Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Foxwood and East Steel at Otley Carnival

Well, Debs, I guess you don't want to know how good Otley Carnival was.
After the glowering skies of Cross Flatts and St Barts, the downpours that were Adel, Berkhampstead and Beckett Park, and the ex-gazebo that was Donovan's Allsorts, we had just decided to fashion mini rain shields to attach to the front of our pans. Karen and co made theirs out of laminating pouches; I left mine uncut at home, and when I tried to saw the perspex up later it cracked. Back to the workbench for me.

I have however been working away at this idea for a couple of years now. Every so often Andy A and I have a design discussion, and this flaming June [so to speak], this raining June has focused my mind to see this idea properly realised.

Meanwhile the rain held off . . . .  and off . . . .  and off. Obviously Daisy, Charlotte and Georgia aren't wearing these shades against the bright sun!

As we turned into the lower fields, we overtook the Djembe truck and for a while we jammed along with each other. Ace.
 The crowds, as ever, wonderful, but, sadly no Jimmy Savile hanging out by the bridge this year. In honour of Whitney and Robin we calypsoed I Will Always Love You and Words. Banana! I threatenned them with Gary and Andrew's  Sing, but luckily for the increasingly restless bands,  I ran out of time working it out. [Since then I have met Sophie J and the sheet music, and in fact it never was that straight-forward.] I forgot the ladders - again, but luckily Jacky and Kenny live in Otley. Here we are below celebrating the borrowed ladder. 

[Jacky and I were in a rock of rock band together back in the day. We were rubbish, but it was better than hanging round while the boys took centre stage, and we even had articles written about us in the NME, one by my friend, Ziyad, and one by Swells [Seething Wells]. Both somewhat exagerated our importance upon the Leeds and Bradford punk rock scene i.e. gave us any, but we didn't care. In fact we were quite proud.] 

In one or both bands, playing Otley Carnival 2012 were Alli, Karen, Peter, Jeanette, Ruth, Lynn, Anne, Adele, Wendy, Vicky, Katie, Amy, Lizzie, Daisy, Charlotte, Natalie, Georgia, Joe, Bex and me.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sparrows play for Grand Opening of Donovan's Allsorts

John and Shaun and friends spent Friday evening waiting for the cars parked outside their new shop to move so that they could position two vans either side of our performance area. Thus our stage. Enter the Sparrows: Evie, Ashley, Nina, Peter, Maisie, with band leaders/Foxwood: me, Natalie, Bex, Vicky, Charlotte.  Smalls were James and Michael.

The gazebo took off and self-destructed. The rain stopped. [I know how John will explain that.]
Councillor Sharon Hamilton cut the ribbon. Donovan's Allsorts was opened. We had raffles and sandwiches. played on the kerb, mostly on the road between two of John's vans. As buses and traffic passed. Apart from the excellent good cause, this was the most enjoyable sort of unsuspecting public audience. 

Still getting the, "What  were you doing on Meanwood Road last Saturday?".  [Adele took most of these pictures. And I must admit, they are something of a first. Watch out, Adele, I will handing you my camera more often!]

Sunday, 24 June 2012

It Was Time for Some More Rain: Foxwood play Beckett Park Fun Run

On Thursday June 7th Foxwood Steel played for the fund-raiser for Macmillan Nurses - both a good cause and also didn't involve going anywhere near a motorway roundabout. So a very attractive prospect all round. Now, if we had thought it was wet at Adel, we had not experienced Thursday at Beckett Park Leeds Met.

We were me, Bex, Daisy, Lizzie, Katie, Natalie, Vicky, Joe, Amy, Varshika, Charlotte, plus Smalls: Lola, James and Michael. And we played for one brief hour, for which my house was blessed with rusting and drying out pans and cases for days afterwards.

We sounded great; Dave from work was walking his dog in the rain. Thus: our audience, plus the excellent barbecue tent with best-ever veggie-burgers.  

Friday, 22 June 2012

Foxwood at Donnington Roundabout and Berkhamstead

So this is it: we are venturing out of Leeds, and wending our way down to Hemel Hempstead wherein grew up singer, pan player and artist extraordinaire, my good friend [and yours, Debs], Charlotte. And in the sunshine we spend a couple of cheerful hours - me, Bex, Gig and Nat, hanging out on the roundabout of one of the few Motorway Services that are nowhere near the motorway itself. I find a handy cat basket in the car and voila, we have a picnic table.

Rick, Diz and Chas are in the van; they set up the pans as the rain clouds gather. Eventually we think we have solved the problem; no water. You want water, say the Skies. At Berkhampstead Gold Club we play Singin' in the Rain under the gazebo and then retreat to the Club Lounge. The AA man can recognise a split hose when he sees one and voila, four hours late, we are back in Leeds.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Foxwood at the Malt Shovel Armley Leeds

Dear Debs

As you know I have three main bands [used to have four, but that nice Mr Edwards cancelled the Royal Park Steel Pandas when he cancelled Royal Park School], and each has their own strengths. Simplifying and summing it up, the Sparrows can take on a few really really hard tunes and practise them to death and to success; East Steel can cope successfully with a much bigger repertoire, and get all the nuances; Foxwood will sight-read their way through more or less anything.

They also each have failings, but none so much as Foxwood in a confined space. And yes, here we are at the Malt Shovel again. The volume is going from fff to ffff; not saying it's not good; it's exciting, but heavens it is loud. Phew, now it's Your Song. Only the Foxwood Doves, and those of us who are also pan teachers know this one. By virtue of it being only half the band playing, we can show the Malt Shovel that we can also do subtle.

Oh no we can't.   As Stewart said later, well I think I got that. And yes, Stewart, you did, and you and the rest of you played it at the same the same volume that you played the Trini roadsongs.


We were me, Gig, Lizzie, Bex, Stewart, Diz, Varshika, Natalie, Amy, Joe, Vicky, Mig and Charlotte, and we played indoors on the one day in half-term that Jubilee week that it didn't rain. And Joanne definitely didn't want to be pictured!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Foxwood and Foxwood Doves do the Jubilee in the Rain One: Adel

Well, as I republican I should have spotted, at the point of asking, why we had been booked to play all these street parties, and possibly might have declined. And I was just thinking what a nice idea all this community togetherness was.  Anyway, union jack bunting or not, they were a very nice idea. And Adel, thanks to Sophie's mum, Barbara, was a very nice idea.

But now it's raining. We are at The Drive Adel. We are gloomily contemplating getting the PA stuff moved off the stage that is the lorry, when I spot a handy gazebo. As it turns, out a rainproof gazebo. We are Amy, Joe, Tim, Bex, me, Stewart, Georgia, Sophie and Vicky.

We play Singin' in the Rain, and If It's Raining, it's Raining, as you do on these occasions. It makes folks smile, and after all that's what we're here for - to spread a little happiness.  The good people of the Drive then started dancin' in the Rain, and afterwards we all go home - some to work, some to look after their kids, and some of us, who were, in previous lives, both barmaids and mothers of young children, now retire to the implausible plots of the UK detectives programmes. [And unload the van later].

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Foxwood and Foxwood Doves on tour of Leeds Primary Schools

Well, we had just agreed to do Cross Flatts when we find that normal emails being regarded as spam can wreak havoc with the old plans. So, it's St Barts as well, after all!
To ensure that I don't do Work work on my day off I agreed to mind Maya on Fridays while Georgia does a shift at the Malt Shovel. So, it's pans in the blue van, Maya in the car seat and we're off on tour. The best laid schemes o' mice and grandmothers - eh! Anyway she needs to get used to it. 
At Cross Flatts the kids are all eating on tables set up outside; we set up in the playground facing the tables, start playing and the kids then all run into the playground behind us. We are Varshika, Joe, Katie, Sophie, and Amy. Maya sits on a pan case.
Then the van comes back. We reload and set off for St Barts. Katie leaves us here, and Rick takes Maya back to Gig; Daisy, Lola and Vicky join us. At St Barts we play between the railings and the bouncy castle. I give Lola a little purple pan to use that I "borrowed" from a supplier at an education conference, in exchange for a formal evaluation. After that Joe and Varshika have an excellent fight over who gets to sit in the front. For a while it's a stand-off as I find they're both in it!

East Steel at the West Park Centre

Between 31 May and 9 June, and between all three bands: East Steel, Foxwood Steel and Sparrows I did eight gigs; of the other band leaders, Bex did six, Natalie did five and Admin Extraordinare: Vicky did six.  Foxwood Doves playing Aminor, G and F beyond the call of the duty were Varshika and Joe on five, and Amy on four.

This included playing under gazebos of varying watertightness in torrential rain, and breaking down on the way to and at golf club near Hemel Hempstead. Good thing it was half term.

Thursday 31 May was at the West Park Centre.  Natalie's East Leeds Music Centre Band supports East Steel in the most glorious plant-selling, bun-eating,  tea-swilling concert of a concert. Natalie's players were Liam, Chloe, Alex and Celia. Chloe was nervous about the first song so I stood next to her and hopelessly attempted her part. I was rubbish; Chloe was great. They were all nervous; they were all great!

East Steel featured some first time giggers, and some old hands [old, as in "experienced " of course!]. All in all: Karen, Alli, Ruth, Cathy, Judy, Rameice, Perez, Bella, Lynn, Anne, Tricia, Wendy, Jeanette, Peter, Vicky, Katie, Bex, me.

And we solved the problem of unsightly accessories, including handbags, trolleys and pan cases. Large screens. Just don't take photos from behind!

Monday, 11 June 2012

From Manchester and to London

On the 24 May Robert and two colleagues came from Manchester Grammar to visit us in Leeds. At the West Park Centre they looked at our main teaching set . They were able to see what you would get if space, and money, were no object, with our two sets of six basses,  tenor basses, cello pans etc. I also include with this big set single seconds and a single guitar for the beginners and the less able, and those for whom two pieces of metal forming one instrument is just too much to take in.

In my other life in schools I specialise in teaching music to children with Additional Needs [Special Needs], and it is through teaching them that I begin to understand more how the more mainstreamers learn stuff.  And it my undertanding that it is a question of expectation, and, for some people, coming to play an instrument means playing one item. Often you put a person [childen or adult] inside a set of six bass, ask them to play all the notes in front of them, and they play just the one drum.  Most people get over this expectation but some don't. And it doesn't seem to be linked to intelligence or general ability.

And so, for the them, the single pans. [Which are also necessary in a marching band].

After that Robert and the gang jumped into my little Skoda Fabia and we toured Leeds. Quarry Mount, South Leeds, Sharp Lane, City of Leeds, all this on the hottest day of the year so far. We're hot and we're exhausted.
Our visitors have seen two primary and two high schools, three of our five pan teachers, a range of ability and experience and all using Foxwood Songsheets to learn to play from. Using notation for pans, or not, is a debate that I have been having with the World for 16 years now.  I was convinced for the need in the early 80s when I first met pans, and I when I first started devising the Foxwood Songsheets, and three decades later, I have seen nothing to convince me otherwise.

So it was with great pleasure that I went down to Lambeth the following week and met Mat Fox and was able to watch him teach his pan classes, and using notation. Easily able to join in with the classes myself. Mat and I met when we played pans together at the Southbank for the Festival of Britain last July in that glorious five band combo [maybe 100 players?] as we rocked through We Nah Goin' Home.  See the two pics of our bands in the Clore Ballroom at the Festival Hall, London. 
And, indeed, we rocked through quite a few tunes at his school. Can't show photos of children so here's pictures of a fountain in Kennington Park and a school  set into the terrace on the high street.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sparrows at Big Voice

No sooner have we unloaded from the Wharfedale Festival than it's the Big Voice at Millennium Square. We share the big white van with all the other ArtFoms Music Service ensembles, so, as Richard was out with the Youth Orchestra on Saturday night, I left the big basses in the corridor at West Park for him to put back into the van after he had unloaded the timpani.
It's  not raining; always a bonus; no road-barriers that would involve a phone-call to the head steward to get permission to move them: another bonus; town centre is 2 miles from my and from most players' houses: bonus, and we have the concrete Players floor of the Millennium Square, and the steps and grand entrance of Leeds Civic Hall to collect up our music and unfurl it to the world. Massive bonus. Great visuals: icing on cake. 
Players are Ashley, Peter, Chloe, Ciara, Claudia, Nina, Maisie,  Joe, Amy, Sophie, Georgia; teachers are Me, Bex and Natalie; support - Vicky and Katie.  Peter, Ashley and Chloe did pan de neck down the Civic steps and round the back of the band.

Rick came back to pick up the pans. Me and Gig went to town to look for a new handbag; I spent Monday to Thursday getting all the pans and stands back to their various rooms two and five at a time. Hey-ho.