Last night, I attended the first summer band rehearsal of the season. In case you weren't around last summer or forgot what this band thing is all about, let me fill you in.
Small Town, but not excluding people from surrounding small towns, has a community band that gives concerts in the park or in the street at festivals through the summer. We start rehearsing about now, and run through the middle of August when all the college kids take off and all the high school band directors start focusing on the new school year. We meet once a week in an unairconditioned band room, and all 100 or so of us rehearse for 2 1/2 hours. We're loud and obnoxious, with each section trying to outdo the next.
To contrast the group—during a rehearsal for orchestra, when the conductor stops the group to discuss a problem, the musicians are quiet and attentive. At band, when the conductor stops the group to discuss a problem, everyone immediately starts chatting with their neighbors, and the guy on bass trombone laughs through his horn like a hyena in a way he has perfected over the years. You get the idea the conductor's baton gives you the downbeat not so you'll begin playing but so you'll stop talking. The cut off is your cue to get back to your conversation.
So, last night, we met up again, and it was like we had not been apart for the winter. We played through all the music for our first concert which will be Memorial Day weekend at Small Town's hillbilly festival and then two days later at the park for the holiday.
One of the songs we'll be playing is Country Gardens by Percy Grainger (you can hear an excerpt played here by an orchestra). The song brings to mind spritely fairies with pastel wings darting among carefully tended topiaries and assorted daisies. After we all blatted through the thing, though, the funny horn player next to me said, "Well, that was a big, fat, freaking garden. It must be growing watermelons, because it certainly isn't growing flowers."
Seriously, trying to play horn in that band when you're surrounded by happy men on trombones, euphoniums and tubas is like trying to hear yourself whistle next to a herd of angry elephants. And the herd is charging at a jungle filled with a huge family of howler monkeys and a giant flock of macaus all screaming for help from the tigers sleeping in the banyan trees.
So, that's my band, and I am thrilled to sit in the middle of the melee. It's going to be a good summer. And for the record, here is how I think Country Gardens should be played: