Thursday, 9 July 2009

Eee appen brass brass eeee

Oh dear it's a long story which I shall have to try to make shorter but:


  1. I am up to my eyes in it, really quite badly, at the moment. Yes Tamsin I know that "sounds familiar" but please try not to sneer, dear. It is unbecoming and if the wind changes you may well stay like that.
  2. Much of what I am up to my eyes in is harmless, necessary, even fun (though some of it is not) but the real killer isn't the individual items but the combination of them. The same stuff as I am doing these two months spread out over say four of them instead would not be a problem. Well I mean I would still whinge and b*tch like the old drama queen I am but I might actually hack it a bit better. (Please Colin do not make that noise in front of the ladies and gentlemen.)

Anyway anyway.

Matters arising:

  1. One of the many nice things is that on Sunday there is a Stonking Monster Party at the Grand And Grandparental Mansion of Muehlenfeldplatz. This celebrates: a quite significant birthday of my dear Mother-in-Law (a birthday with a zero at its end though an officer and gentleman such as like wot I am would never tell you which digit precedes this); and the fact that my wife's family and their Viking neighbours have lived in the said Mansion for fifty years, yep fifty, count 'em kiddo; and finally I think some mention may be made of the fact that on the 14th - yes Tamsin, Bastille Day, good girl - my Dear Wife Bless Her and I will have been married for twenty-five years without actually killing each other! This is all good stuff.
  2. We have enough brass players in the extended family to put together a small brass ensemble.
  3. I duly received orders instructing me to put together a small brass ensemble.
  4. What do'you think I am, some kind of rebel? (“Spartacus? Yeah, that's him over there mate. Cheers.”)
  5. We rehearsed last night in the "playroom" at the said housoid (see pic).

Now read on:

playroom2 This was a hoot and a half. We had an interesting mix of players, from really quite good (older grandchildren) via a couple of adults to really quite beginnery (younger grandchildren). The Infanta Marfs has even been coaxed out of retirement to play her tenor horn (to some readers this is an alto or Eb horn but don't worry, it's not in the exam).

Let us make no mistake here: I have been in a complete flat spin over this.

Exactly why, I am not sure, but it's been ... oh, a mixture of things. Nevertheless, we were eventually all there last night with some instruments and some music and it happened. I spent a few minutes beforehand going through the "easy" trumpet part with the littler trumpet players and then we launched into What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor and you know, I'm not kidding, it sounded fantastic. Well OK it's not Philip Jones or Canadian Brass or Whoever but, just for a little thing for a party, I thought it just sounded wonderful. And yes I am a touch biased.

The very fitting main arrangement we are doing is by the Iarlles Loötës and is of the classic Our House by Madness. Geddit? Good. Some of the older party-goers won't geddit, actually, but that doesn't matter as they will be enchanted by the cute antics of the tiny offspring anyway. This is a suitably storming arrangement of this fine song and will I have no doubt be well received.

I wanted to do an arrangement of The Way You Look Tonight, starting in the style of Gabrieli then merging into the song. Don't laugh, it sounds great in my head. Unfortunately it got no further than this so will have to wait for some other gig. Sue me.

What I did do, though, is dig out some old (bought) brass arrangements I already had from gurt yonks ago, dust them off, replace missing parts (or fail to, or do it badly), add the easy trumpet parts and so on. So the other thing we are doing is the Junior Just Brass (Philip Jones's easier line) arrangements of three sea shanties, this being where WSWDWTDS comes into it. This gives us that tune and also Shenandoah and Fire in the Galley. That's a respectable amount of music for the event; we can repeat it later if people want; and I'll also have some quartet/quintet music and maybe some jazz and busker books, in case the spirit moves the more experienced players to go on a while longer while the littlies recover from their trauma with ice-cream and cake.

Sound good? You bet it did.


  • Trumpets 5 (three experienced players, two not but they are great)
  • Tenor Horn 1 (live and direct: the Infanta Marfs)
  • Trombones 2 (both experienced players)

- so this is, frankly, doable. With the exception of me, these are really very musical people and it makes up in musicality and enthusiasm anything which it may lack in stuff like, ooh, you know, precision an ting. 

Like I said, I have been very very very worried about this brass thing. If I told you how pleased I was with it last night you would probably feel quite unwell. But it was really great. We are already thinking - assuming we all survive Sunday - that we must try to do it again sometime. It was too much fun not to. Playing together is just the biz.

Note: whenever I talk to horn players about transposition I get a headache trying to follow their outrageous mental processes. I was disturbed to find that Martha has now joined this bizarre brother- and sisterhood. As a person with a very good sense of pitch but very little experience on horn she found it almost impossible to read the transposed horn part. She had fingerings written in, which helps, but the pitch was baffling. What on earth she is now doing is beyond me to understand - I think it sort-of involves reading the treble-clef part in bass clef (though that would still leave you in the wrong octave, but hey) and adjusting the key to suit. It seems to work, is the point.

Note on the note: the worst-ever conversation I ever had about this was with a pro horn player in Bristol. After a while he confessed that what he'd really like best would be for every note to be written as a C, with the appropriate transposition indicated. There are some very odd people out there.

I could go on about this more, but had probably better not. I might, if I ever get caught up a bit, write a bit about what happens on Sunday.

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