Shakespeare's Birthday Parade - Stratford-upon-Avon

For those who follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I recently got back into playing my flute, something I've wanted to do for ages!

After playing in my first year of Uni for my course, and then playing in the Concert Band for a couple of years, since then I had played very little. Just occasionally and just on my own. I did make an attempt to join an orchestra a while later, but they always seemed to be inundated with flautists.

A good friend of mine, who was teaching music in one of the school's I support, pointed me in the direction of the Birmingham West Midlands Fire Service Band who had arranged an open rehearsal for potential new players on an informal basis. Since then, I've been going to rehearsals regularly and partaking in band socials and concerts in Fire Service Band attire.

It's been a great mix of music, and though it's been challenging going from almost no playing to some quite difficult pieces in a short space of time, I've really enjoyed it and the eclectic repertoire ranging from sweeping classical scores to more popular film music has meant it's always been interesting.

As a self funded institution, the BWMFSB are also a marching band! And because the marches are very popular gigs, this is how they generate a lot of their funding. It's therefor expected (and rightfully so) for members to participate in these! And participate I did!

It's not practical to march with a flute, so I've had to take up the Piccolo which I've played I think about twice before, and not well! It's very difficult, as whilst the fingering is the same producing a decent sound has been much harder for me than I find on the flute. I've put in some practice when time has allowed and can manage at perform a few of the marching pieces with at least some recognisability.

Which is just as well, as this leaves me to attempt to march successfully! Who'd have thought that essentially WALKING would be so difficult!

There are cues to acknowledge when marching, some audio in the form of bass drum rhythms, and some visual in the form of symbols from the band leader using a baton/staff. These indicate when to stop or start playing or marching. The trouble is, between concentrating on that as well as trying to read the miniscule music and play in tune doing all simultaneously is surprisingly difficult! It's a good job the band leader and conductor have been so helpful and friendly, as I may have run for the hills by now...

The first marching gig for me and a lot of the other new players was Sunday just gone, in the Parade celebrating Shakespeare's birthday in the lovely town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The weather was brisk yet sunny, the crowds out in force and the confetti canon sufficiently loaded.

It was an excellent day, and I was pleased with how much playing I actually did! After a very anxious start, and a few missteps I eventually became more comfortable and felt I did an acceptable job for my first go.

It's difficult getting back into step when for whatever reason you end up on the wrong foot, and reading that small music is nightmarish! Hopefully with some more practice I'll be better at not needing to rely so heavily on the manuscript during marches. It's also significantly more difficult marching in full uniform. The helmet in particular makes things hard as it's so heavy!

As a band we all looked good though, and I've been told we even sounded good, too! So much so even BBC and ITV were able to get some decent audio for the local news.

And so, as one of my recent life goals of joining a wind band again comes to fruition and a regular hobby of mine once again, I feel content in myself that I'm making the effort to engage in a more varied range of activities, broadening my social circles and generally becoming less of a hermit.

I'd call that a success.

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