Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Foxwood Steel Play Shaun and Megan's wedding

Saturday opened up warm and sunny, and so it stayed. It was such a day to be married on, and, as it happened, it was the day picked by Shaun and Megan for their wedding at the Beauchief Hotel in Sheffield.

We were me [Victoria], Bex, Charlotte, Ashley, Varshika, Amy, Vicky, Natalie, Sophie.
setting up

At Sheffield Station I exchanged Rick for Ash. Rick had driven down on the motorway [not my sport these days!], and then took train back to Leeds. I took Ash and Charlotte onto the hotel, where we greeted with the offer of a cuppa. Whether from hotel or wedding, that was the best way to feel welcome.
The bridesmaids played guessing games with the tunes, but were flummoxed by Electricity! Told them they needed someone who was raving in the eighties [and I mean that in the nicest possible way!]. Electricity was arranged by friend and one time Foxwood player, Xanthe. It is one of my all favourite songs, as played by OMD, and as played by us.
The official photographer was Deborah Stone, and some of these she took with my camera [which is why we may all be on one pic]. Thanks, Deborah.
Bex was a roll with finding so many of  her pan sticks in the general bag.
Back to Leeds to brace ourselves for the Waterfront.
on a roll!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Flare at Woodhouse Community Centre

Woodhouse Community Centre
During the spring term I did a short series of mixed percussion instrument sessions with the Flare schools [Little London, Rosebank, Quarry Mount, Blenheim, Brudenell]. Working with Kristy, Kate, Louis, Muna, Nik, Alex and the gang. Then a brief extra session in June.
And now tonight's the night [as Rod once said, about something quite different]. We are at Woodhouse Community Centre, just down the road from where I live.
Carnival Messiah steelband leader and Preacher Man 13 yrs on
What a fabulous show!
 Dave, with whom I shared two five-week runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, in 1999 and 2002 [to be precise] bobbed up as the samba leader. Incredible! I am not just saying that cos we always used to love saying hi to "Preacher man" every evening in Green Room, and later shared hugs and lager in the Playhouse bar.
But because this was a good thing all round. Good experience, good product. And the complications of what was happening here, at Flare at Woodhouse Community Centre, with the total involvement of all kids and support staff - massive.
Andy Victoria Adam Dave
The Chemic
Then singing with man from South Africa - lovely, lovely. [Will insert name when I get it]. The children obviously and deservedly loved him.
My bunch of steelpannists, glockists and djembeists - I was so proud. We played Buffalo Gals and In the Hall of the Mountain King. Kristy did a solo. Yo.
Rebecca let me take a photo of me with Quarry Mount sons: Adam and Andy. I joined the band for the last song. in Aflat [that's a chord sequence, not a date]. As long as there's no solo involved.
Then I went back home with pans in the car and then cycled back down to the pub. The Chemic. In Woodhouse, Leeds. Amazing. Well done to Nik and Alex. A good evening.
Next. One wedding and a festival.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Foxwood Steel at Cross Flatts Park

Yi Bai, Wanda, Bex and I are now on our third gig of the weekend. After the hurly burly of the float and excess van-packing of Otley Carnival this is a very laid back affair. And for Yi Bai, so used to getting buses all over Leeds, what a change. He lives on a street next to Cross Flatts Park. We are almost in his front garden!

I am on a roll getting to the gigs first. It's very therapeutic. Last to arrive are Sophie and Bex. Bex is in a state of shock. A question of gear selection, I believe.

We use 13 of the 32 stands at our disposal and one for the banner. We are me, Bex, Yi Bai, Wanda, Vicky, Sophie, Ashley, Gig. The Pavilion at Cross Flatts Park has a lovely new canopy, under which we play [and which matches our own colour choice], and it protects us from the occasional gust of rain. We buy tea and buns and mango chutney. We play for two hours with a little break, and take audience requests (but not Banana Boat Song). Bob Marley (curiously unrequested from last week's wedding) goes down a storm, and we rock through Buffalo Soldier, Redemption Song and Three Little Birds in quick succession.

[Years ago some of played Jammin' with another band. Like Three Little Birds, it has three chords. It was boring enough to play the melody for, but the chords - OMG! You see, and I'm off on a philosophical here - we love playing local gigs; but we will never earn enough money gigging to earn a proper living from it; the good side of this is we don't have to play in Scottish supermarket all day [that was our best professional offer] in order to pay the mortgage. And when we play three-chord songs we give the chord players some bits of tune and different rhythms. Plus they make  a song sound interesting. Moral is, if we enjoy it, that will communicate to the audience.]

The audience requested Tie a Yellow Ribbon. Gulp. The tune is easy, but the chords just change and change. We survived.

Yi Bai's mum was on hand again for my camera. (I love getting shots of us all in it together).

Rick and Walter unload the van (phew) and on Monday evening I take back the tenor basses from Otley and a million stands to the pan room at work. Here an unsuspecting Diane offers to help.
You may see from the pics our new tidy floor space device - aka buckets. More anon on that. Could be worth a blog to themselves!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Foxwood Steel and East Steel at Otley Carnival 2015

After a van booking mix up I was glumly contemplating fitting a 22 piece steelband into a Ford Transit, in fact my Ford Transit. But it's nil desperandum for me, whom a friend once described as "relentlessly cheerful". And it's nil desperandum for Bex, considered by some to be UK champion van-packer. So we decided to:
1. Abandon the big basses
2. Give Wanda the drum kit to put in her car
3. Bring as few doubles and triples as possible
4. Pack carefully
Well, we did all that, and two players didn't play [one never was, and one asked did I mind?].
So Otley Carnival June 20 2015, Foxwood, East Steel, one Sparrow. Gig now works Saturdays, Ash was at a wedding. Bex and I already had abandoned big bass and cellos, and set up our soprano [ex-tenor] pans. Eyes glued to the songsheets I sight-read my way through tunes that I knew in bass motor-memory. Vicky and Sophie were "invited" to do the same. There was a time when everyone wanted to play the melody, seen as being the lead singer of the band. Now we are all too cool for such things.
Did I mention the Dalek?
Then Tim phoned to say he thought four drummers was too much. I assured him that, in Trinidad steelbands had more than that in their percussion section. When we arrived he realised I meant two drum-kit with four people sharing, and otherwise playing other percussion. Too amusing! Four drum-kits! In the little blue van! No!
So, the day dawned with threatened showers. I was changing gears with the second drum pedal. I was braking with the central struts of the collapsible stands - not true. Poetic licence]. Everybody gave everybody else a lift. It was all going too smoothly. And it never stopped going smoothly. True California Girls was a minor disaster. Then Daisy shouted "Restorative Song!" and then it was Clocks.
Dalek coming home
We were me [Victoria], Bex, Vicky, Charlotte, Amy, Sophie, Wanda, Pippa, Claudia, Kirsty, Tim, Natalie, Yi Bai, Anne, Wendy, Lynn, Jeanette, Daisy, Maddie and Katie. And Andrew came to take photos.
That's it. Left the pans, and the ladders in the Little Blue cos tomorrow it's Foxwood at Cross Flatts Park.
What a lovely day.

East Steel at Holy Rosary and St Anne's

It's that time of year when Lyndsey emails us and we gather a small team together to bring the sound of steelpans to Leopold Street. It's a street that Wanda and I remember well from our times, at different times working at the lovely Leopold School. Wanda was teacher and steel band leader there in her time, and a few years later I was the peri there, and steel band leader there.
In the early 80s she and I, unaware of each other were sharing StClair Morris as our steelpan teacher. I was in a high school in Seacroft, and Wanda was in primary school in Chapeltown. I still do Give Me Hope Johanna and she still does the Little Scale Song.
So, it's history that has drawn us back. Today we are me, Bex, Wanda, Kirsty, Lynn, Trish, Anne and Yi Bai. Trish did the set list. Bex vetoed a few tunes. We took in tea and buns and I bought more tomato plants - sometimes I think it's the only reason I go to summer fairs, get the plants I forgot to plant early!
Then it's home early to get braced for Otley Carnival, and work out how to fit tomorrow's 20-strong band into the little blue Transit. All but one of today's players are on tomorrow's float, and Anne and Lynn have come all the way over from Yeadon to Leeds Centre on a Friday after work. Much appreciated. Keeping music live and local [well not to Anne and Lynn! That's to come.]
If you would like to book a steelband or learn to play pans please contact us on foxwoodpanyard@outlook.com East Steel is a Leeds ArtForms music centre band

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Quarry Mount at Quarry Mount, Springbank at Springbank

I hate going out of chronology, and I have missed two schools gigs. Here's putting amends.

 Quarry Mount, in waiting
One of the best things about teaching in primary schools is the summer term. By this time all of the classes know all their chords, all of their djembes rhythms, stay in time with each other, can sight-read the Foxwood Songsheets and much more besides. And schools know how to set up before I arrive so they becoming independent as I try to make myself redundant!
And they do concerts and summer fairs and stuff like that for parents and for the public. And on this blog, I don't count assemblies but I do count any events in which parents and/or other members of the public are invited.

Quarry Mount in waiting
So Quarry Mount's International Evening was on Thursday 21 May. Bex and I teach Sparrows, Steelettes and East Steel on Thursdays at City of Leeds. As I share this role with Bex, at precisely 6.30, I shot away from the night-classes, down the road, into the primary school, where Dale and the gang had set up pans and glocks. I saw the end of the break-dancing, leapt into the performance area, launched into In the Hall and Coming Round the Mountain. Back before I even left.
Springbank in waiting 2
Springbank in waiting 1
Two weeks later on 3 June Springbank invited in its parents to the concerts at the end of a Wednesday afternoon. We played Mice and Monsters, I Gave My Love a Cherry Drunken Sailor, Camptown Races, In the Hall of the Mountain King.
Ruby and her gang organised everything, choosing the tunes, arranging one of them, setting up, and writing lists, all that stuff
And then here comes the very worst thing about the summer term - I have become attached to every single Year Six, and they are all about to leave.  I hope to meet them in their high schools; at least I hope they will continue with steel pans in their high schools. Sadly this is rarely the case.
concerts pics to follow permissions permitting

Monday, 15 June 2015

Four steelbands, two pan workshops and a guitar duet

Saturday 13 June 2015 and I have three gigs in three separate venues with four bands, a workshop [later turned into two!], and Jordan's first public performance on guitar. I have already taken pans, stands and chime bars to Shire Oak for the workshops, Little Pans Plus and Sparrows. And the basses and kit are at the back of the van ready for the evening.
 I have invited all Year 6 from 3 local schools to play as Little Pans Plus, but I do know that, without providing transport etc it is just too hard for ten year olds to move off their own patches. One year I did Kirkstall Festival with three children from Sacred Heart; one year, Unity with one girl from Quarry Mount. I wonder who will come to Headingley Festival?
Twelve noon. I bobbed into Shire Oak en route for NLMC, left the guitar and established a parking spot for the van. Met James from Springbank and his dad, caught his rehearsal, took a photo, and left.
Twelve Thirty. It is end of the year at North Leeds Music Centre and 1.we are having our second mini-gig and 2. I must collect all the pans and take them away.
My plan is that the weather forecast is wrong about it raining all day. It was. So we play in the courtyard - good for audience but also conveniently near to where the van is parked.
Well our lovely North Steelettes only had nine lessons [and two were mini-gigs!] and were amazing [and thanks especially to Wanda and Pippa for their support when I could and when I couldn't make the lessons]. We played twelve tunes. The players were Annie, Victoria, Isha, Kurum, Dan, Delaney, Nyal with support from Julie and Pippa. The audience was a proper clapometer. Loud when we played well, soft when it wasn't so good. [Thanks to Mark and team for collecting all the detritus that we left in our wake - bits of kit, trolleys etc.]
One Fifty-five. Got to Shire Oak School just before two o'clock, met Vicky, Ash and Julie. We set up ready for the first workshop. Jordan appeared. He and Ash went off to rehearse.
Various members of the public appeared, as did Eve and James from Springbank and Razan from Quarry Mount. Then we went for the world record of soft toys in single seconds for no reason at all.
Two thirty. We whip the pans to be used for the performances over to the stage tent.
Two forty. Jordan - grandson takes the stage for Apache and Eye of the Tiger. Ash "volunteered" to playing backing chords for him. I thought I have had to listen [and play along] to these tunes for so long now. . . Time someone else had to!
Two fifty. It's Little Steel Plus at which point Razan and I discover that we have left all the Aflats in my car. We are Eve, James on pans, me and Razan on chime bars [minus Aflat] with support from Yi Bai, Sophie [still wondering what she had let herself in for this time!*], Tim, Vicky, Georgia and Julie.
Three Five. We get the tenor basses out of the back of the van, but forget the guitar pans, play with one set of bass, two sopranos, kit and three single seconds. Sparrows were Chloe [taking an A level revision break], Ash and Georgia supported by Yi Bai, Sophie, Vicky, Tim and me. Messed up a coupla tunes, had a laugh.
Three Forty. Well, just as we thought it was safe . . . . Lizzie, Daisy and Cherie appeared with Tau, Annie, Maeve and Lola. Time for Workshop Number Two. Did this picturesquely under the trees at the front of the school. Some more people turned up.


Four o'clock. We came to a halt at four and then Vicky decided to accept the challenge of packing an already disorderly van through the side door [I was backed up to the espaliers] while trying to keep workshop and gigging pans apart. I was beyond caring!

[Thanks to Jane Liz, Alun, Mike and their teams for it all.]
Four forty-five. At home Rick and I replaced workshop and NLMC pans with Foxwood ones.
Six o'clock.  Tim appeared and we all went to the Woodside where by now Jason seemed to have told the surprise to everyone except his bride! 
We sneaked a nine piece steel band in through the back doors of the big room, and played very loudly for nearly an hour! The wedding had a Disney theme. Fortunately Peter had written out Under the Sea. We were me, Bex, Georgia G1, Katie, Vicky, Charlotte, Yi Bai, Sophie and Tim. Foxcubs, looking cute curled up in the banner were James and Mikey. Rick appeared and took the pans away, and some of us settled down for a debrief. [Thanks to Jason and Catherine for letting us gate-crash their wedding.]
 Then just as I thought Katie was ordering a taxi she came back with another couple of pints!
Sunday didn't happen, and Monday Rick and I swapped the pans back over.
[* Sophie, it's another fine mess]
If you want to play steel pans, or invite a steelband to your event or a workshop, please contact us at foxwoodpanyard@outlook.com