Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Time in Charlotte with the Scots, the Yanks, and a couple Britons

I returned today (Monday) from a weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Salvation Army hosted a few players from the Fountain City Brass Band as reinforcements for "The Brass Spectacular". It was the same sort of performance as what I was invited to participate in just after Halloween.

A good time was had by all, as the cliche goes. Four of our members flew out of Kansas City on Friday morning. The Army hosted us in a very nice Doubletree Hotel near downtown Charlotte. When I checked in for my room, the clerk presented me with two surprising items. The first was a warm chocolate chip cookie in a small recycled-paper bag. Apparently, these cookies are a distinguishing feature of this hotel chain, rather like the idea of the cookies served on Midwest Airlines flights. It was delicious, but I doubt it would ever be a factor in deciding which sort of hotel to stay in on a long trip.

The second thing I was handed was an electric blue gift bag that plays a funky tune when the close flap is completely opened. I'd be lying if I said I expected that from the notoriously stodgy Army. This bag contained a few pieces of candy, some fruit, granola bars, chips, bottled water, and the weekend's itinerary. All very helpful, as we tend to get shuffled around at odd times and go long periods without nourishment.

The weekend was a good time. The highlight was getting to hang around with five gents from Scotland who play in a band there. They're excellent players and genuinely excellent people. They enjoyed the contest as a nice way to play with a good group (the quality of all players is excellent), while being able to relax. Since this band has only limited rehearsal time and no real "pressure" to perform, it makes a welcome change from the contest-driven schedule they keep in the much higher profile UK band scene.

The fact that some of these guys are proficient on instruments that don't get regular instruction in North American schools is fantastic. In particular, the soprano cornet and tenor horn guys were so adept at making music through their (foreign-to-me) instruments that it almost caused me to laugh out loud, in a way I do when I see something that is truly surprising. Shocking, even.

Just for the sake of confusion, I even managed to sit next to the only other person in the group named Andy. We only had a couple of moments of confusion all weekend from that: in rehearsal, it was usually very clear which of us was being addressed. Had the director a lazy eye, such that it would be impossible to determine which one he was looking at, the results would not have been so clear cut.

We (the Fountain City Brass Band) will be competing with their band (Kirkintilloch) directly in November. I'm assuming we'll both take the stage at the Scottish Open in competition, but afterwards do as adversaries do in law: strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends. I welcome the opportunity to compete on their stage and am interested to see the results. The judging will be anonymous, but I don't think there will be any doubt who the Yanks are: the Scottish and English bands have another sound altogether from what we produce. It will be interesting to see if there are points for "style" that we may lose, and whether or not they can be recovered by giving an effective musical performance.

It's bad enough to compete in the U.S. and fail; that only reflects on our band and Kansas City. But we're going to the U.K. as the two-year continuous champions of North America. I have no doubt we'll be referred to in some circles as "the Americans" indicating our representative status of being from "over there".

Can't wait for it, though. Should be a fantastic trip.

And I've wandered a bit from where I started! To sum up, the Army took excellent care of us, the band they put together had excellent people in every chair, and it was a thrilling good time. Can't wait for next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment