Open workshop welcomes guests for a day

On Sunday 26 February we opened our doors for an open workshop, to anyone of grade 4 standard and above to join us in our all day rehearsal in preparation for our Spring concert in May – ‘An American Road Trip’. We were thrilled to welcome 14 guests for the day.

Band open workshopThe day began at 11:30am with a warm welcome from Chairperson, Sue, and Bandmaster, Nick.

Our conductor, Simon, then took over the proceedings and started by getting us to play through some hymns to get us, and our instruments, warmed up. Simon added the challenge of getting us to break down each crotchet into triplets, then quavers and then semi quavers, to make sure we were all awake and concentrating!

The open band workshop begins…

Once we were warmed up, and had woken up our tongues, fingers and brains, we were ready to start rehearsing the music for our concert. We began with ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’, a great marching piece which is full of energy. Simon got us working hard on the dynamics and he successfully managed to get us to play quietly enough to hear Kerry ‘nailing’ the piccolo solo. Well done Kerry!

Band open workshop‘West Side Story’ was the next piece on the music stands. Simon spent some time repeatedly singing ‘I Feel Pretty, oh so Pretty’ to us, apparently to show us how we needed to play this section ‘lightly’ and ‘happily’, but we wondered if he just needed some positive affirmation!

Following a welcome break for lunch we reconvened to continue our trip across America by playing ‘New York’. This piece conjures up the sounds and images of sightseeing around Manhattan. At one point Simon was struggling to get us to play a particular rhythm correctly and threatened to bring out his ‘secret weapon’ to make us play it correctly. Somehow, however, we managed to get near to what he was hoping for and the ‘secret weapon’ has therefore stayed secret (for now!). I must confess that when Simon asked for one of our entries to be ‘declamatory’ some of us were somewhat bamboozled, particularly in our slightly sleepy post lunch state!

Lots of cake and chatting!

In order to re-energise us we had a short break involving a variety of very tasty cakes, baked and brought in by some members of the band, who clearly have more talents that just making music.

Band open workshopWith sugar levels back up to where they needed to be we resumed playing with a very moving piece from the ‘Six Spirituals’. In order to help us play with emotion and feeling, Simon called for ‘fat fortissimos’ as well as getting us to imagine ourselves coming in from the cold into a warm, cosy room. The imagery seemed to work well and resulted in us playing a beautiful sounding and emotive piece of music.

‘Porgy and Bess’ was the final piece of music for the day. Simon asked for the woodwind to be ‘frisky, light and playful’ when playing the ‘Summertime section’. Not easy at the end of a long rehearsal on a cold Sunday afternoon in February, but we did our best by imaging ourselves sipping cocktails while watching beach volleyball on a warm summer’s day!

Before running through all the pieces a final time we paused to sing Happy Birthday to Gemma (clarinet) and to do our best to eat the rest of the cakes. Despite our valiant efforts there was still some left, so more cake eating practise is required by all those present!

We ended our tiring but thoroughly enjoyable rehearsal by thanking our fantastic guests, our amazing committee, our fabulous cake makers and our most creative and inspiring conductor.

Bring on the Spring concert on Saturday 13 May – we hope to see you there!

By Angela on clarinet

You can buy tickets for our American Road Trip concert now