7: Concerts – rehearsals and stage practice

So it has been many weeks since my last blog and this has been a time of rehearsing and practice. I have found myself being percussion groupie (helping with the artillery opps – I mean percussion set-up and break down); I have been roped into being a “chief singer” at a last night of the proms style concert – Singing why me? Have you heard me sing?? (tehee); and have watched MK Brass on stage at Bolsover Entertainments Contest.

All of these experiences have opened my eyes wider and wider to the banding scene and given me opportunities that I would never of had watching TV at home. These experiences have all cumulated with me getting back on stage playing with the Development Band in the Annual Jo Chauser Memorial Concert hosted by MK Brass.

For the past few months Friday night Dev Band rehearsals have focussed on three pieces of music the Musical Director wanted to play at the concert – the first movement from Music for a Festival (A fourth section test piece); the Sweeney (TV theme); and Water of Tyne (an Olde English traditional song) and all of these pieces having unique features (swing, traditional, Caribbean rhythms etc) and it has been enjoyable to concentrate on getting each piece right and practicing certain bars or sections. On the run up to the concert I put in extra practice sessions with one of the Tuba players from MK Brass (who also plays with the Dev Band) keen to get things as good as possible before the final rehearsal and performance.

I haven’t been on stage for 12 years and to be honest I was a bit nervous. The evening started at 3:30pm: arriving at the concert location and helping with the set-up of the event. A van loaded with heavy percussion (Timps, Gloc, Bass Drum, Xylophone, Tam-tam and Tubular Bells) arrived and was followed a few minutes later by a car loaded with the drum kit. It was all hands on deck to unload the equipment and get it onto stage. Music stands and chairs also needed to be set-up and a busy period of assembly started with loads of the main band members helping to get these tasks complete. A great show of team work!!

A main band rehearsal followed putting finishing touches to the pieces and running through most of the programme. I sat watching thinking about the upcoming concert. The MK Youth Choir also had a practice slot but seemingly Dev Band didn’t – humph!! Not even a note to get warmed up. Well okay, one note to tune up in the corridor before going on to stage but nothing further. Going on stage cold was weird but as soon as I sat down a strange thing happened. I slotted straight back into “Concert Mode”.  [Something drilled into me from an early age. I did my first stage appearance playing a brass instrument at the age of 13 performing at school in a music recital and I suppose up until 12 years ago I had been on stage (or at least performing) anything up to 10-12 times a year since that first concert.]

“Concert Mode” was the immediate release of nerves (the ones that were lingering for most of the day); the total concentration on the rest of the band; and a full focus on the conductor – his rhythms and his emotions; the lighting; the audience applauds; the feeling of doing well; of playing well and nailing the part that you have been practicing for so long. It was all over in a flash though – 15 minutes on stage and three pieces of music – done!! Blink and you’ve missed it (I hate clichés).

I think “Concert Mode” is also the total concentration of not falling up or down the steps onto stage or falling off the stage completely…definitely not something that you will live down for at least 20 years…PH don’t fall off that stage…

What’s more is that the Dev Band sounded good on the night. A great concert performance and great achievement on some tricky music…The after Concert party at the Crochet’s Rest was, as always, a fantastic do which capped the night off nicely!!