Tonight was the start of a new beginning for me and I wanted to put it on record that it was a great experience for me, and (I hope) the people that shared it with me.
As some of you may know already, I am a musician. First, foremost and central to my being is music. Unfortunately, during the last couple of years I have not been as involved with it as I have liked because of an ongoing health problem, but I have reached a stage in that now that I can manage my health and dip my toe back in the world of music again.
I have been a cornet player since I was 7 years old (I’m now 41) and up until me being taken ill in January 2010, I hadn’t missed more than a couple of months playing in a band even during having two babies! To be forced to stop playing – and so suddenly – was absolutely heartbreaking for me and it really shook me to my foundations. I did a spell of conducting the youth band at Middleton Band for about a year (which was great fun!) and I have been involved on and off with another local band, Blackley Band, in a sort of consultancy role helping out the cornet section and doing a bit of conducting for the. I have also done a lot of arranging music for bands and ensembles during my time away from playing, but I have missed being involved on a long term basis as if I were missing a member of my family.
I suppose it was fair to say that I suffered a bereavement when I was forced to quit playing (as well as being forced to stop working) and like all bereavements there have been definite stages that I have worked through. I’m not sure I’m quite out of it yet, but when I got a phone call from Liz the band secretary at Todmorden Community Band earlier this year I gambled on her request to do a spell of conducting and said I would.
So I did!
Tonight was the first night of me being at the helm of the band, and before I went I was a bag of nerves and a bundle of excitement and dread all rolled into one. I have had so many doubts this week that I almost rang Liz so many times and said “I can’t!!” but something I heard on Wednesday night struck home with me and settled my mind.
We were talking about stewardship (of the church) and the question was posed to us “are you being a good steward of your own life?”. My immediate answer was…”I could do better….” but then when I thought about it I came to the conclusion that God gave me this gift of music and he gave me my other gifts of humour and communication and of love for other people and I would be very selfish if I didn’t use those gifts ever again just because I was having the problems I was having.
I was eager to get cracking tonight, and I felt full of confidence when I went into the bandroom. I’d said a prayer beforehand, along the lines of “God, you gave me this talent, you’ve got to be in my corner now I’m up against it!” (or words to that effect lol!) and the whole rehearsal was a breeze.
It was lovely to meet new people and by the end of the evening I could actually pick out individual faces from the mass of people before me. You know what it’s like when you meet a room full of new people and they all look the same? Yeah, that was me tonight!
My biggest fear tonight (apart from making a complete idiot of myself or being out of my depth) was that I would do something, or say something that would spoil the atmosphere and comeraderie that the band had already built up. The band is a community band, which means that they meet to have a good time and to rehearse music for a couple of concerts a year, but they don’t take part in contests. The vibe is different there than in other bands I’ve been in, where contesting is usually big business, and so I was (and still am!) very conscious of carrying on their tradition of social music, rather than competition music making.
The band is a mixture of young people who are learning to play and older people who have “been there, done that, got the t-shirt and are washing the windows with it”, which means that when it comes to rehearsing music it can be a bit tricky choosing things that would stretch them without patronising them, and challenging them without making it too off-putting and therefore unenjoyable. I was terrified that I would choose something that would make it horrid for them, and to be honest, I’m very aware that I could still do that and so I’ll be on my toes for ages yet!
As it turned out, some of the players were as nervous of me as I was of them. One of the ladies on horn approached me at the end to thank me for the rehearsal, and she confided in me that she was scared stiff that she wouldn’t be good enough now that they have a new conductor and that she wouldn’t be allowed to play any more. I was horrified!! I told her that it didn’t matter to me if there were things she couldn’t play, or notes she couldn’t reach, because at the end of the day we were there to make music and to have a few laughs together for an evening, and I certainly WOULDN’T be throwing anyone out for not being “good enough”. She seemed to relax when I said that, thank God. One of the older chaps thanked me, saying that “it were a bloody good rehearsal that were” – a true Yorkshireman!
I’m looking forward to the next couple of months with Todmorden and am looking forward to the challenge it will give me too. Not being the most confident person in the world, I will always be uber critical of myself and my “performance”, but if it goes as well in the next couple of months as it did tonight then I think I can give myself a break, and just enjoy it for what it is.
I will be leaving them at Christmas (I know this already) because of two reasons. One is that their resident conductor is taking a sabbatical, which is why I’m taking them, and the second is that my life is going to change again in January, but more of that later on.
For now, this is what we played tonight:
- Warmed up with “Horsley” – hymn tune (from the ubiquitous red book!)
- Blaze Away – march that they’ve played before
- Gospel Celebration – three upbeat hymn tunes that they’ve played before but needs a bit more rehearsing
- Deep Harmony – hymn as arranged by Roy Newsome. Brought goosebumps to my arms that one did….shiver!
- Trailblaze – a concert piece that they sight-read VERY well!! (I think they fibbed when they said they’d not seen it before….)
- Mr Jums – a lovely little piece for concerts. More sight-reading, didn’t go down as well as Trailblaze, so might not actually perform this one. We’ll have to see how they grow to like it. Or not.
- Warm down with a nice gentle verse of St Clements to finish with.
I wanted to strike a balance between old and new, familiar and sight-reading, hard blowing and gentler playing and something to stretch them. I think I managed it!!
Here’s to next week. Some more new music to be played and a concert for Armistice to prepare for. Good times ahead!!