Monday, 31 October 2011

Black History Month Thomas Danby

Now then Debs, backtracking briefly from the Sculpture Park; here we are Thomas Danby for Black History Month. Some steelband let them down last minute; I scraped together you, me, Varshika, Joe, Katie, Mig and Amy. Did I say scraped? We rocked! I tried to introduced some subtle numbers. No. We rocked; we calypsoed; the quietest we got to subtle was reggae.

When Black History Month is good is when it asks us to celebrate when other cultures have contributed to life in Britain. "Black" culture brought me and mine steelpans, and gave me ultimately, one of my big reasons. Above is us playing, then us waiting for the van. [It's not all getting the applause!]

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Black History Month Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Foxwood, Doves, Sparrows and where Katie left her hoody next

Dear Debs

As your departure is imminent from the UK shores, so how much Foxwood and myself - how much we will miss you! Within one week of leaving your car with your ma for the interim, you have become the queen of public transport.

First, on Thursday 20 September you jumped on a train with your trusty soprano [aka tenor] pan, [see next blog for pics]; then it's the train from Huddersfield to Wakefield, then bus to West Bretton for four sets [one marching] playing with Doves and Sparrows, and meeting up with Katie en route.

We played in the main building at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. We were me, you, Katie, Vicky, Varshika, Natalie, Georgia, Stewart [Charlotte was still parking]. This - without the drum-kit, I call these our acoustic sets; then we nipped outside to this lovely patio veranda balcony thing [see left], and Charlotte emerged from the lower car park to join us, as did Fehmina who had been left holding the drum kit while we played inside. Neither job for the faint -hearted.

Then the Sparrows appeared, mostly from Tricia's car, and led by flag-waving Damien [top picture] paraded with pan de neck and flag waving down to the teepee [right]. Our hosts, Helen and Damon appeared to have ordered a beautiful sunny late October Indian summer of a day for our celebration of Black History Month. Sparrows and Doves were Amy, Fehmina, Varshika, Millie 1, Millie 2, Evie, Claudia, Jenner, Maisie, Ashley, Chloe, and Nina.

And while we parading across the grass, in the background Vicky, Damon, Katie, Stewart, Varshika, Amy and Tricia were getting the static pans down to the Teepee for the last set. Usually I ask parents to sit back and let their children get on with being in a band, including the setting up and packing away. On this occasion I just looked at Tricia and said Please! [This time Katie left her hoody in the Teepee.]

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Dogs aren't just for Christmas; Steelbands aren't just for Carnivals

Dear Debs

In the middle of the carnivals and festivals this summer came a poignant moment. On the last Saturday in August, which would have been Donovan's 23rd birthday, six Doves/Foxwood played at Harehills Cemetery for the unveiling of his headstone. John said that Donovan wouldn't let it rain; and there was a moment when we watched the rain fall on one side of the trees, but not on us. Obviously we played You'll Never Walk Alone.

I've always discussed the value of music with my music students; for the highs and lows in life; for happy and for sad; for the weddings and the funerals. Six years ago Sheena, staff member from City of Leeds died, and her son and daughter [David and Lyndsay] asked the Sparrows if they would play at the funeral. The band, mostly then years 9 to 11 [aged 14 to 16] felt uncomfortable and said "it wasn't right". David and Lyndsay came to meet them and told them how much it would mean; six players agreed to do it, and then we had a skirmish about playing the calypso numbers. They said "it wasn't right", and David and Lyndsay had to talk them into it.

In the end, Lawnswood Cemetery 2004; Sheena so popular the whole school was closed for the afternoon, and we Sparrows cried and played our way through Dead or Alive, You'll Never Walk Alone, Le Onde and the theme from Swan Lake.

This summer it was hard too when it came to playing in Harehills. The family around the grave; should we really be playing Under the Boardwalk or Diamonds Are Forever? Yes we should, and yes we did, but it was difficult. And out of our band, one was a cancer-survivor herself, and one had lost her own very young brother-in-law to the same disease and, in fact, Chris had shared the same cancer ward with Donovan all those years ago.

But I guess, of equal importance, when six school student pan-players played at Lawnswood, and when three steelpan teachers and three students played at Harehills, they played played as musicians. And their role, in both instances was secondary, as background; they played music in order to support mourners at a very difficult time in their life.