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! 

Big Bands in Concert

Or just the one will do. And with around forty (possibly plus) members, there is nothing small about us. Something which has been maintained throughout the time I've been a member of the band (around eight or nine years). That's pretty impressive and a considerable achievement within itself. But then when you consider the band had been going for years before that, it becomes something else all together. 

Speaking of time and how it passes by, it's hard to believe that there's only one more rehearsal until our annual concert. This year it is Back to the Hits and will be celebrating 30 years of Armadale City Concert Band. Like I said, a remarkable achievement. The amount of music that has been rehearsed and performed over the years. The amount of time that has been put in from our players, our committee and our supporters. The conductors, permanent and guest. Without the efforts of so many people, coming together and making things happen, there would be no band, let alone one that has been around for 30 years. So to everyone who has contributed over the years, in whatever way, thank you so much. And we hope to see you at the concert and to continue being part of ACCB's history. 

We've got one more rehearsal to smash it out and put on one hell of a show. Because we want to celebrate everything that is great about this organisation and a huge part of that is the music. And the people. It's going to be an incredible evening of fun (and no doubt laughter. That's just what happens when the band gets together) accompanied by some of our favourite pieces from over the years, celebrating members past and present. 

This big band is concert ready. 

Nobody Does It Better

Quiet right. Nobody does it better than me. Getting lost, that is. All I had to do was get from home to the Calloway Music Auditorium at UWA. Talk about mission impossible. Because all it takes is one wrong turn and then I'm done. I’m lost. Never to been seen again (until I stumble across civilisation again).To sum up I spent around 40 minutes driving around, passing through the CBD twice (I know, I don't even know how you do that but I did it. And not for the first time either), surprising clumps of cyclists (and not in a good way) and generally proving why WA motorists are so notorious. Eventually I did find UWA but then I had to find the auditorium. Cue more cursing and dodgy manoeuvres. My only consolation was on the way out I was stopped in the car park by a woman after directions (poor thing, that many people in proximity and I was the closest and the one she asked) who had been driving around for half an hour trying to find the venue. So I'm not the only numpty (but I am the biggest one. I highly doubt anyone took the whistle stop city tour. Twice). 

On the plus side everything went fine (after I managed to find everyone else. Which was some kind of miracle). As we had competed in the Nationals earlier this year, we were simply participating in the festival section. It's amazing how this simple fact made everything so much more relaxed. There was none of the usual anxiety. There were the standard jokes with the usual laughter in the warm up room but the laughter was genuine, without the underlying edge that suggests at covering nerves. Instead of worrying about any errors we could make and how they would impact on the overall score, we could simply sit back (though not too far back) and enjoy the music and what we were contributing. 

After a bit of warming up, a few run throughs (including a few sing alongs. Always amusing when we sing our parts as opposed to actually playing them. And it's always heartening to hear people approach their parts with the same gusto. Sometimes even more) we found ourselves out on stage, face to face with our audience (which is daunting when you can actually see them. Until of course they start looking like they are enjoying it and not like they've been pushed into a medieval torture room). In what felt like no time at all we had flown through Florentiner MarchThree Extraordinary Journeys and Themes from 007. All were very well received. If your audience has enjoyed it, you've done good. 

I always find there's a point within a performance where you forget all about the technicalities of what you're doing. When you're not concentrating on your pitch, breathing, dynamics, tuning and so on. That's not to say you've completely checked out or you no longer care about what's going on. You've just reached that point where the combined sound reverberates right through you and you're no longer just playing, you're actually part of the music. You feel it, physically and emotionally. That's why you practice and perform. For that moment (though there's something to be said for the sound of applause for a job well done). 

In my (completely biased) opinion that's something we do very well. Creating something that we can get swept away in. Sure, there are people that do it better but they don't do it the way we do it (for one, I'm sure there are far less juvenile jokes. At any rate, I'm going to continue labouring under that illusion). And to see (and hear) exactly how we do this, our 30th Anniversary concert is coming up on the 1st July. That's right, 30 years of music, mayhem and madness (not in that order). Though not the actual theme of the concert, it is disturbingly close to the truth. 

And that's a snippet of what we do. I guess it's up to you to decide if nobody does it better. 

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.