Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Rest of the Best on tour October 2012

On Monday morning we rehearse; Monday afternoon finds us at Milestone.

On Tuesday we sweep through Millfield, Oakwood Special and West Oaks Special.

Sadly over half the band had to do their after school music clubs, or had to pick up their own chidlren, so a band of 12 was whittled down to a road crew of 4, as you can see below as we wait for the wheelchair-bearing minibuses to clear the carpark.

Wednesday we return to the real day job.

Thursday it's Elmete Special, Hillcrest and Parklands.

We are me, Diane, Sophie, Mary, Fiona, Liz, Krish, Joe, Al, Hilary, Bart, Janet, Joanna, Cathy, Mike, Melvin, Tom [on work experience], Dan.

There was a lift in Hillcrest [and Joe was grateful], but it was still complicated. See picture.

And here below is Bart impressing the kids at Elmete, and the rest of the band with wheelchair wheelies [not that you tell from my useless pic!].

We play, in no particular order, as they say,  kit, saxophones, flute, cello, violin, ukele, steel pans, crumhorn, gemshorn, clarinets, keyboards, tin whistle, piano accordion, vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vibraphone, hand percussion, ocarinas, balalaika, recorders. And we dance a bit.

This band, the Rest of the Best, is the highight of the academic year for me. We aim that it should be the cutting edge of educational performance. And if we have fun on the way, so be it.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Two Conferences, a Rally and a Baby

On Wednesday 17 October it was the lovely Sounds of Intent Conference  at the West Park Centre; on Friday 19 October in was the Musicicans' Union Teachers' Conference. I was on the 9.05 train down to Cambridge via Peterborough [here's a picture of the wonderful UK crossroads that is Peterborough Station].

Really enjoyed keynote speech about the Virtuoso Teacher. Nice meal; nice wine with nice meal; the celidah got me out of the dining room pretty soon after the apple pie; had a pint; had the conversations I needed with workshop leaders about 1. adjudicators' asking steel pannistes to smile as they play [my point: why?] 2. alternative systems of notations [hobbyhorse]. This got me to the second pint with Alan from Lincoln. I thought I would retire, having drunk quite enough for one getting up early to go on the TUC rally in London the following day.

Debs, I didn't count on meeting Dawn. She greeted me with the words, "You're Walter's mother!" Dawn was in possession of an unexpected bottle of red; when we finished that we had to buy some more pints;  at some point another unexpected red arrived. Dawn is a drummer doing research into the effect of music on the brain, the very organ we were seeing off. Excellent [as in OMG, never again].

I nearly missed the Rally. I spent an hour in Hyde Park before I realised that the march must have started someplace else. [Here's some pics - picnic-ing on the woodchip and Christine Blower on the big screens]. I walked and walked and walked back along the march till I found the last and wonderful band, and joined in. In effect I walked half the length of the march twice, back and then forward again. This way, not entirely planned, I got to see all the wonderful marching bands [and here's some photos of them, and a choir at Hyde Park Corner].

I sat down on Park Lane, opposite the memorial to the animals who suffered in wars [see dog and horse below, and the two pack animals. Also a randon dog near Grosvenor Square.]

Grafton found what was left of me in the Chinese restaurant in Waltham Cross; met Charlotte and baby Skye Melody; next morning we put the world of steel pan teaching to rights; I got to Kings Cross by way of Theobalds Grove and Liverpool Street, and thus to Leeds.  Rick picked me up from the station; I fell into the sofa and got up in time for the  Leeds Wind Orchestra at the West Park Centre.

Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Yummy.  A great way to round off what might be called an exhilerating weekend.

Next! Rest of the Best on tour.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Sparrows play Bramley Primary School

Now then, not many gigs, then two in three days. That's more like it!

Emily's mum, Sharon works at Bramley Primary School, and that is where we are this evening.  With Natalie, Vicky and me are Peter, Millie S, Ashley, Claudia, Naomi, Emily and Evie.

Bramley PS is hosting a group of international visitors. I think that their party is only just starting as we are leaving, back to Any Questions [maybe that's only me], Hyde Park, Beeston, Chapeltown, Chapel Allerton, Little London, Otley, Burley-in-Wharfedale.

And what's really really good about this evening is that this is New Sparrows. The new Old Guard is old now in Brighton, Manchester or Liverpool, or at work, or just moved on. And the old Old Guard has been to Birmingham, Lincoln and back. And this new Sparrows stood up proud. Actually there was nothing dangerous or tricky about this gig. Apart from maybe a late setlist that got changed almost immediately.

Foxwood Steel play Victoria Quarter for Touchstone and Russian Two, and Charlotte sings the Skyrack

Debs, thankfully I did my Russian homework this week, but sadly, when I got to the lesson, and just as I was thinking it wasn't that hard, I find out that this is not the most advanced class! Well, it's a good thing I already teach on Thursday evenings.

After the class I call to see hear Charlotte doing Open Mike at the Skyrack. Wherein I provide her with a nice black pen and a piece of scrap paper. Thus the illustrations for Love and Emotion and Can't Take My Eyes off You. I wouldn't bother if she wasn't the best illustrator I know. The best!

It's Wednesday and Foxwood is to play for Touchstone Mental Health Awareness Day in the Victoria Quarter. I agreed to this event in the first place because it's a cause dear to my heart. Very few of us in Foxwood have been untouched by mental health issues - in ourselves, in our family or in our friends. And you can't open a newspaper without the saddest story.

However, it's Wednesday afternoon at 2pm. When I said yes to  this gig I knew I had me, Katie and Tim; two weeks later I know I have Georgia and Bex; last week Lizzie signs up,  yesterday Natalie comes on board, and with two hours to go, we have Daisy.  It is ever thus.

The Arcade security guy is very concerned that we will be too loud. What, and maybe cause a riot? A sports centre assistant, a dental nurse, a teacher in a Special School, a supply teacher, a barmaid, a Special Needs volunteer worker, a steel pan teacher,and myself: a teacher of Music to children with Special Needs and Steel Pan teacher. Has he been talking to the Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee?

Sadly this is not the first time that security guards in Leeds shopping precincts have tried to stop a pre-arranged steel pan performance. In 2009 the Sparrows were booked to play near a mock beach in the Light, a covered shopping area in Leeds.

The owner of some restaurant near our performance area made a complaint and then the security man came over and told me we would be too loud. I opined that he hadn't heard us play. He said that he didn't need to hear; he could tell by looking; I argued that this band had just won the UK World Music Award and were due to pay the Albert Hall in November. He said he didn't care.

We were banned from playing near the beach, where there was an audience, and eventually stopped from playing further away by the cinema complex, where they was no audience anyway. That was the lowlight of my summer holiday. [And made all the worse because two years previously Sparrows and East Steel were on tele and in papers playing in same place. Ah, nothing like media and the odd celebrity! No, I don't mean that Hilary Been is odd!][I'll add a pic when I resuscitate old computer]

So today Debs, because the affair in the Light still haunts me, for a little set of 25 minutes we played quietly. The security guard seemed okay with us; one shopkeeper closed her door; one event worker texted a picture of us to friends in Trinidad, and Samantha from Touchstone said we were her highlight and for her, we could play all afternoon.  And we were great. Being asked to play quietly was good for our playing. I love that we can do subtle; that we can do massive.  I'll tell you why Katie is a goddess some other time.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ursula's Party, Russian One and the NAME conference

Now then Debs, it's the weekend and I have no gig. Ursula is having a bonfire party which starts at 7pm. I bump into Sue [see here texting by the fire] as I head over to it, also arriving at 10.30. The weather is good; the fire is hot; I sit and rabbit away about how uncritical British society gets when dealing with issues of culture and different ethnicities. . . . as you do . .

On Monday evening I go to my first Russian lesson since leaving University. It's residents' parking only round Beckett Park, so I take to my bike.  And I would have been on time if the lesson had been in the Languages building . . .

I am struck by how many people in Leeds can "do" Russian to this level. When I was at Uni the numbers on my degree course were in single figures.  However, what a relief. I thought it was going to be just me and the teacher. She asked us what levels we were at. Levels! Debs, I have spent years avoiding levels. Anyway who knows. I have great grammar, limited vocab and no collquialisms. I live in hope of upping the latter two.

On Tuesday morning I go to my first beginners Spanish lesson. I am sure, and even opine to the rest of the class that you don't get confused with other languages and then I spend some time in Italian. I have promised myself and my teachers that I will spend 20 minutes a day on each language.

Diane and I go to Yarnfield Park on Thursday evening, getting in the night before of the NAME [National Association of Music Educators] conference. The conference highlights for me were 1. a piece of research about adolescent boys' reluctance to take part in organised singing 2. winning two consecutive games of pool [against Toby and Govind, two people I had not met before] and 3. meeting up with Tony Haynes from Grand Union, with whom I worked in Leeds on two occasions - Dr Carnival at Leeds Town Hall and then On Liberation Street at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Tony has spent, even dedicated his musical life to discovering, nurturing and promoting authentic ethnic music playing and performance- at least the part that I am aware of. And when he brought Dr Carnival to Leeds and we met for the first time, he was allocated the Sparrows led by myself, someone whom a colleague, and member of own department once famously described as "not even a musician".

And Tony and I had some robust arguments about music and teaching when we first, but he paid me the honour of arguing on equal terms. This is often sadly lacking in this day and age. And he put the Sparrows and myself on the map, at a time when my life experience was of being "not even a musician".  And despite having already taught the Hallelujah Chorus for Carnival Messiah.

So, apart from massive respect for Grand Union I have always been grateful to Tony for just being himself, and letting me be mine.

I offered Diane to give Tony a lift to Stafford Station. Here's some pics in station cafe. Diane and I had a lovely Chinese meal in the Green Tea Cafe in Manchester; then back to Leeds perchance to sleep.