Sunday, July 24, 2011

Band in the Rain, or How the West Was Won

Last night, the Big Fat Summer Band performed a concert, our Road Show, we call it. Instead of playing at the park where we play most of our concerts, or in the street where Small Town holds its festivals, we travel ten miles west to play in Sugarcreek, also known as The Little Switzerland of Ohio. The buildings on the main streets are dressed up with gingerbread and small details that mimic a stereotype of a Swiss village. The town has a Swiss festival every year where cheese makers compete for Best Cheese prizes, little girls dress up in traditional Swiss dresses to march in a parade and burly men throw 138-pound stones in the Steintossen competition.

There is a picnic shelter behind the fire station, and we set up in front of that to face the audience perched up on the hillside. The fire fighters pop popcorn in a portable thing and sell soft-serve ice cream while we play, and the church next door hosts what they call a Haystack Meal before hand, so you can load up on carbs before you sit in the heat and blast away at loud band music. "Haystack," by the way, refers to the appearance of the food—noodles, potatoes and corn piled high on a plate and topped off with Fritos and possibly gravy.

But there was a glitch yesterday. Ohio was nearly blown over by a series of storms that dumped rain and shot blasts of wind strong enough to blow over patio umbrellas if you didn't think ahead and close them. Our power went out at one point, and the thunder was so loud, the windows of my house actually rattled, sending Tiger the Cat running for cover.

It didn't look good for an outdoor concert, but obedient and committed band member that I am, I dressed in my band shirt and black pants anyway, grabbed my horn and music stand and "hit the road." Seriously, I think this concert is closer to my house than the park, when you factor in traffic and stop lights. I arrived at the picnic shelter and discovered we would be playing under its roof instead of beside it. We put our chairs at one end and aimed at the audience that would be seated at the other. While we were setting up, one of the horn players beside me counted all of 38 people who had come out to listen to us play (there are 90 people in the band), and all we could do was shrug. A concert is a concert, and you can't just pack up and go home because you aren't pleased with the numbers.

But then the sun came out, sort of, and the rain stopped, and the air cooled by almost 20 degrees, and more than 100 people appeared. That's still a sad number, but horns up anyway. We played our hearts out for this little crowd, and with the exception of some funky things in Holts' "Jupiter," we did very well. For some concerts, it seems the only reason to have a horn section is for it play off beats or to double up on the trombone parts, but this one had some great horn lines to sink our teeth into—Jupiter, How the West Was Won, an arrangement of a hymn written in honor of Flight 93, America the Beautiful. There were only four of us, but we let it rip, and it was so much fun. So Much Fun! Good music. Enthusiastic applause. The smell of fresh popcorn. An entire horn section hitting the high B-flats and standing up afterward to say "you're welcome."

If you live in Sugarcreek and didn't show up for our Road Show because you were afraid you'd get wet, your loss is all I can say.

Just so you understand why How the West Was Won is so fun for horn players, here you go:

1 comment:

dive said...

I have to confess to looking into my coffee mug to see if any strange drugs lurked there while reading about "The Little Switzerland Of Ohio" … America sure is a strange place, Robyn. Please tell me your audience didn't wear lederhosen as that would tip me over the edge.
And thank you for helping me lose weight. Reading about the Haystack Meal will put me off eating for a week.

What a great fun concert, though! The size of an audience doesn't really matter as long as they enjoy the music and it sounds like your audience had a wonderful time. Anybody from Sugarcreek who didn't make it to the show was probably incapacitated from eating the Haystack Meal.