7 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 1 - September 2014

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  • September
  • October
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Beat by Beat |

Beat by Beat | BandstandWell Tattooed!JACK MACQUARRIEHere we are; it’s September, summer is either almost over orhasn’t started, depending on who you talk to. Summer andmusic mean different things to different community bandmembers. Some bands close down for summer, some are busier thanever with various outdoor performances, and some, like the UxbridgeCommunity Concert Band, are summertime-only bands. As forband members, many are away on vacations or at cottages, but a fewget more deeply involved with music by attending music camps orsummer music schools. The latter is what happened in our household.We had been involved in the administration of music camps someyears ago, but going to school was different. This year we decided toenroll as participants in a music summer school.NAbbSS: If you have not previously heard of the North AmericanBrass Band Summer School, that’s because it had never happenedbefore. While the all-brass band movement has its devotees in Canadaand the U.S.A., the devotion to that musical genre has nowhere thefollowing in North America that it has in Britain and in parts ofWestern Europe. Several leading figures in the brass band movementdecided that it was time to start a summer school of brass band musicsomewhere in North America, at least on a trial basis. So, what bettertime and place than Halifax during the 35th anniversary year of theworld’s largest indoor music event?Thus was born the North American Brass Band Summer School(NAbbSS), established in association with the Buffet Group of Britishand European instrument manufacturers and with the Royal NovaScotia Tattoo Society. Based on well-established and successful modelsin the United Kingdom, one very special additional element wasadded, described in the initial publicity thus: “In addition to receivingexpert tuition from a team of Buffet soloists, led by the renowned Dr.Robert Childs, participants [will] also feature in the cast of the world’slargest annual indoor show, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo,performing to over 60,000 people alongside artists of the highestcalibre from a variety of different nations.”(An aside: when speaking with friends and acquaintances ahead ofthe event, I was shocked by the reactions of many. The vast majoritythought that I was talking about going all the way to Halifax tohave some form of visual “art” inscribed on my body. When I loftilysuggested that they consult Mr. Google regarding “musical tattoos,” Iwas even more dismayed to only find dozens of websites describingbody tattoos showing musical symbols. There was nothing to describethis type of event. So, for your information: Canada’s Royal NovaScotia International Tattoo is the largest annual indoor tattoo, eachyear featuring over 2000 performers from around the world. It isunique in that it is a full theatrical production, comprising costumedesigners, props designers, full wardrobe staff, and is presented astheatre-in-the-round. The show is intensely rehearsed over a twoweekperiod and is a wholly combined military and civilian production.The Nova Scotia Tattoo was the first tattoo to receive royaldesignation on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 80thBirthday in 2006.)Two to tattoo? After some serious deliberation in our house, thedecision was made to apply. Needless to say, there was some trepidation.I hadn’t played in an all-brass band in almost 30 years. As forJoan, her major instrument, the flute, has no place in a brass band.As an instrumental music teacher, she had taught all of the brassinstruments, but a good solid working embouchure might be anothermatter. Her instrument choice soon narrowed down to either a baritonehorn or an E flat horn (variously called an alto horn or tenorhorn). After a few warm-up tests, the E flat horn was selected as thebest choice to develop a suitable embouchure with minimum discomfort.That decided, off went our registrations along with the measurementsfor our uniform jackets. Yes, uniform – we were going beperformers in the great tattoo.With a tuba and a bass trombone included in our instrument inventory,flying to Halifax was not an option. Since I have a cousin living inNorthern Vermont, we travelled through the northern U.S. states, andif it hadn’t been for heavy rainstorms and major highway construction,it would have been a pleasant picturesque trip. Arrangementswere in place for all participants in the summer school to stay togetherin the modern student residence at Saint Mary’s University, a far cryfrom the two- or three-story residences that I lived in as a student.This was a modern 20-storey building with tidy Spartan rooms anda fine all-you-can-eat per meal cafeteria. Our check-in went likeclockwork and we were soon mingling with others arriving from allover North America for the first of its kind, in Canada, brass bandsummer school.The following day our bus took us from the residence to the HalifaxMetro Centre, a large modern hockey arena. There, we learned ofour schedule for the rehearsals, classes, concerts and ten days ofthe tattoo. Except for sleeping and playing in a couple of outdoorconcerts, our rehearsal room in the Metro Centre was to be our homefor the rest of our stay. From our location about two-thirds of the waybetween the waterfront and the top of Citadel Hill, any excursions outof the centre meant walking up or down the very steep hill.Mornings began with rehearsals of two groups of music. First therewas the music, all on small march-sized cards, which we wouldplay in our carefully crafted segments of the tattoo. Then there was acollection of challenging brass band works, new to most of us, whichwe would be performing in our outdoor concerts. These included anumber of solo works to be performed by our guest clinicians, a veritablewho’s who of the brass band world, under the direction of Dr.Robert Childs (formerly principal euphonium and bandmaster withthe Black Dyke Band). I cannot possibly do justice to the staff by tryingto compress the information on their qualifications within spacelimitations here. Fortunately, detailed information on all of them maybe found on the website school part of our sojourn was quite straightforward: expertinstruction, well-organized rehearsals and satisfying concerts. The realchallenge for all of us participants was the integration of our contributioninto the tattoo. The overall tattoo show consisted of many actson the main floor of the arena augmented by musical contributions onthe main floor and in a number of higher positions surrounding.In the almost total darkness between scenes, we had to positionourselves for each of our different playing segments, climbing upthe various parts of the sets and positioning ourselves in the dark,then, when the lights came up, rapidly shifting focus back and forthbetween a conductor a couple of hundred feet away and the music onan instrument lyre six inches away.Our days all started at 7am. After breakfast in the residence, our bustook us to the Metro Centre at 8:30am, then brought us back to theresidence shortly after 11pm. So fair warning, if you might be consideringenrolling for the 2015 school; it is not for the faint of heart.Exhausting, but fulfilling.40 | September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014

As for the participants, it was an amazing cross-section. Just about50/50 men and women, they ranged from students, to retired professors,lawyers, accountants and just about any occupation you care tomention. Canadians came from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta. TheU.S. was represented by people from Washington, California, Texas,Kansas, South Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts andothers. There certainly weren’t any beginners on their instruments. Infact, many of them were top flight performers.The day after the final performance, as we were all saying our goodbyesto our new friends, one somewhat large gentleman was asked ifhe would come back with his tuba next year. His reply: “Yes, I would,but I would want to lose about 100 pounds.” This year was a first timetrial for this summer school. The organizers had to ask the question:was the idea of a music school in conjunction with a tattoo a goodone? Like any new venture it had teething problems, but overall it wasexcellent. It will be back, and they are already accepting registrations.If interested visit their website.Something New: It isn’t often that we get the opportunity to reporton something very unusual in a community band concert. Thathappened just days ago in the season’s final concert of the summertime-onlyUxbridge Community Concert Band. The concert featuredthe premiere of a work for veena and concert band. The work,Arria, written by conductor Steffan Brunette and played by RyersonUniversity student Arrabi Gugathasan, layers the plucking soundsof the veena onto the subtle chords of the concert band. The title isa bit of a play on words with the musical term aria and the name ofthe performer. This particular instrument, a Saraswati veena, is oneof several variations of the veena, a traditional Indian member of thelute family.CBA Community Band WeekendEach year, in early October, the Canadian Band Association(Ontario) holds its annual Community Band Weekend, wherecommunity band members from across the province get together toshare ideas and make music. This year the weekend will be hostedby the Newmarket Citizens Band on October 3, 4 and 5. The final daywill feature an evening concert by the “massed” band, directed by anumber of top-rated conductors. For details and to register visit thewebsite: New BandEarlier this year I mentioned the possibility of a new start-upband for the west end of Toronto. We now have more details on thenew Toronto Concert Band. Over the summer, members have beensigning up, and with all sections covered, rehearsals will beginTuesday September 9, 7:00 pm in the strings room at John G. AlthouseMiddle School, 130 Lloyd Manor Road, Etobicoke (near Kipling andEglinton). Carolyn McGee informs me that more new members will bewelcome. For information visit their website, Youth BandsThe Hannaford Youth Bands have announced that their auditionswill take place Saturday, September 13.For youths between the ages of 10 and 24,these bands provide excellent opportunitiesto develop musical skills in the brassband world. Visit their website at DEPARTMENTThis month’s lesser known musical term iscon sordino: An indication to string playersto bow in a slashing, rapier motion.We invitesubmissions from readers. Let’s hear yourdaffynitions.Jack MacQuarrie plays several brassinstruments and has performed in manycommunity ensembles. He can be contactedatÇOIS September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 | 41

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