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10 Banding Highlights from 2019

Updated: May 5, 2020

Silly season is finally over. The halls have been decked, the bells have been jingled and we can put Santaclaustrophobia away for another twelve months. It’s been a funny old year. To be quite honest, I don’t know how I feel about 2019. In many ways it was one of the worst years of my life with issues in my personal life and still having battles with my mental health. However, simultaneously, some of the best times of my existence happened this year- it’s just been plain bizarre. So I thought I’d list my highlights of 2019 as there have been many a milestone reached and these are what I want to focus on going into 2020.

It’s a bit of a lengthy one, so I’d grab a brew and a selection box before we dive into my highlights of 2019.

1. Children of Sanchez

This isn’t just a highlight of 2019 but a highlight of my entire playing career. ‘Children of Sanchez’ has been on my band bucket list from watching Jens Lindemann play it with Foden’s Youth Brass Band when I was seventeen. I had many a wobble whilst preparing it as I’ve never found technical sections easy and some of those semi-quaver sections are a little tricky. Even during the rehearsal before the performance, I hadn’t produced a mistake-free performance and I had to convince myself during practise sessions that I could manage it and of course, how I was going to cope with my nerves was always in the back of my mind. However, on the night, it was the most accurate and polished performance I’ve ever produced, even before I had my mental wobble. Considering all the setbacks I’d had with my playing from 2017 until the beginning of 2019, there aren’t enough words to describe how proud I was of that performance and it was the turning point that changed my mindset from ‘I’m not sure if I can do this’ to ‘I can do this’.

2. Spring Festival 2019

You don’t have to win a contest for it to be a highlight (a shocking concept, I know). Again, it was another moment where I proved to myself that I’m capable of more than I thought I was- you will notice that this is the theme of this post. As I have said before, suffering with nerves and performance anxiety on stage was a real fear. At the Spring Festival here, I proved that even in the real throws of an anxiety attack, shaking and all, I can still play (click here to read that story). Ok, it wasn’t pleasant but thankfully the sound that came out of my instrument was exactly the same as when I was calm and it was nice to know that if I really put my mind to it, I’m mentally stronger than I give myself credit for. Experiencing Blackpool’s nightlife was also something I won’t forget….that was interesting.

3. Durham Miners Gala

I’m not going to lie, interrupting Jeremy Corbyn’s speech with an impromtu rendition of the National anthem was definitely a highlight- click here for that story. That’s what you get for letting your speech overrun and therefore delaying us having to do the march back up. I’m not a particularly political person and I wasn’t sabotaging Mr Corbyn’s speech for political reasons before anybody wants to send me hate mail written on red paper. There are much more interesting things to talk about than politics such as the price of fish or what shade of paint you prefer to watch dry. The guy needs to learn to wrap a speech up in less than what felt like a decade.

4. Whit Friday

Having missed it in 2018, I looked forward to Whit Friday this year more than I looked forward to Christmas. Yes, it may have rained and I looked like a drowned raccoon with mascara in my eyes (yes, I didn’t follow my own advice and wore non-waterproof mascara, what an idiot!) by the end of it, but I loved it and it felt so good to be out on the circuit again.

5. The Cointreau Incident

So after an Eccles gig, I stayed with the other two musketeers for a gin and takeaway night. Long story short, we ended up staying up until 8am, playing darts and watching the Spice Girls Movie- as you do. At some point, three quarters of a bottle of Cointreau had been drunk and judging by the three shot glasses that we found next to the bottle, I don’t think we sipped it with a mixer. Needless to say, I’m too old to be staying up until 8 o’clock in the morning and I’ve not been able to look at a bottle of Cointreau since.

A post shared by Liv Appleton (@liv.appleton) on Jun 8, 2019 at 5:44pm PDT

6. Back to School

Twice this year, I’ve had the pleasure of helping out Daffodil’s school band at their end of term concert. Just to clarify, Daffodil teaches the school band, he’s not in the band! It’s awesome to not only see a school provide musical opportunities, when enthusiasm for music education has been decreasing at a rapid rate, but to see so many children involved in these opportunities and being encouraged by such dedicated teachers is beyond inspiring to witness. Nothing makes me happier than seeing young talent flourish, especially during a time when children are being pushed away from creative arts in favour of academia.

7. Paganini Variations

This was an awesome moment in my playing career, as Paganini is a piece I have always wanted to play on the contest stage and never had the chance until I depped for Freckleton Band at Rochdale this year- click here to read about that. It was another one of those pieces that I had a bit of a wobble about getting it right- that Repiano part isn’t easy! It may not have won on the day, but there are very few performance that have made me feel as proud or as emotional. I’ll admit I didn’t get through the ending without having sweaty eyes, partly because I’ve listened to so many recordings of that ending and I couldn’t quite believe I was part of that ending and partly because I was so proud of the band’s progression from first looking at the piece to our final performance. I also won a bet against a sop player which resulted in a free pint- always good! Which leads me nicely onto my next highlight…

8. Dangerous Dep Job

Both Philip Wilby and Daffodil have a lot to answer for. When I agreed to dep on Rep for Freckleton Band, I asked about who was going to be in the cornet section. Daffodil told me that they’d recently signed a new sop player who was ‘a nice lad’ who I would ‘get on well with’. Well, Daffodil has clearly become a banding version of Cilla Black (it’s like banding blind date) as I did et on well with Freckleton’s new Sop Player. So well, in fact, that we went on a date the week after Rochdale. Well, by ‘date’ I mean he depped for Eccles and we went for food before the gig- banding romance at it’s finest! Poor lad has been stuck with me ever since. Dep jobs are dangerous- I only wanted to play Paganini!

9. Banding Bublé

A couple of months ago, Daffodil introduced me and Natalie to a version of ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ by Linda Eder, which is a jazzy, big band affair and incredibly good. Now, I do dabble about with a little bit of singing every now and again and the idea of Daffodil arranging this version for brass band with me singing was thrown into the arena. Clearly, I had a couple gins as I was brave enough to agree to do this, despite the biggest audience I’ve ever sung in front of was about 100 people at a school concert when I was sixteen.

Fast forward to the 22nd of December, I found myself stood on the stage at Lowther Pavilion in front of nearly five hundred people with a full brass band behind me. As nerve-wracking as it was to start off with, singing in such a professional setting, with such an amazing arrangement (thank you Daff!) in front of so many people, was a highlight of my time on this planet let alone highlight of my year. I’ve dreamt of being a vocalist since being a teenager and I finally got to fulfil that dream whilst incorporating my love of brass bands- it’s bucket list material. I felt like banding’s answer to Michael Buble….ok maybe not quite as vocally talented as him…maybe more of a Jane Macdonald than Buble, but a girl can dream.

The video may make it’s way onto social media eventually….

10. Full Circle

So, getting back into the swing of everything that banding incorporates after time away wasn’t easy and I’ve had my wobbles and doubts. There have been times of frustration where my instrument has nearly been thrown through a window. I’ve had to spend many a time convincing myself that I can do it and accept that I’m going to have to work on my playing to get back to the standard I was. So when I was tasked with the challenge of depping on the Principal cornet seat at Freckleton over the Christmas period, I wasn’t sure I was capable. It’s the highest section I’ve played Principal for and the nerves required to be a Principal I didn’t think I possessed anymore.

If there is any resolution I’m taking into 2020, it’s to not doubt myself and realise that I am capable of far more than I give myself credit for. Not only did I cope, I really blummin’ enjoyed it. I felt like the player I was before I had my wobble, which is something I never thought I’d achieve. So when I was offered the Principal cornet seat permanently, I jumped at the chance.

This time last year I feared that my time with banding was nearing its end. I’m walking into 2020 as the Principal Cornet of a First Section band. I’ve managed to harness my nerves and I know this is something that I will always have to deal with, but for now I know I can cope with them and how to work on them. I’ve improved my playing further than the standard I was at before my wobble. So, for once in Liv Appleton’s history, I’m allowing myself a little pat on the back and I can’t quite believe how far I’ve come in the space of a year (getting a little sweaty eyed as I type this, god I’m going soft in my old age…). I do feel like my banding journey as come full circle and the comeback has been bigger than the setback. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my band mates and my friends who have built me up when I’ve doubted myself and told me to shut up when I’m being to hard on myself- thank you!

I’m looking forward to going out with a bang at my last gig with Eccles at Butlin’s contest next weekend- a trophy would be a lovely end to my time with the band and there ain’t no party like an Eccles Butlins Chalet Party! I’m excited to get stuck in with Legacy and working towards the area with Freckleton Band and what the future holds with the Principal Cornet seat. Of course, I’ll be bringing you along for the ride and I’m sure this year will have enough madness and musical mayhem to document as last year!

2020, let’s be having you!

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