One of the reasons why I enjoy playing with Backworth Brass Band is the variety of performances. I have been with the band for almost a year now and already I have played as far north as Berwick, across to Dalston in Cumbria and even locally in or around Newcastle. Our two gigs on Saturday 9th June though, turned to out to rank highly on the list of more unusual appearances.
Our first engagement was outside, which in itself is not unusual, but can provoke fears of what the weather will be like. Not only did we manage to dodge yellow weather warnings the previous week at Seghill Gala, but the lingering clouds decided not to rain on us this week either. Even the location, a cemetery, has not been uncommon as we have previously played at a number of remembrance events.
Rather, it was the occasion that was intriguing: we were to provide a musical backdrop to tours of Jesmond Old Cemetery, being organised in connection with a national organisation of cemetery friends (who knew there was an organisation for groups who look after our lovely, historic cemeteries?). Despite it feeling very strange to be playing to rows of gravestones whilst we waited for our audience to approach, it was quite enjoyable, especially with lunch provided afterwards. Personally, I thought it was dead good…
Later that evening, our second appearance of the day was to provide entertainment at a formal dinner whilst guests were eating. However, with a low ceiling and being positioned right next to some diners, it was necessary to play quietly so the guests could chat amongst themselves. Of course, brass bands aren’t really known for being quiet and as a player, you get so used to constant reminders about dynamics, that suddenly ignoring them was a difficult thing to do! Nevertheless, it was nice to concentrate on other aspects of the music for a change and I did enjoy the timing of playing ‘Sweet Gingerbread Man’ just as dessert was served.
Saturday’s two jobs were therefore a taster of some of the slightly more unusual performances that we get up to. I certainly have never played to a predominantly non-living audience before, neither have I had to forget about dynamics and play everything quietly. But without these, it certainly wouldn’t be half as much fun playing in a band!