Thursday, 30 April 2015

Foxwood Steel at Maddie and Liam's wedding

Well, same as last year, if we want the youngest son to play pans these days we need another of his friends to get married. Last year they tied the knot in Sidmouth [miles away]. This year's knot is being tied in East Keswick, a few miles up the Wetherby Road. Yay!

We were Victoria, Bex, Vicky, Amy, Sophie, Fehmina, Morgan, guests, Ashley and Yi Bai. Maddie has been playing with the beginners' class for the few months so we invited her to be a surprise guest at the wedding. She chose and had learnt the melody for You Raise Me Up, but then we added the key change as well! Eek!
Serene in posh white dress Maddie took the extra 20 plus bars and all the flats in the left of her soprano pan in her stride.
It was a bit windy outside so after an hour of playing on the terrace, we decided to move inside. Just in time and just as well, as the soft sounds of Bridge Over Troubled Water on a nine piece steelband was not so pleasing to all the residents of East Keswick, and we were invited to close the doors as well. Ever thus. [There were some louder tunes, it must be said].
practising the week before

Silver Sparrows, well, two of them, play Harrogate International Festival

It's about eight years since we first took to the streets of |Harrogate, marching pan de neck along the Stray, playing outside the War Memorial and finally treading the boards at the Royal Hall or the Conference Centre [we did the latter while they were re-guilding the former].
The marching bit was never very good, and did indeed get worse with every year that passed. If you don't practise pan-de-neck, it's impossible to do it well on the day, and realistically, the standard of songs that Sparrows play at can't be done justice to if you have tripped over the kerb, walked into a concrete bollard or lost the rest of the band in the next street.

But this is an international festival and an honour to be asked, though I do wonder why Hedda continues to put up with us, given that our tunes get so scrambled up. However they do make good pictures.


Anyway we are here April 4th 2015. We have as many leaders as we have Sparrows I.e. two of each so have invited a few Foxwood and Steel Rising to help us out and ex-Sparow Yi Bai who seems to be an infinite guest.
We were a trio
then a quintet

then a sextet

We are me (Victoria), Bex, Ash, Millie C, Sophie, Vicky, Wanda, Kirsty and Yi Bai. We are in the cold sunshine of Victoria Gardens opposite the railway station, and we park the van where we played. Wish that could be true in Leeds (you ever played Briggate?).
then we are a steel band 2015
 We play mostly Leeds Pan Central songs and then throw in some Sparrows-only ones. Ooo! Tricky. Everyone's asking what's in Bflat minor even though we've been playing it in Clocks for years.
(Another tutor once told some of my players when confronted by an out of tune Bflat [note], that it was okay cos "Victoria doesn't use B flat." just thought I'd throw that in. It didn't do lasting damage, and is a regular comedy moment).
Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows are a City of Leeds Youth Music ArtForms steelband.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Sparrows at Music For Youth, always good at St Aidan's

It's that time of year again, ten years since our first performance at a regional festival. First time we went to Garforth, then a couple of times to Hemsworth, then St Aidan's where we mostly have stayed, straying briefly to Garforth again last year. After a few times of going in various cars, we settled on taking the train. It's an adventure on tracks.

This year Sparrows are Bella, Claudia, Georgia, Millie, Millie, Chloe, Ashley, Naomi and George. This is the smallest Sparrows we have ever had, but the quality is undimmed! Sadly the change to Thursday practices was a day too far for Peter, but he gave us a wonderful arrangement of Hips Don't Lie. We messed about with it a bit more, and it was, predictably the hit of the set.

As a nod to the BBC's Ten Pieces, we called our set, Five Pieces and launched into a romp through the genres. The Entertainer, Don't it Make it My Brown Eyes Blue, Hips Don't Lie, Morning, In the Hall of the Mountain King.

I started welling up almost immediately, and the audience applause was the longest since Birmingham 2009, which was the year Sparrows won the World Music Award. I think my favourite moment was when Millie C took to the basses for Brown Eyes Blue, holding the music in one hand and playing bass casually one-handedly with the other. And she got a special mention from the mentors [adjudicators] for her bass playing.

Naomi lost Morning so we watched her peer over Claudia's shoulder to read it [see pic below right]. And Chloe and Ashley got over their stage shyness to do dancing for Hips. Georgia hid so well at the back that I have included the pic above of them waiting to play, just so she gets in this blog!

At the Festival I was really pleased to met Emma [and family] who is setting up her own band in Harrogate. And if she were to see the a Sparrows concert, she couldn't have seen a better one.

Here is Bella trying out pan de neck for the first time, but she is on holiday when it the Harrogate Festival so it won't happen yet.

[The best laid plans o' mice and men gang aft a-gley, but I do try!]

To see video clips of our tunes go to our facebook page. Plus I will link them when we get them youtubed.

The Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows is a Leeds ArtForms senior ensemble, with leaders: Victoria Jaquiss and Bex Ainge. Best age to join is between 11 and 14, but up to 17 is still good. Contact Leeds ArtForms if you would like to observe or try out a session. Previous [musical] experience is desirable but not essential.