Thursday, 11 July 2013

Four Go to Music For Youth Without the Band

Debs, you know that great Robbie Burns poem that he address to a homeless fieldmouse, in which he declares that the "best laid plans o' mice and men, gang aft agley  . . "

[Perhaps you don't Debs, as you are a Science teacher.]

Whatever. As we weren't playing the Music for Youth Festival [again!][and I had begun to consider it home] I thought it would be nice to take the New Sparrows down to see the other top UK bands in action, to compare ourselves, to check out the opposition, to declare that we had been robbed or to admit we needed to up our game. And to meet up with old pals from the pan world. Like Dave from North Tyneside [above].

Also, Xanthe had booked herself a place there with her wonderful SILC band, and we wanted to support her.

Xanthe, if you recall, arranged quite a few of the Foxwood/Sparrows top tunes [eg Tainted Love, Trini to the Bone] for us. And it was she who supported Sparrows through applying for Music For Youth in the first place.

To get the tickets cheaply I bought the first six some weeks ago, including two children's with a family railcard. Well, no-one under 16 was either interested or allowed to go!

By last week my sleep patterns, never good, were in disarray. Eventually Aretha and I discussed our little problem with the rail company, handed over £10 for each ticket to be changed, and then it was me, Diane, Tim and Amy alone on the 10.11 to Birmingham, city of music halls, central squares and culture.

Debs, it was an extra £40 well spent.

John Jamieson's SILC steelband, led by Xanthe Lewty, music arranged by herself, was mind-blowing. The arrangement as Beethoven Seven melted into Alex Clare Too Close was one thing, then there were the players themselves changing instruments between vocals, pans, kit, piano and electric guitar in a very unhurried and purposeful way. For me, and I think also for Diane, Tim and Amy, it was the outstanding performance of the day. There was a beautiful intensity to this performance, in my opinion, that no other band achieved.
Diane bought a meat sandwich!
We all cried and then hugged Xanthe, and then hugged some of the players too [after asking permission first of course].

Then we watched all the other bands, and they were great. Such virtuosity! Exciting, impressive. Many more steelbands than usual. Were we robbed? Should we up our game?

Well, neither. The way they played - the London and Newcastle bands - was massive, impressive, and immensely enjoyable, but it's not how we want to go with the Sparrows [or Foxwood or East Steel] in Leeds. Our tunes tell stories, tug at heart-strings; the dynamics are there, but are almost imperceptible. Our crescendos are long drawn-out affairs. We don't dance, we certainly don't smile. Our players only move if they are moved to move. And I think there is space for us all.

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