Thursday, May 3, 2007

Good-bye to Town Band

Town Band rehearsals started last Thursday, and I didn't go. This would have been my 10th year playing flute in Town Band, but I have decided to take a break.

Town Band is fairly demanding. There are 10 weeks of rehearsals, followed by 10 weeks of public performances, outside, at the band shell on the harborside. We play 14 different pieces a night, so have a huge collection of music to learn. We play each piece twice a year, once (sometimes more) in rehearsal and once in performance, but after you have been in Town Band for a few years, you do get to know the music. It is hard to practice 14 pieces a week and do them any justice. I could only manage a few each week. Two to six new pieces are introduced each year, but there are many old standards, like John Philip Souza's "Washington Post March." Even I remembered that from high school.

I started Town Band when I could barely play the music, in part to learn to play better. I had been directing/producing a children's music/art TV show for the local cable station, and I felt that I had done my part to promote music and the arts, that it would be OK if I used Town Band to teach myself how to play the flute. We have had as many as 20 flutes in the 100+ member band, so my wrong notes, or inadequate playing of some passages, did not seem to create any problems. One philosophy of Town Band is always play out, even if you make a mistake. You learn from it. Even with 20 flutes, the dozen trumpets tend to drown us out, so, for a flutist, Town Band remains somewhat of an individual journey, even in a sea of musicians.

Town Band is an intergenerational band, and I enjoyed that aspect of it. There are kids who just completed 6th grade, there are high school and college students, there are 70 and 80-year-olds, and there are people who have been in the band over 35 years. It welcomes adults (like me) just picking up their instruments after a lapse of 20 or 30 years. At one point our whole family was in the band: my son on saxophone, my daughter on clarinet one year, oboe the next. My husband serves as announcer. Each concert is taped by the cable television station, and shown year-round. I always meant to practice along with the tapes.

In the beginning, I was lost or inept much of the time. Struggling with my too-fast, too-high parts, I was helped greatly by sitting next to, and becoming friends with, two excellent adult flute players. I have improved considerably over the years, and I have learned a lot from the directors/conductors, and the other musicians.

But, honestly, band music is not my favorite type of music, and it is much too loud! I have developed a ringing in my ears and do not want it to get worse, so am giving up Town Band this year. Also, I am in two other ensembles that meet on Thursday, fiddles once or twice a month from 5-7 pm, and early music at 7 pm. In those ensembles I play the cello, sometimes flute too. So, while I will miss the camaraderie of Town Band, it was not such a hard decision to leave. I need to cut back on ensembles, and prefer the ones in which I play cello.


cellodonna said...

"Good-bye to Town Band" gave me a nostalgic, but good feeling. Although I almost feel a little sad about your leaving it, I most certainly understand your reasons, especially since they involve your cello goals.

Maricello said...

Hi Donna, I am a little sad too. I used to take the kids to the Town Band concerts when they were little, before any of us played instruments, and it is hard to believe they are all grown up, and this era has passed. But I can always go back at some point in the future--maybe after I find the perfect ear plugs that protect my hearing and still allow the music to seep in. But, I'd still probably rather play the cello and/or chamber music.

cellodonna said...

Speaking of ear plugs ...
I've been thinking that I might need to invest in some for when the piccolo plays during Sousa's "Libery Bell March." Sometimes the high pitch makes my left ear ring for a while. I sometimes stick the C-peg into my ear to help block the high squeak, but it's hard to play that way. Then someone asks me a question ... oh, sorry, I can't hear you -- I have a C-peg in my ear!

Maricello said...

Love the concept of a C-peg in your ear!

They do make musician's earplugs that are supposed to lessen the noise without deadening the sound. I haven't investigated them, but there seem to be lots of different kinds. I just bought the cheap, bright orange 50 pairs in a jar, kind.

Our flute choir is playing Stars and Stripes, with piccolo. I might have to dig out those orange earplugs for that!

Nyx said...

Thanks for writing this.