You feel this most of all if there is a social event right after the concert but, unfortunately, we have not held one of these in years. We used to hold post-conference receptions in the very halls in which we played, and those were nice opportunities to see our friends who had attended the concert, but they don't really qualify as cast parties.
This year two of the newer enthusiastic members of the band volunteered to be the "social committee". They asked me if I had any suggestions for a place to go after the concert, near where we were performing. I suggested the Pizza Luce on Franklin, where my Morris team often goes after practice. It is conveniently located and would have something for everybody's taste. They checked it out and talked to the management about how crowded the place might be on a Saturday night at 10pm and decided to go with it. They even printed up maps. These boys are thorough.
Based on past experience we didn't think many band members would attend, but we were wrong. There were at least forty of us, spread out among several tables. I was late, as expected, because it takes a long time to pack up the percussion equipment, so when I arrived I decided to sit at the bar with the delightfully extroverted trumpet player Mandy and her cosmetics-loving girlfriend Tiffany. Actually as I walked in Mandy simply demanded that I sit with them at the bar, that being her style. Mandy joined the band just after I left (within a couple of years she was serving as Presdent), so I didn't know her except to banter a bit from the back of the band room.
What fun! Mandy and Tiffany showed me how they flirt with straight female bartenders. What was amazing to me was how much this woman loved them, and their attention. There was an empty seat to my left, and over the next two hours different band members would get up from their tables and come and sit there. In retrospect, I realize that the five or six band members who came up, in turn, were all newer members whom I did not know. They seemed to enjoy this opportunity to connect a bit, after the long rehearsal season. At one point I gave up my Mandy-seat and went and mingled at the tables.
At another point I got to witness the Showing of the Tattoos. It turns out several of the women in the band (quiet reed players) have surprising tattoos in usually-hidden places. When two of the women realized they patronized the same tattoo artist their squeals of delight were like those of junior high school girls of my era discovering they liked the same Beatle.
The Minnesota Freedom Band now has members in their twenties and thirties and forties and fifties and sixties. Saturday night, after the concert, we were all one community. Men and women. Brass and percussion and woodwinds and double reeds. It was such a happy, happy time. Those two hours on Saturday night were, to me, the absolute worthwhile culmination of what really has felt like a burdensome rehearsal schedule for me (although rehearsals per se were never burdensome at all).
I won't be playing for the Spring season. It is Cotswold Morris season, and the Spring concert is a dance concert (for which they do not need me on percussion, as many of the pieces require a drum set only). I thought I would feel a sense of relief now, but in fact I'm feeling sad.
Which is very, very good.