• Liv Appleton

The Twelve Days of Banding Christmas

It’s the most wonderful (and busy) time of the year! Hands up, who’s sick of Christmas Festival already?

Yes, it’s that time of year again, where wearing reindeer antlers or a Santa hat with your concert uniform is perfectly acceptable. Suffering motion sickness whilst playing Schneewaltzer at the end of every concert has become the norm. Most importantly, we force the general public to listen to us everywhere they go. It is impossible to walk into a Morrison’s or a Sainsbury’s without hearing a rendition of Rudolph or Jingle Bells- there is no escape from the brass!

With this in mind I thought I’d sum up a bander’s experience during the festive period.

This is the Twelve Days of Banding Christmas

Twelve Christmas Concerts.

Yes they may have been on the band calendar for months, but you don’t really think about fitting in a ridiculous amount of concerts in December when you’re sunning it up in July. That is, of course, until it gets to December and you end up frantically trying to organise your life around those gigs.

Eleven minutes of Shopping.

According to my calculations, factoring in rehearsals, concerts, carolling and a Christmas Light Switch-On, I will have exactly 11 minutes on Christmas Eve to do all of my Christmas Shopping. Oh wait, there’s carolling on Christmas Eve? Oh bugger.

Ten Rocking Drum Beats.

There have been a few band pieces that I’ve played and not been able to decide if I like them because they’re good or because the rocker in me appreciates the drum beat. Pieces like Gaudete and Auld Lang Syne are fine examples of this. When we’ve had to rehearse them without a kit player, it just doesn’t seem to have the same effect…

Nine Forgotten headdresses.

Any other time of year the statement: ‘oh crap, I’ve forgotten my antlers’ would be a strange thing to declare at a concert. The standard pre-concert checklist at Christmas includes:

  1. Instrument

  2. Mutes

  3. Music

  4. Concert jacket

  5. Bowtie

  6. Raffle prize (because no Christmas concert would be complete without a raffle),

  7. Reindeer antlers/santa hat/snowman earrings etc.

Eight Never Ending Raffles.

Speaking of raffles, does anybody else physically feel themselves aging during a band concert raffle? These things seem to go on forever and every Christmas concert seems to feature one. Nothing fills me with more dread than arriving at a concert and seeing a table full of raffle prizes. You know it’s going to take forever before they’re all shifted. Numbers are called out that aren’t claimed because the person is in the bathroom or forgotten what their number is or that they they had a raffle ticket in the first place. Then you have to wait an age for Edna on the back row of the hall to come and claim her litre bottle of bubble bath from the prize table. Some bands have had the forward-thinking idea of taping the winning numbers to the prizes and people can peruse the prize table whilst exiting the venue to see if they’ve won. I’m a big fan of this idea. Life is short and I feel like I’ve spent most of mine enduring raffles.

Seven RSVP’s.

When asked to any sort of social occasion taking place anytime between the end of November and Christmas Day, please refer to the approved dialogue:

Colleagues: ‘Are you coming to the works Christmas do?’

Bander: Can’t, I’ve got band.

Friends: ‘Christmas drinks in town?’

Bander: Nope. Band.

Family: ‘Aunt Marge is having a Christmas get-together, are you coming?’

Bander: I. HAVE. BAND.

Six Cocked Up Dance Moves.

The choreography to Schneewaltzer is similar to that of the Macarena and the Cha Cha Slide , due to the fact we know all the moves by heart, but can’t remember when we learned them. Left, Right, Forwards, Backwards, Up, Down- how hard can it be to remember that? However, when you’re on your last Christmas concert of the year, you’re knackered; you’re not sure if you’ve got tinnitus or some kind of sleighbell PTSD and you’re on what feels like your 104th rendition of Schneewaltzer, it’s easy to forget which move comes next and you find yourself being the only one stood up whilst people are still on the ‘forwards, backwards’ movement- highly embarrassing.

FIVE DEP JOBS!

Obviously with it being such a busy time of year, there are times when some of us need to prioritise other things over banding (oh the horror!) and your facebook messenger is flooded with dep requests. Before you know it, you’ve scheduled in:

  1. 3 concerts for mates to whom you owe favours.

  2. A carolling job for your old band.

  3. A gig that your other half is depping at and therefore signed you up for, because banding relationships provide two deps for the price of one and the age-old excuse: ‘you were coming to watch anyway, so you might as well play’ is one that you can’t really argue against.

P.S. (I know you’re reading this, thank you very much dear…much appreciated!)

Four Forgotten Relatives

Christmas is an opportunity for spending quality time with your family…unless you’re a bander, in which case the only time your family will see you is if you make them attend every Christmas gig you’re doing. If your family are massive fans of Santaclaustrophobia, then fair enough. If not, I really wouldn’t recommend this, they wouldn’t thank you for it and you’re more likely to receive a lump of coal from them for Christmas.

Three Inhospitable Venues

I’ve yet to play a Christmas concert in a venue that has a suitable temperature. You’re either playing in a theatre with massive stage lights making you feel like a tortoise sitting under a heat lamp. Alternatively, you’re in an old stone church whose heating system hasn’t been updated since around 1962 therefore the radiators may as well be ornamental. A newer addition to these inhospitable venues are the more modern churches which favour bare wooden walls as an interior design feature and therefore the heating basically turns them into a sauna with a crucifix. Ironically you find yourself wondering if this is what hell is like…

Two Cases of the Giggles

Despite playing them for years, there will never be a time when I don’t find the horse whinney in Sleigh Ride and the low notes in the Frosty the Snowman cadenza hilarious. Especially Frosty after the firework incident that I now can’t unhear- click here to read about that.

And a One Knackered Bander

Finally you wake up to a day where you don’t have to don a band uniform or stand in the foyer of a well known supermarket. As you chill out with a mulled wine and a mince pie in your new Christmas pyjamas, you vow to yourself that next year you’re going to plan your time better, sign up to less commitments and make more time for family/Christmas shopping. You won’t. This is lies. This is your life now. Merry Christmas!

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