do it. Unsurprisingly, I am not one of them. In December, while they are sitting down and calmly planning how they are going to dominate the following year, I have vague thoughts about things I should probably try and get done. For example, I should definitely practice more. Or I should cook more (and better) meals (the raw chicken debacle of 2017 was a low point, culinary speaking). I should go out and and catch up with people more (but that means less reading time. And yes, if it’s after six, I’m in my pyjamas). I should be less socially awkward. I should be on time. I should learn more skills. I should further develop the skills I already have. I should learn more languages. I should be healthier. I should do more and see more. I should, I should, I should! So it’s less of a list of goals and more of a list of things I suck at. 

A list of things that you suck at, is less inspiring, more depressing. But you think, ‘hey, I’ve got all of next year to get this sorted’ and then all of a sudden it’s October and all you’ve done is one thing, once (but you felt super virtuous at the time). And of course, being October, there’s no point getting started now, that’s what next year is for, right?

This year, I’m going with a different approach. I’m just going to embrace it all (apart from the being on time thing. Because being late is just bad manners and I can’t be completely incapable of being on time – right? Right?). Sure, I’m lazy, non-cooking hermit but what’s wrong with that? If that’s who you are, that’s who you are.

That’s the plan for 2018. Embracing the imperfect. Because we all are. And sometimes we need to celebrate that and say this is me.

Wonderful Christmastime

And to celebrate that we had double the Christmas fun this year. The first was our traditional Carols by Candlelight, hosted by the City of Armadale. The second was a Community Christmas, hosted by the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale. It was our first time at this event and we had a great time.

It was a relaxed evening, with people milling all over the oval, fuelled by food from food trucks, the kids going wild on the bouncy castle. You could bring your own picnic blanket and deck chair and make yourself at home with family and friends on the insanely green grass. Tying it all together was the free entertainment, some of it provided by us. We had the privilege to play quite an extensive set, with a range of pieces – from Let the Bells Ring to Winter Wonderland to O Holy Night to Last Christmas to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to All I Want for Christmas is You. Safe to say, if it was festive, we played it.

Topping it all off, it was the Goldilocks of outdoor gigs – not too hot, not too cold. There was a light breeze but armed with wooden pegs we were more than prepared. And the breeze had the added bonus of keeping those pesky flies away. Of course, being on an oval there was little opportunity to go mad with the Christmas lights but even at a Christmas gig you didn’t miss them. All you had to do was look up (something that is so easy not to do) and right above your head was a brilliant sky show that seemed to stretch forever. 

And that’s it from us for 2017. We’ll be back in no time at all, ready for what 2018 has to bring. Until then enjoy your wonderful Christmastime and have a fabulous New Year.


Let it Snow!

First day of December, first day of summer and first Friday of the month. It can only mean one thing - the City of Armadale's Carols by Candlelight. And if you weren't in Memorial Park on the 1st of December, then it's with great sadness that I have to tell you that you missed a wonderful night that is always a highlight on our yearly calendar. Lucky for you, you can now read all about it! And if you were there, well now you get to relive the whole thing but from a whole new perspective. Winners all round! 

The carols themselves started when the parade came to an end, bringing a special guest all the way from the North Pole (and considering it's his busiest time of year, he was pretty jolly). That's right - Santa! And what better way to welcome him than with a rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. After a bit of a chat with all the children, it was time to say good-bye and away he went to the opening strains of White Christmas which he will undoubtedly have. That's something you're pretty much guaranteed not to have here in Australia. Or is it . . . 

To kick off the next bracket we belted out Winter Wonderland as the Roleystone Theatre Choir took the stage. They then entertained the masses (and I'm not joking when I say the masses - the whole place was swarming with people, which was fantastic. There definitely was a crowd and space was at a premium. It was kind of incredible to see) with Let it Snow and Silver Bells. It was during Let it Snow that something amazing happened - it began to snow! Impossible! you say. This is Australia. In December. It doesn't snow! Well let me tell you, it most certainly does if you have a snow machine. And it was very pretty, with little white flakes drifting through the air, lit up by the stage lights. And far better than any other offer or hint of a white Christmas that we'd had so far (All I'll say is that there was an incident involving the high hat on the kit and a bird. And white stuff. Take what you will from that). 

It was then time to welcome the Classic Sounds Vocal Group to the stage where they got things rocking with Christmas, Baby Please Come Home, which included one showstopper of a solo from one of their younger members. To be able to get up and sing in front of a crowd like that with that amount of confidence really is something (safe to say all my solo vocal performances are saved for my cat. She generally leaves the room. She's always had paw manners). They then followed this up with Wonderful Christmastime, another lovely number. 

The Roleystone Theatre Choir then came back on and together the groups sang through a few Christmas pop numbers including Santa Clause is Coming to TownSilver Bells and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It was then time for us to hog the stage with an instrumental, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

While we were getting carried away with seizing our solo opportunity, the combined primary school choirs filed on stage. Together they worked their way through a few favourites - Little Drummer BoyI Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (because who doesn't?), I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus (a song that confused me as a child and I always thought about her poor husband. Not to mention the age gap of a couple of hundred years. Now, I get it) and The Chipmunk Song (and yes, kazoos were involved). 

It was then time for the final bracket which we opened with Sleigh Ride as the Roleystone Theatre Choir and Classic Sounds Vocal Group joined the rest of us on stage. It was time for the community singing and everyone was here to help lead it. In what felt like no time at all we flew through Jingle BellsRudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (complete with actions), Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Deck the Halls, Joy to the World and finally, We Wish You a Merry Christmas (because it is a truth universally acknowledged, that the only way to finish carolling is with that song). 

Yet things hadn't come to an end just yet. While everyone else was packing up and heading for the exits (which are extremely easy access when you're already outdoors), we had one last Christmas favourite to play through. And given Maestro's love of 80s pop (which is not inexplicable. She was there! I, on the other hand, totally missed it. But only by this much) there was one clear choice. Last Christmas

There we go. All done and dusted for another ye - not quite. To quote all great infomercials: 'But wait! There's more!' (NB: But I'm spruiking something way more awesome than a power steam cleaner that can clean all surfaces and stains in seconds, no scrubbing. Or one ladder that can turn into twenty-four different configurations. Okay. Fine. Something equally awesome). Normally this is the point where we'd wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year and then dash off to spend the next month or so lazing by the pool, tropical drink in hand (oh, if only!). Instead, we've still got one more gig in 2017 (whoop! whoop!). Another Christmas one (of course), this time in conjunction with the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale. This will be in Byford on Friday 15th December. It looks like they've got a whole lot going on for the whole family so definitely another wonderful event. Full details can be found on their website. 

Until then, the weather outside might be frightful but the aircon is so delightful. And since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! (And by that I mean a shower of pollen that gets everywhere. Just as pretty as snow but far less inconvenient. Unless you were hoping for a snow day)