Last Christmas

And at the rate we’re going it won’t be long until we’re saying that about this Christmas. Now that we’re in November, the weather is heating up (and taking things a little far. I guess we’re just skipping spring again this year), Halloween decorations are gone so the Christmas decorations no longer have to share. Needless to say it doesn’t feel so ridiculous to be rehearsing Christmas carols any more. In fact, there are only three weeks until we kick off the Christmas countdown on the 1st of December with the City of Armadale’s Carols by Candlelight and Christmas Parade. Then exactly two weeks later on the 15th of December we are back with the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale’s Community Christmas. It’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! 

What says Christmas to you? Every year there are a few traditional markers that say the big day is on its way. I’ve already hit one of the big ones this week, that being a distinct lack of money in my account. Christmas shopping – fun but expensive. Christmas decorations going up, invitations to Christmas drinks/parties/do’s/shindigs (delete as applicable), rubbish TV Christmas movies (for which I have an inexplicable love – the tackier the better), everything winding up for the year, making more of an effort to see family and friends, all of these are part of the lead up to Christmas. And they are what makes this time of year special.

Of course with all of these familiar traditions happening at the same time, there are some who say Christmas is a bit repetitious. In some ways though, that can be part of the appeal. That it has been a year (already!) since you’ve done this or done that. This acknowledgement always makes you pause and take stock. Something which we forget to do while we’re racing through the year, trying to fit everything in, trying to get everything done.

So take time to enjoy this time of year. Even if this Christmas feels exactly like last Christmas all over again.

Someone Singing Along

With less than five weeks until the beginning of the silly (and best) season, it doesn't feel so ridiculous to be practicing a collection of Christmas pieces each week. Instead it's kind of exciting and who doesn't like to feel a little bit festive once a week? And this year we get the double the festive cheer. We have our traditional Carols with the City of Armadale on the first Friday of the month but we will also be joining the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale two weeks later for more festive fun!

A great part of these events is the involvement of the whole community. Not only do the local councils and ourselves get involved, local school students participate, as do musicians and choristers. It’s always a magical evening and we trust that our second gig will be the same. As members of the band, I always say we have the best seat in the house. Not only can we see everything that is happening on stage, we can also look out and see the audience. Until the sun completely sets and then all we can see is a sea of lights, gently moving through the night.

You will definitely want to make sure you come and join us as it is always a wonderful evening and our second performance is shaping up to be the same. We love all the performances we do throughout the year but there is always something very special about the Christmas ones. The fact that so many people come together to put on a wonderful program with something for everyone, filled with old favourites and new pieces that are destined to become favourites, does have something to do with it. Adding to that, of course, is the audience themselves. Without them we would be performing to an empty park. Which would seriously hamper the sharing of Christmas spirit. The wonderful part though is when everyone joins in. When we begin to play, the choirs begin to sing and the audience joins us. Now that's Christmas magic.

It's not just someone singing along. It's everyone.

Cake by the Ocean

Or cake at break will do just as well. For the uninitiated the first Wednesday of the month is cake at break (which is a phrase that means exactly what it says). At break we have cake. Of course this leads to an extended break (because you can’t hurry cake consumption) while we all get our social on. We’re a pretty friendly bunch at the worst of times (e.g. 5am in the cold and dark while the wind dashes about, 35 degree days where there is no shade but an abundance of flies) so with a slice of cake in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, you’ve got no chance of bumping into someone unfriendly (plus you try being uncivil with a piece of delicately baked goodness smothered in butter cream. It’s impossible).

Yet despite the great distraction we didn’t spend the whole evening chomping away (tempting though it was). There was something else (or rather someone else) present which made this cake at break extra special. A special guest! Joining us for part of the evening was Tony Buti, the member for Armadale. And he didn’t come alone. While he might not have brought along a cake to share he did bring along a very lovely cheque from the Community Improvement Fund. As a non-profit community group, extra funds are always very welcome and we’ll be sure to put it to good use.

After all the excitement it was a little tricky to settle down (which by saying that does imply that we ever do – we don’t. It’s entirely possible the school teachers among us go back to school for a break) so we didn’t. It was high spirits all the way to the end of the rehearsal.

And don’t worry, all the leftovers went to a good home. But not by the ocean.

 

Young at Heart

Sometimes all it takes is one song and you’re whizzing back a couple of decades to where you were when you first heard it. Sometimes it’s not even a particular moment or event that it recalls but rather a feeling. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad but more often than not it’s a youthful feeling. That feeling of being young, carefree, with the possibility than anything can happen and will. That only good things lie ahead.

Now not having that many years on the clock, I can’t really talk but it’s still possible to get that feeling. And all it takes is one song from twenty years ago that you haven’t really heard since then. You’ve probably experienced the same thing yourself. So you can imagine what it’s like when you’re a t a seventieth birthday party, with a whole group of people that haven’t been in the same place in a long time. All the chatter from the catching up! And the perfect soundtrack? A carefully crafted playlist with all the classics and favourites. As you look around, every now and then small groups will start singing along, swaying to the music, faces glowing. And then that prompts some memory, some shared experience, that leads to peals of laughter. If you’re lucky enough, they might just share the joke with you.

What has this got to do with us? At the moment we are rehearsal a few popular pieces that will probably invoke feelings of nostalgia. And if we play them right, hopefully our audience will get a snatch of that youthful feeling too. I guess there is only one way to find that out – join us! And for audience members who bring along a few younger generations of their family, we could be sowing the seeds for youthful feelings in the future. Who knows! Years down the track they could catch the melody and be transported back to the feeling of a summer evening, running around, having an absolute ball. Again, only one way to find out!

We might get older but we can still have moments where we feel young at heart.

 

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!