Changing Colours

The trees certainly are. Well, the deciduous ones anyway (and don't they look spectacular). I'm not ready for the winter weather just yet (though that's hardly the surprise of the century). I can't help but feel summer was particularly short this year, so short that I don't feel completely thawed out from last winter, yet here we are, cold mornings already upon us (and by cold I mean freezing. And it's only May). I know some of you will be huge fans of crisp winter mornings (and if that's the case then we can never be friends), me not so much. Honestly, if it was an option, I would hibernate. Seriously. (So much so, as soon as I'm done here I'm going to start researching the possibility). 

Of course with the winter months rapidly (and I mean rapidly) approaching, that means the long weekend at the beginning of June is drawing near. Which actually has more gone for it than a bonus day off (though by no means am I knocking that). Normally at this stage of the year we would be counting down our final rehearsals until the State Band Championships. Given that we've already pushed our nerve to breaking point for the Nationals, we've decided not to compete this year. However we are entering the festival part of the event. Essentially this means instead of being judged, we will receive feedback and constructive criticism (apparently there is a difference). Of course this doesn't mean we can just cruise, we do have our pride to hang on to (allegedly). Though it does mean we don't have to worry so much, pull out our hair, break out in hives, grind our teeth and any other horror you can think. Instead we can simply play (and possibly even enjoy it). 

So that's what we're up to - essentially festivals and freezing. I wish I could make like a (deciduous) tree and get out of here. Just until they change colour once again. 

Overjoyed

With the last of our globetrotting stragglers back from Tasmania, we can legitimately say we've got the band back together. And with the National Championships and ANZAC Day done, it's time to start looking at the remainder of the performances we've got scribbled in our diaries for 2017. Which means the most exciting thing of all. So exciting in fact, a drum roll doesn't seem excessive (thank you percussion). Yes, that's right. New music! 

While we have enjoyed working hard for the championships and did end up loving some of the competition pieces (once we could actually play them) you can have too much of a good thing (I know. I was shocked to discover that cliche was true too). So it's time to wave goodbye to some pieces and hello to some new ones. Of course on any music sorting night, there's always a bit of a mixed bag. There are always some completely new pieces, which might become a new favourite or a new mortal enemy to be vanquished. Who knows? (Though you can generally have a good guess by looking at the density of the notes splashed across the page). There are always a couple of old favourites, that your brain might have forgotten but your fingers certainly haven't. And because there is that universal need for balance, there are those few pieces that you dreaded the first time around and once they disappeared from the rehearsal folder you hoped never to see them again. Yet here they are. Back. In your folder. Waiting to be played. 

As you can imagine with all this new music, we got a little giddy. It's hard not to. New music for musicians is like a child left alone in a candy store and told 'here's a giant basket. Take your pick'. Each new piece has to be examined, its difficulty estimated. New music that we've played before inevitably brings back memories which have to be shared. Safe to say we got a little loud. Which then carried over to our playing. Which lead to Maestro II proclaiming in despair while clutching her head 'play musically. Don't blast it. Or I will have to say the f-word'. Which lead to one bright spark innocently asking 'forte?' High spirits indeed. 

So we are armed to the teeth, ready for the rest of the year (musically at any rate). Something we are full of joy about. So much so we are probably overjoyed. 

In the Morning

So here we are again. 4.45am. In the dark. And the cold. Trying to warm our instruments up, never mind keeping them warm. Yet it's not windy, it's not raining, it's as ideal as it can be, which has to be a first. As we stand there waiting, the cold becomes more apparent, now we are still. We shift slightly, adjusting our weight, wriggling our toes to stop them from going completely numb. Finally the baton lifts and we begin to play. Stiffly, as our fingers protest the movement and we struggle to get a note out, our instruments not just cool but cold. As our final notes ring out, bagpipes cut through the morning air. The parade has arrived. 

We stand and observe as there is a change of personnel and drills are performed. The opening address is made. The list of conflicts mentioned is long. Longer than you expect. The thought of the number of battles is galling. Then it is time for the laying of the wreaths. We play the piece through and then repeat it. And repeat it again. And again. By them time we are through we have lost count of the number of times we have played it right to the end. This is because there are so many wreaths. So many that wish to pay their respects. When the wreath laying started, it was dark. By the time it was finished, the sun has edged its way into the sky. The day has begun. 

In the crisp, early morning air, the notes of the last post ring out, welcoming the day. And then the minute silence. Apart from the squall of nearby birds, it is completely silent. No idle chatter, no phones going off, no music blaring. Actual silence, where you have room to think and remember. And so you do. 

The national anthems of Australia and New Zealand were sung, followed by the hymn Abide With Me. A choir led the way joined by those that have made the early morning journey to observe and participate. Then it was time for closing remarks followed by the final march as people separated and relaxed. The low hum of voices punctuated by laughter fills the park as friends bump into neighbours, who catch sight of old acquaintances. All the while, the sun continues to rise. 

Lest we forget. 

Three Extraordinary Journeys

Or just the one will do. So here we are in beautiful Tasmania, taking in the sights and sounds on this wonderful long Easter weekend. What more could you ask for? Well, now that I mention it, there is one little thing . . . 

As you no doubt know (I mean, I am constantly mentioning it) this weekend is the culmination of a couple of years work (and I'm not even exaggerating when I say that). It takes a whole lot of work to get almost an entire concert band on the other side of the country and to everyone who has been involved, a huge thank you doesn't even begin to cover it. In fact it's probably been a bit of a journey in itself (it certainly is a big enough undertaking) and you can see what is possible when you have a group of such wonderful people working together. 

That said travelling over there was definitely a bit of a journey. Have you ever been at the airport and seen those huge groups of people travelling together, basically looking like a party in-transit? It's slightly less of a party and more trying to keep track of everyone. Because even though we are all responsible adults (ahem) and it's really hard to miss a group of people moving en mass, chances are that someone at some point will go walkabout. I can safely say it wasn't me (for once). Apart from that it is a bit like a travelling party but more like the bit before when you're still getting ready (but if you're anything like my sister you already have the music pumping). That air of anticipation, that any number of fun and great things can happen, that you're going to have a good time. So next time you see that huge group of people at the airport, chatting, laughing and generally looking like they're having a great time, that's because they are. You also better hope that if they are on your flight they are nowhere near you because they are bound to continue the hi-jinks and laughter on the flight (but in a slightly more moderate fashion of course). 

And then, of course, is the whole reason why we are here. What we have been working towards for months. Years even. The performance itself. When you are finally sitting on that stage, looking out over a darkened auditorium, the bright lights shining in your eyes. When you can't see the audience but you can sense them, shielded by the light. That's when you pick up your instrument and play. And pray to the music gods that you don't trip over that run in bar 78. And all the practicing pays off as you fly through the bar. Yet while you're so busy congratulating yourself you fumble in the next bar, which not only have you never done but is also possibly the easiest bar in the entire history of music (well not literally but you get my point). So you concentrate and shut off that inner monologue. You concentrate on the music in front of you and the baton above you. You concentrate until there is nothing but the music. You are the music. And then the final notes ring out and you are done. It's always jarring and disorientating (a bit like pulling into your driveway with no memory of getting there but not as terrifying) but totally and completely worth it. There isn't much that can beat being completely carried away by the music. 

Huh. So I guess that's three extraordinary journeys after all. 

Push

And then there were two (rehearsals left, that is). It's hard to believe that in two weeks, it will be almost all over and done with. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. There are still two weeks to go, which means we have two more weeks for one last push. 

That said, we weren't alone at our last rehearsal. Inviting (or bribing) some of our friends and family to come along to the first part of the rehearsal, we ended up with a pretty decent crowd. And everybody won. They got a free show while getting to see (and hear) exactly what we have been getting up to these last few weeks and we got a chance to perform in front of an audience before jumping on a plane. 

Which leads to thank yous. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible, both within and outside the band. These things don't come together without people working very hard and without the support of many. And the best possible way we can show our appreciation is by giving this opportunity our very best shot. That whatever the outcome is, we can walk away proud of what we have achieved. Together. (Sorry. It's getting all a bit High School Musical here. But without basketball. And Zac Efron). 

Two weeks until we cross the finish line. And we're ready for the final push. 

Lost

For anyone who has ever met me, you'll know navigation is not my forte. I could get lost in my own backyard, given half a chance. So it's no surprise that with the shifting of our rehearsal venue for a week, I got a little bit turned around. I was so impressed with myself too. I had spent the afternoon carefully looking it up on the map, writing down directions, so I would know exactly where to go. Ha! I should know, as soon as I think "that looks easy enough" I should immediately think, by default "no. It's really not. Not for you anyway". 

So my Wednesday night was spent casually cruising around the suburbs of Armadale, in the dark, trying to find somewhere I've never been, something I find difficult enough in broad daylight. Nothing was where it was on the map (well it probably was, but not the way I was reading it), my directions were useless and I had to pull over twice to check how wrong they were (this is one of the many reasons why being a hermit would actually suit me. The only thing stopping me is the living conditions and the wardrobe). Finally I had a stroke of luck, driving right past where I was meant to be. Huzzah! And I was only twenty minutes late at this point (honestly, I'll take whatever I can to count as a win).

Pulling into the car park, it was still really dark. And quiet. Too quiet (considering there was meant to be a concert band on the premises. And sound carries). I drove around the block three times just to be sure. And then I gave up and went home. Because there is a limit to the number of times you can drive around slowly without someone calling the police on you (and I did not want to find out what that limit is) and at this point I had spent 45 minutes in the car, to get 15 minutes away from home, only to get to the right place to discover it was in fact the wrong place. (All I can say is that I'm very glad that navigation is not part of the driving assessment). 

Of course having made the decision to go home, I needed to find it first. Lucky for me when it comes to getting home, I have the homing instincts of a carrier pigeon (that, or while all roads don't lead to Rome, they lead to a main road). An hour after I left, I was back exactly where I started. The only difference was I had a little less fuel in the tank. This does raise the point, why not use GPS? Well, first it's a point of pride (I know. It's amazing I have any of that left). Because really, I should be able to navigate somewhere local without one. And second, I have been known to get lost while using one of those too. Getting them to the point where they get jammed recalculating for twenty minutes until even that has had enough and a robotic voice says "take the next exit and go home you fool". (Mine seems to be particularly rude). 

Now what has any of this got to do with band and the National Band Championships? (very little. But I can't really talk about that, given I didn't even make it to rehearsal). Sometimes though, you do get lost. At this point we are more than halfway there. You start getting tired. Start getting frustrated because you really should have a better handle on this passage by now. You start questioning why you're doing this. And that's okay. Because you have your moment, pick yourself up, keep going and give it another shot. Until you do get it. And you get that spike of adrenaline from realising how close you are to the reason why you are doing it. 

Sometimes you need to get a little bit lost so you know when you are in the right place. At the right time.