• Liv Appleton

Stage Thoughts

Two hours is a long time. Many, many thoughts can pass through your head in two hours. There have been times when I’ve been sat on stage and my mind has wandered off. I mean it’s not a hard thing to achieve when you’ve got the attention span of a hamster. Obviously there’s the worries of making a mistake and an onslaught of swearing mentally when you do make a mistake, but I’m talking the more in depth thoughts. The ones that distract you enough to make a mistake that causes the mental swearing.

So here is an insight into my mind whilst I’m onstage. Brace yourself.

1. Did I Put All My Music on My Stand?

Funnily enough this thought only pops into my mind when we’ve started the concert. Bearing in mind that I will have checked the music in the bandroom when I put it in order, then at home before I left for the concert, then at the concert venue, followed by a final check as I put it on the stand Why there is still that little niggle of doubt when I’m about three pieces in, that the conductor is going to announce a piece that isn’t on my stand, I have no idea. Welcome to my brain- where nothing makes sense.

2. Seriously? You’re going to have a coughing fit now?

You stand up to do a solo. Everything is going swimmingly. Your audience is silent, enraptured by your musicality. When from the back of the hall, someone who sounds as if they’ve smoked four packs a day for forty years decides to erupt into a coughing fit. If I wanted my solo to be accompanied by what can only be described as something that sounds like a rusty chain saw with bronchitis, I’ll have asked a bass trormbone to contribute! Cue hate mail from bass bone players everywhere. I’m only kidding….ish.

3. My socks don’t match.

There have been a few times when I’ve been in the rush to leave the house and picked up what I thought was a pair of black socks, only to look down in the middle of a concert to discover that I’ve been wearing some sort of combination consisting of one black sock and either a navy or a charcoal one. 

4. Conductor (to the audience): Do you want another one?

Me: No, no you don’t !

Don’t get me wrong, I love performing. If I didn’t I wouldn’t give up my spare time performing with the band. Sometimes, after I’ve had a long week, the thing I want to be doing at ten o’clock on a Saturday night, is sitting my pyjamas, sipping a gin and watching Netflix rather than playing The Floral Dance or some other cheesy encore. You’ve had two hours of music- don’t be so greedy! Considering most members brass band audiences are about four times my age, it’s a very depressing fact that at twenty-three you’re longing to be in bed and the octogenarians are the ones dancing in the aisles.  I’m getting old- pass me the horlicks and my slippers.

5. I’VE NOT TAPPED THE MUTE!

I’m not an overly superstitious person, except when it comes to my playing. If you’ve read my rituals and superstitions post (click here to read) you’ll understand why. In short, if I don’t tap my mute against my knee I am convinced that it will fall out the end of my instrument. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know either. There have been times, when I’ve been on stage, where the realisation that I’ve not tapped my mute has hit me and I’ve spent the rest of the muted passage waiting for that metallic clang of metal against floor with panicked anticipation. I’ve lost the plot, I know.

6. Do not sit like a bloke!

I’ve explained my detestation for playing in a dress after my embarrassing zip incident (click here to read) but my hatred for playing in anything other than pants isn’t just because of this potential wardrobe malfunction. I’m the type of lass who lives her life in jeans or trousers of some description. I like trousers. I trust trousers. They don’t blow up in the wind. They cover your backside when you bow at the end of your solo- as a tall person I would have to wear a floor length dress to stop this from happening! Finally you can sit comfortably without worrying about accidentally flashing the audience or the poor band member who sits opposite you.  So, the fact that I spend my life in trousers, coupled with the fact that I sit with one leg behind the other and slightly apart when I play (see image below for reference- I don’t know why I sit like that either!) if I’m wearing a dress, I have to mentally remind myself not to sit like I normally do and choose a slightly ladylike position. Hence I very rarely play in a dress. I’m sure I was a fella in a past life- man-spreading at its finest.

7. This shirt has shrunk.

This was a thought that went through my mind at the last Christmas concert of the season. The collar of my band shirt just seemed a little more tight than usual. At first I thought I’d put my bow tie on too tight- nope, same length as it’s always been. Then I thought I’d put a really old shirt on- nope I’d worn it to Rochdale contest, so not that old. Maybe the shirt had shrunk in the wash? Then the cold sting of reality hit me. Christmas parties, nights out, a charity ball which included an indulgent three course meal- the shirt hadn’t shrunk in the wash, I’d just…expanded. Running gear will be dusted off in the not too distant future.

8. Put the Werther’s Originals away.

There are not many other sounds that are as irritating as the opening of a sweet packet during a performance and to add insult to injury it always seems to be during a quiet piece. Many an opportunity may have been presented to open a bag of sweets without disrupting, but Ethel at the back just had to rustle about, opening her Werther’s originals during ‘Nimrod’. Cheers Ethel- hope you crack a denture! 

9. Fight the urge to dance.

By dance, I mean sway a bit in my seat or nod my head, not burst into Matthew Bourne-esque interpretive ballet to Macarthur Park. I don’t know what it is but some pieces (the ending of GaudeteRiverdance, Music etc) I find myself involuntarily bopping my head like one of those little dogs you put on a dashboard or swaying in my seat like a distressed elephant. Rather embarrassing.

10. You can’t pack the stage away through the power of telekinesis, mate.

This isn’t during a concert but I’m on a stage of some sort when I think this, so it counts. There’s always one. Everybody else is putting their stands down, lugging percussion backstage or putting banners in the box and you get one person standing there just staring at the equipment around them but not physically doing anything. At the very least tidy away your own section. Unless you’re Roald Dahl’s Matilda and you’re planning on putting down that stand with your mind, those two things at the end of your arms might come in ‘handy’…

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