Monthly Archives: February 2015

Brass Banter


This Valentine’s Day, the brass band headed back down to Warwick for the annual inter-university competition, UniBrass. It was an early start (for a university student) particularly with a detour to a friend’s flat to drop off birthday presents before they woke up, but I have to say waking up to a text message from a friend sent at twenty past five that morning saying they were just leaving did make me feel a little better about the time I had to get up.

Last year, I went to watch this competition, supporting three bands. This year, I went playing myself, not with any of those bands, but against all of them. There was an ‘all-night social’ planned after the event but with it being my friend’s birthday, my plan was to return back the same day to share it with her. However, booking the train before realising what time we were actually playing meant that this was going to be a tight schedule and there was potential for missing the train back. This meant, if I was potentially staying overnight, the key was making friends. Now, I’ve come to realise over the past few weeks, that it’s hard to make friends when you’re quite as bad at Trivial Pursuit (and incidentally Twitter) as I am, however this was my chance and it was all going so well, Until I ruined it all. Now, obviously, everyone is different and wonderful in their own way but, in the band it seems (understandably) that there is one thing everyone shares and is united in. That one thing is that we hate York. In an effort to make friends, don’t ever tell people from Lancaster that you previously supported York, I wasn’t just left wondering if I was friends with people in the band, I was left wondering if I was still in the band. (It was okay, it was after we played and I can now confirm that – I think – I am still allowed back).

It was great to see old friends from these bands again, although as we weren’t playing until later, we actually missed them performing. We did, however, get a live stream of the competition on the coach down there. To give you an idea of some of the programmes, a member of our band, spent a significant amount of the journey commenting on and critiquing other bands on the live video stream. Comments included “Oh no, they’re dancing…and now singing. Oh and look at that, they’ve got stupid hats, and now two people are just leaving the stage, do they think it’s that bad? Just can’t take it anymore.” I then reminded him that our programme included choreography, a singer, a sombrero and a stetson hat and two people leaving the stage mid performance. Yes, our programme consisted of two March-like pieces, a classic Disney number and The Good the Bad and the Ugly (not sure who in our band we were describing there). But, either way, it seemed to work, after coming joint twelfth out of fourteen last year, we finished in a very respectable and exciting forth place out of seventeen this year, winning also Most Improved Band.  Even with slight uniform issues as we found out shortly before going on stage that one member’s concert shoes were now on their way to Burnley after being left on the bus. We were hoping for top half, maybe even top ten and only the top three were announced at results so when we found out we came fourth, missing out on the podium by just three points, it’s fair to say, we were very excited. There was jumping and screaming for a good half an hour and I think it took a good while even after that for it to really sink in. Very proud to be in Lancaster. And despite what I said about my allegiance earlier, I was as happy as the next person to beat York quite significantly after their victory over us last year. What’s that apt Valentine’s poem – Roses are Red?

As it was, we played later than I accounted for and I missed my train. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see my friend on her birthday but this did mean just one thing. Brass band social time. Seemingly a great place to make friends, however I soon realised that any efforts made now would not be remembered in the morning. Although, maybe you can say you know someone a little better after seeing them empty the contents of an over excited stomach outside. After a good lot of music and dancing though we bedded down in the concert hall we had previously been playing in. Now, considering I was planning on sleeping on the train on the way back and eventually ending up in my own bed, I wasn’t quite prepared for this and had only a sleeping bag. However, having slept on many floors in my time, I have to say, this was one of the more comfortable, potentially even sprung, and at least came with a roof over my head. It’s only February and so far I’ve spent seven nights of the year sleeping on various floors and will be doing the same again this weekend. I like to think myself quite an expert in the area.

It was a very interesting experience ‘sleeping’ in a large concert hall with about two hundred slightly worse for wear students stumbling in at various points in the night. Even weirder to wake up at 7.30 the next morning to a group of two hundred students, not one of which was a fully functioning human being at this time. The closest thing I can imagine to waking up to a zombie apocalypse. After not really sleeping at all that night, a couple of us resorted to collapsing under the sombrero and Stetson hat over breakfast valuing sleep over food. It was like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Morning After.

We then had workshops. There was a choice between a lower brass workshop or a conducting workshop, neither of which I’ve ever had proper lessons in before and both of which I’m interested in finding out more about. However not at this time on this particular morning. Going by the faces and noises of people around, I think most people would be agreed that a couple of hours of brass band in the morning is the perfect hangover cure.

I chose the brass workshop which consisted of an hour long warm up and being told that girls were not as good musicians as guys and quote “those that can play trombone do, and those that can’t play euphonium” – rude. And by the way, simply not true. He also asked us all to answer a variety of questions truthfully including “when was the last time you practised high notes?” “When was the last time you practised long notes?” And “when was the last time you practised double tonguing?” And noticeably cringed any time someone said anything longer than a week. To be honest, I think a more appropriate question for me would be “when was the last time you practised?” Although thinking about it, if he cringed when people said over a week, I’d hate to imagine what he’d think if I said over a year.

Anyway, with that done we were back on the bus on our way home and, I have to say, on our journey back, I’ve never appreciated a good old Maccy D’s so much in my life. At half past one after a morning of brass band workshops, having not slept for many hours and not eaten anything since six o’clock yesterday evening, there’s nothing more appealing than the sight of a McChicken sandwich.

It was quite a long journey home and well, by the time we got there I (as with most of the band) was pretty exhausted but well worth it for coming fourth. In fact, that evening, after going round to visit my friends, i managed to fall asleep in the laundry room next to the Italian restaurant and so my friend went and bought me dinner (probably thinking it wasn’t a good idea for me to be attempting cooking) and so we had dinner out together (whilst doing laundry). I think I can say I just have the best friends here, seeing as I’ve also decided that after a long weekend, you just can’t beat sitting down to a cup of tea and an S Club 7 sing along 🙂