Rise of the Phoenix - The Return to Band
Updated: May 26
I spent most of last week convinced that something was going to get in the way of my band's (Freckleton) first full rehearsal back since the start of the pandemic.
Who knew that inconsistency could, ironically, be so consistent.
After the last 14 months, I've been used to nothing being set in stone - whether it be being allowed to sit in a pub, go to a band rehearsal or be allowed to sit in somebody's garden.
I remember getting ready to film an outdoor rehearsal last year and on the night of the band rehearsal, the restrictions were tightened and we weren't allowed to practise again for months.
So, naturally, after all the risk assessments were completed and a suitable venue for practise was booked, I had a horrible sinking feeling that something was going to wrong.
Even as we were driving to Freckleton, I was still anticipating that, for some bizarre reason, the rehearsal wouldn't go ahead.
Then I found myself sitting (socially distanced) alongside my bandmates - many of whom I hadn't seen for months - as the glorious sound of a full brass band enveloped me like a hug from an old friend.
It suddenly became real.
After 14 long months - we were finally back.
STockings, Snow Queens and Sweaty Eyes
According to the guidelines, one can use a pop sock (essentially a stocking in place of a bell cover.
As a human who is very easily amused, I did find it rather funny faffing around with a stocking over the end of my instrument - it was like some kind of brass band version of 'The Graduate'.
Well, having said that, my cornet's bore wasn't exactly...erm, well shapely enough, I suppose, to fully fill out the stocking, so it was more Nora Batty from The Last of the Summer Wine' rather than the 'The Graduate'.
It was all rather distracting, until I heard those 5 little words I hadn't heard for 14 months:
"Let's start with hymn number..."
Now, I've imagined the return to band for months now.
I envisaged a dramatic movie scene, where I break down into a puddle of tears, unable to get through a rendition of 'Hyfrydol', due to being so moved, wiping my mascara across my face and snorting back a nostril's worth of snot.
That was the expectation.
The reality was, I was too busy remembering how to balance to a band without overflowing and splitting every other note and fiddling about with my instrument, trying to get myself in tune, that I didn't really have much time for crying.
At that point anyway...
Then, the band got out Christopher Bond's arrangement of 'Into the Unknown' from Disney's 'Frozen II'.
If you know me or you've followed this blog for a while, you will know how much I love the 'Frozen' films, especially the second movie, from which this arrangement is taken from.
This particular arrangement of 'Into the Unknown' is based on the Panic at the Disco! version, which is just epic and is on my battle playlist.
You can probably guess what happened next.
If you're not familiar with the piece, here is a recording - just give it a listen.
Now imagine being a part of this powerful sound after 14 months away from this amazing musical community.
Within 8 bars my eyes began to get sweaty and I was desperately trying to blink them back, but I failed and I ended up cocking up the first couple of bars of the verse because I couldn't read the music through my tears!
I managed to pull myself together and I will never forget how playing through that piece, after so much time away, made me feel.
I didn't care about the splits and little mistakes that come along with sightreading - my heart was beating so fast and I couldn't help but smile whenever my instrument wasn't on my face!
I'm not sure I will ever experience that feeling again - but it was so special and I will never forget it.
Rise like a phoenix
After playing through a few of the pieces we had worked on for our socially distanced videos and the Cory Online Championships, during the lockdown, we had a go at sightreading Andrew Duncan's arrangement of 'Fawkes the Phoenix (from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)'.
Fun fact, I'm currently re-reading the Harry Potter books and it took me to the grand age of 24 to realise Fawkes is named after Guy Fawkes - you know, because of the whole bursting into flames thing?
Yep, that clearly went right over my head - what a numpty!
Anyway, moving on.
As we made our way home from rehearsal, I started thinking.
The last 14 months have been so hard.
The amount of change, tragedy and isolation we have had to cope with, in the last 14 months, has been horrendous and all without being able to blow off some steam (literally) and socialise with our musical friends.
I've worried about how our community would continue and worried about losing a lot of our community post-lockdown.
However, if anything, this lockdown has made our community stronger, in my opinion.
We have come together to create and take part in online events - I'm very much looking forward to the Online Whit Friday Championships, hosted by Foden's Band at the weekend!
We've created online spaces to keep our community alive and continue conversations about our wonderful musical world.
When I saw more and more bands posting their rehearsals on social media and players commenting in social media posts and groups about how much they enjoyed their rehearsals, the pieces they played and how emotional they were (glad it wasn't just me!) - it was so inspiring to see!
The brass band community is a phoenix that has the power to rise from the ashes of traumatic times - we always have and I believe, given the last 14 months, that we always will.
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