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Banding Bucket List- Performance Opportunities

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have experienced some brilliant performance opportunities during my time in banding. From performing at the National Finals in Cheltenham to entertaining a crowd of thousands in a Palace in Austria (as you do). Yet, there are still a few opportunities I’ve not had chance to experience yet, which I hope I’ll be able to tick off before it’s time to retire my instrument.

Here are my top 5 performance opportunities that I would love to experience.

I’ve been to many contests on this little island, from Wychavon in Worcestershire up to Troon in Scotland, but I would love to experience contesting on the continent. I don’t know how different it could be to British contesting but it would be great to experience and compare. Also, bands at the European Championships have to play both a set work, that is chosen by the EBBA and a piece of the band’s choice. I’d love to take on the challenge of perfecting two test pieces to a contest winning standard. Plus, I hear Palanga has a lovely beach! A bit of banding and a stroll by the seaside with an ice cream- perfect or puikus, as they say in Lithuania (according to google translate).

In my calendar, Whit Friday ranks higher than Christmas. When I left work at lunchtime on Whit Friday this year, anyone would have thought I ws going on an all expenses trip to Las Vegas rather than spending a rather rainy evening in Tameside (if you’re new here, I’m a complete band nerd, in case the blog dedicated to banding didn’t give that away). Delph is a venue I’ve always wanted to experience from my first Whit Friday almost ten years ago. However, since all the bands I’ve played with at Whit Friday have done the Tameside circuit I’ve never had the chance to experience marching through Delph, which apparently is amazing. It’s such an iconic venue and the atmosphere always looks electric when I’ve seen videos of other brass bands marching through.

Delph, Whit Friday

I’ve always loved Brass in Concert, as it is worlds away from the traditional stiff-collar contests. The standard and variety of programmes on offer is just fantastic and seeing how inventive bands can be with their repertoire and performance elements has been interesting to watch over the years. I really wish more non-banding muggles came to watch this contest, as I think it would give them a completely different perspective on what a brass band can actually do. As much as I love taking part in traditional contests, I would love to play at Brass in Concert and be part of a programme such as the likes of Grimethorpe’s World War 1 theme, Leyland’s Blue Programme or Cory’s tribute to Roald Dahl. It would certainly be something different.

Grimethorpe perform at Brass In Concert 2014

I’ve been lucky enough to play at the lower section National Finals twice and also play at the British Open at Symphony Hall, both big contests and experiences I will never forget. One dream I’ve had since I first watched Brassed Off was to play at the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall. It’s like the banding equivalent of a Liverpool fan getting to play a footie match at Anfield, I guess. It’s one of the most prestigious stages a bander can play on and if I could tick that off my bucket list, I would be one incredibly happy bander.

Fodens at National Finals, Royal Albert Hall

It may be surprising that my number one performance opportunity isn’t a contest or concert venue. There may be no trophy or rapturous applause at the end of this performance, but this would be the biggest privilege I could ever have as a musician and would mean more to me than all the other experiences in this list combined.

From the age of 12, I’ve played the Last Post every year at Remembrance Services and various war memorial ceremonies. I’ve always had a real affinity and interest with anything to do with the World Wars. Not in a morbid sort of way, but I find discovering the stories of those who served to be fascinating and humbling. I don’t really know why I feel such a connection, both my Great-Grandfather’s who served were lucky enough to escape with their lives and I’m not yet aware of family members who served and were sadly killed, although I am determined to discover those relatives and their past. I suppose I feel some kind of admiration for those brave lads who packed up their things and stepped boldly into an event that would cause such horror and pain.

I don’t care about the politics and the tactics (although they’re interesting to read about) and I’m not glorifying war in any way, but I do feel it right to glorify the lads who gave their lives in the fields of battle. I’m currently writing a novel about two brothers from Yorkshire who go to fight in the second world war, the youngest of which (a bandsman in the local colliery band) becomes a bugler. Like I say, I have a real interest in the people who were involved in the conflict. Maybe it’s because, playing in bands all my life, I’ve always been involved in remembrance services. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a younger brother and couldn’t even bear the thought of him being sent off to fight (they’d have to fight me first) or maybe it’s because I wanted to be an army musician. I don’t know the reason, all I know is that I take great pride in playing in any memorials services dedicated to those lost in conflict.

Buglers at the Menin Gate

Back to World War One and my number one performance opportunity. I’ve always wanted to visit the World War One cemeteries in France and Belgium, not just because of the historical interest, but I feel it would be an incredibly humbling experience. I’d love nothing more than to pack up my cornet and get the chance to play the last post in one of the cemeteries. Some may think it’s morbid, but I really don’t care. If there were no rules, of course the one place I would give anything to play at is the Menin Gate in Ypres during their daily service of remembrance. The reason I would love to play their especially is because every service is dedicated to an individual soldier whose name is listed on the memorial, so that would be beyond an honour. Sadly, that honour is reserved for the professional bugle players. However I am currently looking into being able to play at one of the war cemeteries or at the Thiepval Memorial which is dedicated to the missing soldiers who were never recovered from the battlefields of the Somme.

Trophies and contests are great, but having the chance to pay my respects in the best way I know how, through music, to those gave their lives, would be the highest honour.

Thiepval Memorial to the missing soldiers of the Somme

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