Casa de Weird (bunrab) wrote in community_band,
Casa de Weird

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Another Sousa day come and gone

As I mentioned last year, in the life of a band musician, Fourth of July is Sousa-till-your-lips-fall-off Day. And indeed, a 4th of July was had by all.
We left the house before 8 a.m. (with me not really awake, needless to say) with the tuba, 2 saxophones, 4 gallons of iced tea, sunscreen, change of polo shirts, and other supplies. Got to Montgomery Village before 9, to drop off the iced tea for the party at the community center and then park the car at the end of the parade, before lining up for the beginning of the parade. Since it was icky hot already, band uniform was relaxed: the usual band embroidered polo shirts, but black shorts allowed rather than slacks, and footwear whatever rather than black socks and shoes. The MVCB parades on two pickup trucks towing two small flatbed trailers; trombones get to sit in the front row of the trailers so that they have enough room for the slides. Bari sax - that's me - gets to sit on the right hand side of a trailer with only a couple of seats in that row, instead of 3, so that there's room to the side of the seat for the horn; barring the presence of a contrabassoon (which doesn't happen a whole lot in concert bands anyway, let alone at outdoor parades), the bari sax certainly takes up the most room to one side of the player of any wind instrument normally in a band. The other seat in my row was taken up by a leftover trombone who sorta played off to the left side in order to have enough room. The 3 alto saxes were two rows in front of us; the row in front of us was the tenors and a leftover clarinet (the rest in the other trailer). Right in back of that, me, a bass trombone, and then the row in back of us, three tubas. I think it was a pretty novel experience for the poor clarinet player, who does not usually have quite that much bass :) blasting right in back of him... Anyway, we played the same 2 marches - National Emblem and an R.B.Hall, "Tenth Regiment," over and over. The two trailers actually paraded side by side, so that everyone in the band could see our conductor and play at the same speed and take the same endings, a novel experience!

Once we got to the end of the parade, about 10:40, we quickly unloaded our stands and chairs to set up for the concert, which was mercifully under a large tent/awning/whatever you call those large sideless tents. However, it had gotten even hotter, so the shade was only minimal help. The conductor on the podium had his head brushing the lower edge of the awning. Anyway, once the awards for parade floats and costumes were given out, we started up and played for an hour or so - maybe a little over, and a little too long, given that we had run through the ice water provided for us already in the interval between the parade and the concert! We played through some of those marches awfully damn fast, trying to get through it!

After the concert, we headed over to the Stedwick Community Center for the band party - both an end of season party, and a goodbye party for the oboe player who's moving back to Italy. Double reed players not being thick on the ground, this is a real loss! Anyway, we went through about 20 pizzas, zillions of salads, lots of desserts, a few short speeches, and great enjoyment of iced drinks and air conditioning. Then spouse and I changed from our Montgomery Village polo shirts to our Bel Air polo shirts, and headed out for the 80 mile drive from there to Bel Air.

We got to Bel Air at about 4:15 - rather early - and sat in the parking lot of the staging area watching the pouring rain. However, by 5:00 the rain had cleared, and the decision to go ahead was on! So spouse dropped me and instruments by the side, drove off to park at the end of the parade and then walk back (again). The Bel Air band uses a very large flatbed trailer, and decorates it with bunting and flags and stuff. It's also a very TALL trailer, requiring a 6-foot ladder for people to climb into the bed. A neat trick for the larger instruments - requires quite a bit of help and cooperation. In that band, I play tenor sax, so at least it was a little less weight. Also in that band, the saxes sit right at the front, facing back toward everyone else. We had a reduced sax section - two altos and me - so we got to play forte most of the time. For this one, we did "Americans We" and "Semper Fi" over and over - a longer parade, lots more repeats. (More politicians. More stop and wait. Bigger audience, too.)

Once we got to the end, at the high school, we actually had nearly an hour before the concert start time. So people were able to drink lots more ice water, buy hot dogs from the vendors, etc. Also, to look at the music - which we needed to do, because we were flying blind! The band rehearses Monday nights, and we were supposed to rehearse all this music the night before the concert. However, someone on the school board seemed to have forgotten that they had promised us the use of Bel Air HS for the rest of the season, and we were locked out. So we had tried going over to the band shell - but couldn't use that, because all the chairs that are normally there had been taken out and moved over to the high school for the next morning's pancake breakfast! After some attempts at alternate arrangements, we had to give up. So, we came to the concert with some of the new people having never seen much of the music, especially those pieces from the "ceremonial folder" that happened to be alternates for the ones we played last year. Of course everybody in a band can play "Armed Forces Salute"* and "Stars & Stripes" with no rehearsals, but some other pieces... Well, let's just say that we hit a few snags in performance, and there were at least 2 occasions where the drums and tubas played rhythm for a couple measures and nobody else played much of anything until we approached a recognizable double bar or rehearsal number and could regroup. Interesting. All's well that ends well, and we timed the ending of "Stars & Stripes" for one of the biggest bursts of fireworks, quite spectacular.

Spouse and I, along with several other band musicians, did not stay for the rest of the fireworks - we did our best to get out of there before the crowds, so that we didn't have to spend 45 minutes just sitting in the car trying to get to the next intersection. Ate supper at the Broadway diner, got home around midnight, whereupon I fed the chinchillas, showered off the sweat, fell into bed, and asleep, not to awaken until 2 this afternoon. Whew!
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