Tuesday 5 September 2023

One day one photo - 5: Back at band practice

You will have seen as sport features heavily in my life. I like to do it, and watch. But I also like to do more sedentary things - among them, making music. When the UK went into lockdown for the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020 I saw it as a time to do things that I hadn't done for a while, or try something new. One of those things that I hadn't done for ages - even decades - was play my clarinet. So I dug it out and began playing. When I played the initial drills from my Klos√© clarinet method book, my cheeks and lips felt pretty tired, doing something they hadn't done for about 20 years! 

My fellow band clarinet players, L-R: Sue, Catherine, yours truly during a concert last year

I'm not sure my clarinet liked it either, for the wood on this old Noblet horn had to get used to having warm air blown through it after having being in cooler conditions. That caused a few cracks to form, so I had to just gradually increase the amount of playing time, as well as get the cracks filled by a specialist.

Three years on, and I am back to my old level - around Grade 6, and am a member of a couple of local concert bands.

Sadly, I have not been able to attend as many rehearsals I wanted in recent times due to other commitments. But I have practiced a little regularly at home, just to keep up the level for when I resume rehearsals.

So today I returned to rehearsing with one of my bands, the Beckenham Concert Band. It was great to be back and see familiar faces, including my fellow clarinet buddies, Catherine and Suzanne.

Once I picked up my clarinet and joined in with my piece there was a real sweet spot feeling of being back to a comfortable routine. I must say that playing clarinet in an ensemble has quite a few benefits for me. It's great to be able to make a fuller sound when playing with others, and it feels great to contribute towards making music that entertains others. Also, playing in a band definitely helps to raise my game as a clarinettist. I hope not to leave a few months' gap again from band playing.  

We played some classical and jazz music standards including a few Gershwin numbers, and stuff from films and TV programmes - Fame, Let the Sunshine, The Age of Aquarius which I must say I took great pleasure in playing. Sure my playing was a bit rusty as I was sight-reading some of the pieces. But it will be alright on the night, as they say.

The night in question is next week, when we will be doing a mini concert in celebration of our conductor Felicity, who will be having her swansong before she leaves to pursue further high level studies in music and conducting. 

Sadly, one absentee from my clarinet section was dear Gerry, who died a couple of months ago. He was over 90 years old and had various health issues so it wasn't completely out of the blue, but it was still sad. Gerry enjoyed the rehearsals and playing with us and his other band was a high point of his week. He always had a couple of funny tales to tell. I'm sure he's entertaining the angels up above.

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