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Frosty and the Big Bang

Updated: May 5, 2020

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Well, Halloween is out of the way, which means only one thing- Christmas has begun. There’s no escape from the tinsel-filled terror of:

  1. Budgeting time for Christmas shopping in between about 150,000 gigs in December.

  2. Trying to find a dep for the gig that inevitably falls on your work’s Christmas do, when every other bander on the planet is already out with their own band.

  3. Not being able to walk into Sainsbury’s without hearing a brass band blasting Hark the Herald.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas just as much as everybody else. It provides many an excuse for things that just isn’t socially acceptable during the rest of the year.

  1. Terry’s Chocolate Orange for breakfast? Totally acceptable- it’s Christmas.

  2. Prosecco before 10am? Fa-la-la-la-labulous idea.

  3. Going to at least one party a week for an entire month? Tis’ the season to be merry= go ahead!

However I’d rather not have Christmas begin at the end of October. It’s only been a week and I can already feel the novelty wearing off. It’s the musical equivalent of when you sober up after one too many mulled wines- the warm, festive feeling goes and all you’re left with is a hangover and regret. However, I’ve accepted the fact that Christmas in the banding world starts as soon as the pumpkins have been thrown out and the skeleton costumes have been put back in the loft- it’s something I’ve just had to make my peace with.

A Banging Start to Rehearsal

As you may be aware, Tuesday was bonfire night and I can tell you I really enjoyed the stench of smoke drifting over the East Lancs on the way to Eccles. The people of Haydock, Golborne and Lowton clearly love a bonfire. Either that or there was some kind of Game of Thrones style sacrificial ceremony to the Lord of Light going on. Fire. Fire everywhere. Furthermore, there is nothing more disconcerting than walking through a dark car park in the middle of Eccles with the explosive ‘bangs’ of fireworks echoing around you. Is it a family letting off a couple of Roman candles in the back garden or a gang war taking place- who knows? What is the likelihood of getting a rocket thrown at my head by a couple of delinquent youths? The night is dark and full of terrors. Needless to say I didn’t dawdle on my way to the band room. My nerves were tested when myself and my band mates were having a conversation outside of the band room, before the rehearsal began, when suddenly a firework that sounded like somebody falling into a timpani exploded over our heads. I thought it was the start of World War Three. When I was a kid, I was happy with a couple of Catherine Wheels and maybe a rocket. Kids these days clearly expect nothing less than industrial pyrotechnics- which will feature again a little later in the story.

We kicked rehearsal off with that version of Jingle Bells- you know the one. Not the carol book version. The one that is cheesier than dipping Barry Manilow into a vat of Dairy Lea. I’ll admit, it did stir some Christmas cheer from the depths of my cold, dark soul. Then it was on to Gaudete, which is the highlight of any Christmas programme for me. Stick a drum beat into a brass band piece and I will instantly like it. I then had a bash at Peter Graham’s arrangement of Away in a Manger. I’ve played this before and I’ve been familiar with the tune of Away in a Manger since the time I had to play a shepherd in my school nativity play with a tea towel wrapped around my head- I’m sure that would be classed as cultural appropriation these days. However there’s a beautiful little interlude in the middle of this piece. I took a deep breath in, but what came out was not what was written on the page. Don’t ask me how, for I don’t know the answer myself. It was like I’d had some sort of musical aneurysm that had vastly reduced my playing ability. I suddenly couldn’t play a triplet in time and then a cluster of G flats appeared out of nowhere, panic set in and somewhere in the distance (amongst the fireworks) alarm bells were going off. After another go, I managed to remember how to play. Clearly inhaling bonfire smoke renders you unable to play a brass instrument.

Look at Frosty go…

Next up was the old Christmas favourite Frosty the Snowman, played by our bass trombone player, Dan. Everything was going well. Frosty was up and about ‘over the hills of snow’. That was until we came to the cadenza and Dan began his descent into those ever graceful lower register notes that only a bass trombone can produce. As he reached the end of this descent, his last note was accompanied by the most perfectly timed firework exploding above the bandroom. It sounded like Frosty’s ‘two eyes made out of coal’ were a little short-sighted and he’d managed to walk into a lamppost during his ‘thumpety thump-ing’ …’here there and all around the square’…. he should have listened to that Traffic Cop- I could keep going with the Frosty puns. Well you can imagine the reaction of the band. Needless to say, it took us several minutes to regain enough composure to let Dan finish his solo.

Well, despite my hatred of playing Christmas music before Christmas, it wasn’t too painful this week, thanks to Frosty and the big bang. I now think that pyrotechnics should always feature in the Frosty the Snowman cadenza. A letter suggesting this improvement will be sent to Sandy Smith within the week.

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