Nice 'n' Easy

With all the outdoor performances we've got lined up, we've got a fun, relaxed repertoire to match. But does this mean we're taking things nice and easy? Um. It's kind of a no. Even though a lot of the pieces we are rehearsing fall firmly into the popular music genre it doesn't mean they are easy. We might be familiar with the tune but that just makes any surprises all the more surprising. So despite the party vibe at each rehearsal I'm still having to pay complete attention to what I'm doing (gasp! The horror). I can't fade out and think about what I'm going to be doing the rest of the week (with particular attention being paid to the weekend). This is why we need a conductor. To keep me in line and make sure I'm not mentally mixing and matching my wardrobe. 

That said the music that we are playing it's very hard not to pay complete attention. From the first few opening bars which get the rhythm beating out, some pieces are complete recognisable. And you can't help singing along in your head (if I'm honest that's probably my biggest distraction. Some rehearsals it's like Freddie Mercury has taken up a permanent residence in my head. Of all the real estate options. He's really limiting himself there). 

We are doing all the hard work now so come show time those accidentals, tricky rhythms and the just plain weird won't trip us up. And then we can take it nice and easy and enjoy the music. 

Good Times

It's official - it's Spring! Spring has sprung and while we are only a couple of days into a glorious season, we've already had a taste of the warmer weather to come. Which means we are busy rehearsing for all the upcoming outdoor gigs we've got scheduled. Cue major excitement. Because what we could be better than sitting outdoors, enjoying the sun while live music drifts all around you? (Seriously, if you have any suggestions about what could be better, let me know. Because I've got nothing here). 

As one of these performances is less of a concert and more of a party, we are currently rehearsing an interesting array of music, some that is quite a departure from our usual repertoire. The kind of stuff that if it was playing at a disco (why are they no longer a thing? Unless, of course, you're under 12) you'd be bopping along. Not so much dancing with finesse but more flailing your limbs wildly (my usual dance style, so I'd fit right in) while belting out the lyrics. Really, there should be more dancing. 

Keep your eyes peeled as dates and times will be coming your way. And you won't want to miss it (I know I've said that before but I've always been right, right? Right). 

Here's to the good times ahead!

Over the Rainbow

Is it just me or are there a lot of rainbows around at the moment? Not that I’m complaining – a plethora of rainbows means despite the rain bucketing down, the sun is making the odd guest appearance. Which I find just as exciting as the fact that it’s now still light until 6pm. Why is that exciting? Because we have passed through the heart of winter and are now coming out on the other side. Winter is going! Summer is coming!

I know for those of you that actually like winter that this is terrible news. But I’m overexcited because for the first time in months I’ve experienced natural light on a weekday that isn’t of the lunar variety. Sure, it rains in winter which is nice but we do get summer storms as well. In winter you get up when it’s dark, freezing cold and windy. And when you get home, it’s more of the same. Compare this with summer. Its light, it’s warm, with maybe a gentle breeze.

Still not sold? I haven’t even mentioned the best parts yet. Everyone is way more relaxed, more willing to go out. As you’re probably gathering, I view summer as one long party which is occasionally interrupted by having to pop into work. And I still haven’t even got to the bestest part yet. Outdoor gigs.

I know, I know. Sometimes they are stinking hot and a swarm of flies descends. Or sometimes there is a weather fail and we do get one of those summer storms. But when everything comes together and you get the right weather, these outdoor performances are the best. Everyone sitting on the grass, enjoying a picnic, the weather and the music. That’s Sunday afternoon bliss right there.

It’s like the sun comes out, the people come out and the music comes out. Have to go outside in winter? You end up rushing by, huddled up against the wind and the rain. Same walk in summer? That’s a stroll. You say hi to people. And there’s music everywhere. Drifting from open car windows, from restaurants with the door propped open. From buskers and festivals to packs of kids wandering around with an iPhone (which is the modern day equivalent of a boom box). No wonder summer feels like one long party.

So here’s to summer and all the outdoor gigs we’ve got coming up. And here’s to the sun, hiding just beyond the rainbow.

Singin' in the Rain

Wouldn't it be great if life were a musical? I know some of you won't agree but just think for a moment how great that would be. Everyone jumping up, singing a few numbers together, busting out some coordinated dance moves. Any problem you've got, you just sing your way through it and by the end of the song you've got your solution. Or you're dead (sorry, but have you seen a musical? Yes, some of them are light and fluffy and everything's wonderful. Others are quite dark. It's not all rainbows and unicorns in musical land). 

Musical theatre is an interesting thing. It's almost like someone sat down one day, considered all the main threads of the performing arts and thought 'heck, let's jam all these elements together and put on one hell of a show' (sorry, I'm not sure why they would talk like that but for the purposes of this exercise they seem to). I know some find musicals frustrating, they don't understand why a large group of people would spontaneously break into a choreographed song and dance routine. The trick is to not reason with it but just enjoy the spectacle. And appreciate the talent (and fitness) it takes to jump around the stage or screen, singing and keeping a smile on your face, like this is the best fun ever, and not what you really feel (which is collapsing on the floor feeling like you're about to die from exhaustion. Though if you're lucky, your character just might and then you can have a rest). 

So just think how great life as a musical would be. Got a problem? Sing it out. Getting into an argument? Sing it out. Feeling weighed down by the mundane? Sing it out. Feeling happy? Sing it out, sing it out, sing it out! 

Fine, I hear you say, but no one actually caught in the rain would sing about it. Why not? You're already wet and miserable and not getting dry anytime soon. Why not sing? You'll still be wet but I challenge you to still be miserable. Choose the right song and it's impossible (you're welcome. Considering the time of year this is invaluable advice. And you're getting it for free). 

And if you've tried singing, why not dancing? 

Holiday

After a well deserved break, we are ready to jump back into the second half of the year. Yes, you read that right. We were on a break (but not the Ross and Rachel kind). And yes, it was very well deserved. After a full on first half of the year, prepping for the Nationals, playing at the Nationals, ANZAC Day, the State Band Festival and our own 30th Anniversary concert, they have been big gigs which required the music to match. 

Fair to say, we were a little worn out (well I definitely was). So one week we had off completely and second we had a forum (complete with pizza so I think that's just being social, if we're honest). Because as much as we love being a part of band and playing together sometimes you just need a break. Some time off. To just take it easy. 

I don't know about you but I love staying home. Love it. Especially in winter (it's way easier to get me to go out in summer. Hot weather puts me in a party mood). But in winter, I just want a nice hot shower, my pyjamas and a blanket. Throw in a book and a cup of tea and that's my night made. I'm that person that if you text me at the last minute cancelling plans, I'll reply 'No worries! Will catch up soon *smiley face*' while dancing around the room. Because not only do I now have a night in but it's completely guilt free! (But please note, try the same thing in summer and I will track you down). 

Back from holiday we're refreshed and ready to jump into the second half of the year!

Back to the Hits

Which we certainly did. For 30 years members of the Armadale City Concert Band have been meeting once a week to rehearse and prepare music for performances throughout the year. For 30 years we've entertained audiences, competed (sometimes even won) and just have a really good time. For 30 years. And to honour that, this year our annual concert was a celebration of those 30 years. And what better way than performing pieces that have been loved by all the different band members since the beginning? 

Every piece we performed had been previously performed by the band and was being played by request (requested by us of course!). As a result so many of the pieces were loved. The honour of show opener was given to Paradiso. Starting simply with a single note from the percussion section, it slowly builds until the whole ensemble has joined in. For some of us, our first note of the evening didn't come from our instruments but rather our mouths (yes we were singing. And I have to say, we didn't sound too bad. Strength in numbers!). Add in the lit stage, the audience in darkness apart from fairy lights strung along the side of the hall and the whole effect was enough to give you goose bumps (mind you I had the exact same thing when we were rehearsing the piece under fluorescent lights, in our Wednesday night rehearsal attire which is geared away from fashion and leans alarmingly towards warmth. Still, goose bumps. And not from the cold). 

Then onto what I'm going to call our musical bracket, with On My Own and Selections from The Phantom of the Opera. Both very popular pieces and always a joy to play. Though it must be noted the latter had one heart stopping moment when there was a scream solo (you read that right) from the flute section (thank you Natasha). Even though you know it's coming, it still makes you jump. And it must be noted that there was much discussion in rehearsal about the best place (musically of course) for it to start and finish. It was a very serious discussion. Pencils were involved. 

We were then joined onstage by our conductor of 28 years (you also read that right) who lifted the baton for us once more and lead us in Bricusse & Newley on Broadway. An energetic piece filled with beautiful moments and it was good to have Don back with us once more. 

The baton was then handed to our Associate Conductor, Chris for The Typewriter. This featured a very important solo part as play by Rene from the percussion section on an actual typewriter. Amusingly enough, it's not the most bizarre thing he has played over the years. And now we all know it is possible to play a typewriter. And it actually sounds pretty cool. 

With Amanda back members of the trumpet section then took centre stage with The Bugler's Holiday. May I just say, we were all very impressed so well done to Andrew, David and Sandesh. Who knew it was actually possible to fit that many notes onto one musical score? 

Oblivion and Chris was back again but this time with a clarinet solo which showed off his skill. He then took to the baton again for Just a Closer Walk with Thee, which has sections of Dixie land jazz. While Chris was busy conducting, other Chris took on the solo clarinet. Amanda was then back for the final piece in the first half, I Will Survive, since we've done exactly that for 30 years. And who doesn't love 80s pop? (If you don't, we don't want to know). 

During the interval there was plenty of time to have some refreshments and have a bit of a chat with whomever stood still long enough. That is there was plenty of time unless you were a member of our Brass Quintet or ASQ! who did a fantastic job of keeping the music going during the interval. It must also be noted that pre-concert music was provided by David from the percussion section so our audience was greeted with music from the off, instead of a cold, quiet hall. 

The second half opened with The Dam Busters, a lively march featured in the film of the same name (obviously!) that we all enjoy playing and that audiences love. This was followed by Three Extraordinary Journeys, the test piece from Tasmania. While new to us this year, it is now part of our history and despite being a test piece, we have come to love it. Which wasn't that hard because it really is fantastic. 

Slap bang in the middle of the second half was African Symphony which I think everyone must love (at any rate, we all want to blast out our parts. And if that's not love, I don't know what is). Kayla and James from the sax section defected to percussion for this piece (as soon as you know you need more percussion, you know it's going to be awesome) as did Wendi (who wasn't actually playing her bass clarinet despite being our fabulous concert manager simply because it's really hard to play when you've recently has should surgery) who did a great job with her one available hand. They all looked like they were having a great time up the back (not that I was looking!) and thanks Kayla for making sure there was more cowbell. 

The evening was rounded off with Danzon No. 2 featuring David from percussion on the keyboard, followed by A Little Salsa Music. And officially that was it but there's always time for an encore. And when the encore is Morning Train, we're playing it even if no one requested it. Fortunately the audience was enthusiastic and it was very well received and why wouldn't they be? It was Morning Train after all. 

So musically that was it. It must be said that throughout the night we had several members of the band who spoke about what it meant to them in addition to a couple of guest speakers. It was really interesting to hear about the history of the band and the history that people have with each other. Also at the back of the hall was a photo display. In some case it was astonishing to see just how long standing some of our long standing players are. And I think that says a lot about an organisation. If that many people are willing to come back again and again for years, then you definitely have something very special. 

It really was a wonderful night and a huge thank you to everyone that made this evening possible and contributed in whatever way. And thank you to our audience who came out despite the cold. Trust us, it was freezing (freezing enough that some places in WA had snowfall. Another thing that you've read right). And of course to Amanda, who whips us into shape every week while making jokes. It's not easy but she does it and more than earnt the spontaneous standing ovation she received from us (actions really do speak louder than words). 

Here's to the next 30 years!