Monday 13 September 2021

Photo of the day - 13: Gigging with my band at Eastbourne bandstand

Ready to play with my concert band at Eastbourne

As well as sport, I do like a bit of music - making music...or something resembling that, if you ask my neighbour! I have had a clarinet for many years. It all started about 30 years ago when I went to live in France after graduating from university. In those early, cold, nights in Paris I needed to find something to do, given that I didn't know many people, and I would feel too tired to understand everything on television. So I hit upon the idea of filling my evenings by learning the clarinet. My neighbours were incredibly accommodating! I managed to get hold of a clarinet after one of the local music shops referred me to a guy in Montmartre who specialised in refurbishing second hand woodwind instruments.

So I made the trip across Paris and they guy sold me a Noblet for 2,000 Francs, which I paid for in instalments. They were very helpful and referred me to a teacher whose studio was above a sex toys shop. It was a bit seedy getting out of the Metro at Pigalle, passing the risqué looking men and women, and going up the steps to his practice room. But Didier's classes were fun. He said he was a bit nervous when giving lessons, and needed to smoke throughout, if I didn't mind. I kind of did mind, but I put up with it because his lessons were cheap. His main instrument was the bass saxophone and I went to see him play at jazz places in the 6th arrondissement of Paris on a few occasions. I was impressed that he had the breath to get out such long notes.

And that was the beginning of my relationship with the clarinet. I played regularly for about four or five years, including when I returned to London. But then it just tailed off as I got involved in other activities. Fast forward to last year when we had the near total lockdown in the Spring. Wanting to do something different during those incredibly unusual times, the clarinet came to the fore.

I have been enjoying playing - working through my grades, going to lessons, and I also joined my local concert band. I must say, playing the clarinet gives me a great feeling - something different from doing sport. It's quite a nice break from all the other energetic things I do, and there's a real feeling of satisfaction when you can produce a good tune either alone or with the band. I also like the versatility of the clarinet. You can do very low notes and very high notes (well once you get over the horrible squeaking). And it lends itself well to all genres of music - jazz, classical, folk, salsa/afrobeat, and just bog-standard pop songs too.

I did my first gig with the band yesterday. It was their first performance since 2019, and everyone was so pleased to be back playing to an audience after the coronavirus hiatus. We were at the historic Eastbourne bandstand for a traditional afternoon concert. It was really enjoyable, and it seemed that the audience got into it too. I could get used to doing more of these. The good thing for me is that today, at the band AGM I took up the role of Gigs Manager. I really fancy the idea of being involved in organising events - something I have taken great pleasure in in the past. So I look forward to us playing in more bandstands, a few church halls, bars, and who knows maybe - the Royal Albert Hall!

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