Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Last Post & Remembrance Day

Update: if you have just come here to find out how to pronounce Reveille or Rouse then you might want to jump straight there if you're in a hurry. Or stay and read through; you're very welcome ...
I was on the bus home in a slightly grumpy mood on Friday night, thinking that it was a pity I didn't have a Last Post gig for today. I enjoy this duty and feel that it's something that it's important to do as a kind of community service thing. I don't think it is necessary to be religious or militaristic to hold this view (though regular readers will of course be aware that I am fanatically both), merely to recognize that it's a moment when trumpet players have something to offer that has this unusual and very specific application to the wider community, or to our sense of history, or obligation, or whatever. I could expand on this at length but, you'll be relieved to hear, I shall not. Not right now anyway.

Anyway, the mobile telecommunications device interrupted my gig-less gloom. It was a nice man called Joel who is Director of Music at St James Muswell Hill, seeking a trumpetistic person to do the Last Post on Sunday. My pal Pete D had put him onto me. I discussed it at home then called him back: well, yes actually, I was free, so we sorted out times and stuff and discussed my fee - which fee (it now being Friday night and the gig being Sunday, and these facts endowing me with colossal negotiating power) would of course be massive.

Oh alright. But I would much rather you thought I was a ruthless moneygrubbing swine: it suits my image. Actually what happened is that Joel politely offered me some money and I politely declined, and both of these things are right and proper and just how it should be. My quasi-moral stance on this is complex to say the least (and probably does not bear too close an examination) but basically I would charge the church in Chelsea who've had me do it there, and I would possibly not charge something which is my local church or close thereto, which St Jim's is, or where I have a personal connection, which is also true there. It's nonstraightforward. This issue is discussed endlessly on TPIN and elsewhere (often apropos of the Last Post's US equivalent, Taps, but it is effectively the same debate), and no satisfactory conclusion is ever reached. Among the issues that are often raised are that we have an obligation; that the vicar, organist etc are not doing it as a freebie; that we have a living to make too... You can imagine that it's a tricky area to discuss calmly and that terms like Weekend Warrior and accusations of dilettantism and profiteering get cheerfully chucked around as if they did not hurt. The Taps situation is certainly more acute (separate article needed here!) but as I say the arguments are similar.

I showed up at the church around 10 on Sunday having been called for 10.30. The previous service was still on so I wandered around a bit and said hello to Lesley and John at the Children's Bookshop.

Eventually I got in, unpacked, taped the music to the stand (yeah, you bet, see PPPPPP and anyway it was disposable music!) and met Joel. He's nice and he, the organist (whose name I did not catch) and the vicar, Alex, are all very clued-up so it was easy to get a good briefing and be very clear on cues etc. Joel had initially been uncertain as to whether I was playing anything after the silence but he'd checked and it turns out they wanted Reveille, which usually means that they really want the Rouse. What? Yup, that's right. There is terrible confusion about this and if you ask too many questions you just upset people and cause unnecessary brow-furrowing. So I did Vogel's Standard Operating Procedure 11a and grabbed the most senior and clued-up- and nice-looking ex-military person there and said "when you hear Reveille at the end, is this what you're expecting?" and played him the start of the Rouse. He nods, no more is said, we both go off happy. This is discussed in boring and confusing detail at this Last Post page which is desperately in need of sorting out and updating. (I will try to have a word with the lazy slob responsible for it.)

And orf we went. We stopped halfway through the first hymn, and the vicar and British Legion people processed down to the West end where the war memorials are and did wreathy things. Alex the vicar did the "we will remember them" poem/prayer thing, a terrible tearjerker but fortunately I was thinking about the Accursed Bugle and was therefore immune. I played the Last Post. I was surprisingly nervous - I'd forgotten that this is quite a pearly moment and there's not exactly an orchestra to hide behind. I cracked one note a bit - fortunately not the full horrendous splattering treatment, but more of a quick ricochet - and then had to try very hard to keep all the rest of it under control and not let that trash it (Inner Game!) Apart from that I think it was reasonably OK and may have sounded alright. After the two minutes (timed and cued by Alex, thanks) I did the Rouse, except that only you and I and the church's music staff know that, because everyone else thinks it was Reveille. Muahahaha knowledge is power (or something).

After more prayerfulness it was back to the hymn (slight crash gearchange back up to C from my Bb but hey) for its remaining three verses so I played along, I mean what else would you do? Stand there like a lemon? No thanks.

Joel had very kindly said - unprompted - that I could snurgle off once I was finished playing rather than stay for the rest as I was at the back and pretty much out of sight except during the actual remembrance-specific bit. I hung around till there was a tactful exit moment (two-to-eleven year-olds and trumpet players may now leave) and then zipped off and had breakfast, having had neither time nor inclination to eat beforehand. No-one was home so I treated myself to that comfy cafe just the other side of Sainsburys. Very nice.

I felt that being at St James to play was a pleasant and not totally unimportant thing to do on this particular morning.

I should add that I am indebted to Martha for talking me into saying yes when I was vacillating over orienteering, which I missed. As she points out, this event just happens once a year and I would have been furious with myself had I declined it.

Useful pronunciation note: please do not, ever, get caught trying to pronounce "Reveille", in the context of the bugle call, as if it were a French word. Mais non! It isn't. Not any more, not in this particular little corner of meaning. As the warm-hearted simpleton at puts it:

"Reveille" is one of those Franglicized words that now has an accepted UK English pronunciation. If you try to say it sounding French, people will raise their eyebrows and think you a mite pretentious. The standard English pronunciation is something like "ruhVALLey".

- So there you go. What he said.

Update: while I'm at it ... apparently some people also want to know how to pronounce "Rouse". I guess it's not a word you usually get to say all that often, or something. It is pronounced as if it is the plural of "row" (in the sense of an argument not a collection of things in a line) which gives us: I have been having terrible rows with the IT people = I have been having terrible Rouse with the IT people. (Uh??) If you prefer, rhyme it with "cows", at least in RP, Oxford English etc, but go too far north and all cow-pronunciation bets are off!
I watched the Cenotaph service on telly later and have taped (or whatevered) the Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall for later dissection. It's always trumpetistically interesting.

Vogel out.

PS Some time I would like to write more on:

  • Remembrance and military funerals
  • Taps, Last Post and other calls
  • The excellent Doug Hedwig, and art-music vs utility in trumpet and horn calls
  • Suitable instruments
  • Bugles Across America and why we don't (as far as I understand it) have this problem in the UK

... but goodness knows when!

PPS Picture courtesy of The Royal British Legion.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! This was one of our vocab words and we didn't know how to pronounce it.

Strawberryyog said...

You're very, very welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to write - I really do appreciate it.

Best wishes


PS My pronunciation is fine as long as (a) you are in British English (it may be OK in others but I honestly don't know) and (b) you're not actually trying to pronounce it as a real French word, in which case it is quite different and please don't quote me! My version is good for the quasi-English bugle-call usage but is not guaranteed for French language class! :)