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Embarrassing Banding Moments

When something takes up so much of your life, it creates a lot of memories- the good, the bad and the downright embarrassing. Now for those of you who don’t know me that well, I am one of the most clumsiest, accident-prone and unluckiest people you’ll meet, which ensures many an embarrassing moment- but if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

So for your entertainment, please enjoy three stories of me being a numpty! I might make this a series there’s that many.

1. Head Over Heels

Liv Appleton Circa 2008

The year is 2008/2009 (I think…) and I’m in Year Seven. I was a little, chubby swot, who was in the school band, not because you could get out of lessons for certain rehearsals/performances, but because I actually enjoyed it…and I wonder why I never had a boyfriend at high school. Now, like most high school girls, I’d developed an interest in boys (just a shame they hadn’t developed an interest in me due to aforementioned reasons). There was one particular Year 11, let’s call him…Bob, who played drums for the school band and played Danny Zuko in the schools production of Grease- Twelve year old me had no chill and became slightly obsessed with him…that was pretty much the case for any vaguely good looking guy during my entire high school experience…like I say, I was slightly intense. The school band would perform concerts at local primary schools and it was one of these concerts that I experienced the feeling of wanting the ground to swallow me up for the first time.

So, let me set the scene. The rest of the school band had been smart enough to put their instruments in the luggage compartment and leave their bulky bags on the coach, in order to enter and exit the coach easily. Not Liv. Little Liv worried that a bigger instrument would fall over in the luggage compartment and squish my cornet (even though my cornet was in a hard case) or someone might have the same instrument case as me and take my cornet instead of theirs (yes, this was a very real worry)- so the cornet came on the coach. Then I worried that if I left my bag on the coach someone might steal something from it or I might be the last one back on the coach and my bag would have been cabbaged with all my stuff on show (which in fairness, the last worry was rational, my school did go through a phase were cabbaging bags was considered a fun pastime)…it’s when I tell stories like this, that I realise how long I’ve been an irrational worrier. Someone should have given me a valium or taught me how to meditate.


So we’re getting off the coach at the first primary school and I attempted to squeeze through the tiny aisle of the coach with a bulky cornet case and a rather heavy, bright pink, backpack. I got to the steps of the coach and before I knew what had happened, I lost my balance and as I tried to recover, the weight of my load tipped me over the steps and I literally fell head over heels off the coach- complete with cornet and bag flying in the air- before landing, like a sack of spuds, right in front of Bob and the rest of the band. I would like to say that Bob dropped what he was doing and ran to my aid, like Prince Charming, but we’re talking about a high school lad here. Bob did not help, instead he found the entire thing rather amusing (as did the rest of the band, I imagine). I was mortified, slightly sore and decided right there and then that I no longer liked Bob. Bob was a twonk. Twenty-two year old me just thinks he was a typical high school lad, but twelve year old me was bitterly disappointed. Safe to say, after this incident, the worry of a repeat performance outweighed all of my other reservations and I utilised the luggage compartment and left my bag on the coach from that day on.

2. The Loudest Mute

This event started my complete detestation for harmon mutes- they’re just awkward buggers which leave you constantly worrying if they’re going to stay in your instrument or fly out like a pitiful little cannonball. Is it just me who’s noticed that harmon mutes always look the most battered? Is it the injuries sustained from falling out of many a cornet bell or the marks of frustration from the cornet player after being upstaged by a fallen mute? We’ll never know. I can tell you, I’ve never had this problem with a straight or cup- they’re a higher class of mute.

I digress.

Helen Williams playing with the Foden’s Youth Brass Band. As you can see there may be a slight increase in the soloist’s dynamic due to unforeseen mute clattering.

The look of shame. Some members of the band look amused. Glad you found my embarrassment entertaining guys!

So, I was playing with the Foden’s Youth Band, who were accompanying Helen Williams in her performance of Children of Sanchez (I think that was the piece anyway, I’m getting old- memory isn’t what it used to be, clearly). The performance was going well. I pop my harmon mute into my instrument and don’t think any more of it as I count the remaining bars rest- my harmon mute had never betrayed me before so it had lulled me into a false sense of security, thus far in my playing life. It wasn’t until I lifted my instrument to play and the end of my instrument suddenly felt incredibly lighter. My stomach flipped as I instantly realised what happened, a split-second before it clattered onto the wooden floor of the stage. Clearly not satisfied with the amount of embarrassment it had already caused, it proceeded to roll, rather noisily, to the other side of the stage. So I’m sat there, no mute, forced to sit out of the muted section whilst the rest of the front-row (with their well-behaved harmon mutes) carry on. I would like to formally apologise to Helen for interrupting her solo with my extra percussion line.

However, aside from my embarrassment, I did find it rather funny when my mute was picked up from the opposite end of the stage and passed around the band back to me.

3. Star Struck

Ok, I’ll be honest, this isn’t just embarrassing (if I could go back in time, I’d hit younger me over the head and tell her to get a life), it’s just plain tragic. In my defence, I was young(er), I’d had a few beers and my band geeky-ness was at it’s peak.

I used to look up to top banders (the likes of Richard Marshall, Roger Webster, Mark Wilkinson etc) in the same way normal kids would look up to pop stars or celebrities. I didn’t think of them as normal people with day jobs and normal lives who just happened to play with a successful band. To illustrate my point, I watched Black Dyke for the first time when I was around sixteen and queued up to have my CD signed. I know you’re judging me but I took banding very seriously. As well as incredibly sad, don’t you think it’s kind of endearing? No? Ok, moving on…

So, I’m at the Yorkshire Area which, with players from Dyke, Grimethorpe and Brighouse floating around- it was this sad, band geek’s version of Disneyland. I found myself standing next to people at the bar, who’s solo or band CDs were on my Ipod…I was so sad, I’m cringing just writing this, so god knows how sad you think I am.

The friends I went to watch the contest with, knew people from the bands I’d admired (you know, because we all know each other, because we’re just people) and one of them was actually playing with one of the top flight bands on the day, so naturally they’re capable of talking to these people like normal human beings. I, however, was just a flustered mess, who didn’t know what to say and just kept downing pints in order to hold a conversation that would convince others that I was of sound mind and not the banding psycho I actually was.

Towards the end of the day, Richard Marshall (who was one of my playing idols at the time) walked passed me in the bar…I kid you not, it was like I’d seen Freddie Mercury (brace yourselves for the utter bucket of pathetic-ness that I’m about to throw at you).

Ah I was so happy. Look at my drunk, little happy face. Loving the pint in hand pose…Liv Appleton, keeping things classy since 1996.

My friends, obviously found this reaction hilarious and probably odd, and just told me to go and say hi. Before you judge, just bear in mind that I probably had about five hours worth of drink, diluting any shred of sanity I had at this point.

My reply to them saying ‘go say hi was…and I quote:

‘I can’t talk to him, he’s too good a player….HE PLAYS FOR DYKE!!!’ in a slightly drunken, slurry voice.

Like no-one knew the fact he played for Dyke! For god’s sake, Liv. My cornet teacher at the time, who was clearly exasperated with my pathetic behaviour, dragged me over to Richard and explained the fact that I thought of him as a celeb, which would have been cute I guess if I was this little seven year old, that had just started playing and had ambitions for playing in the top flight bands. But I wasn’t. I was eighteen, incredibly sad and INCREDIBLY inebriated- great first impression! He was very nice about the whole situation (privately, he probably thought I was a loon…which I suppose is justified) and even agreed to take a picture with me which is also proof of how ‘merry’ I was…look at my eyes…bloody hell. Why did I think it was a good idea to tell this story?

Fast forward to 2016, when I arrived at the Northern and had group classes with Richard, this episode was never mentioned, either because it was (hopefully) forgotten or to save my embarrassment.

A few years have passed and although I’m still a band geek, I can confirm that I’m not that sad anymore…

Well…having said that, Richard Evans did compliment my playing in a rehearsal before the Regionals and I basically told anyone that would listen for around three days afterwards…

Maybe some things never change?

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