Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Drums Along the Minnehaha

To my surprise -- as if I were suddenly transported there through no effort of my own -- I found myself at a Minnesota Freedom Band practice last night. Actually, the band is on summer break, but they agreed to play a small bandshell concert in Edina next Monday. I can pretty much picture how this happened, with a show of hands long enough ago that nobody remembers having committed to this. Playing this concert is, in fact, a good idea for a number of reasons, but the band is pretty depleted in the number of musicians who will be there. Without me, there would be only one other percussionist, which is how I got sucked into doing this.

[Here's the secret to getting me to do something, in case in should ever come up that you need to manipulate me: Convince me that it matters, that I matter, that my presence will make a difference. It's not all that easy to convince me of such a thing, by the way -- actually it's a lot harder than you might think -- but in this case the lone percussionist accidentally stumbled on the key (it was the look in his eye, to tell you the truth).]

The band is playing a set consisting entirely of pieces they worked on for their June concerts, which is how they are getting away with only one rehearsal for this concert. But for me it was a night of sight-reading. I actually love sight-reading, but I was concerned because I haven't played in a few years and besides my eyes aren't what they used to be, particularly in terms of how much light I need to sight-read. But it all went fine, except for a couple of funny little places. Well, funny to me and perhaps to others who've lived back there in the percussion section, and these are definitely only-once things that will not recur in concert:

- One measure of one piece had a very standard band rhythm: A four-beat measure, the first two beats right on the beat, and the second half of the measure divided into a triplet (one two one-two-three). The triplet notation was in a funny place on my music (it looked to apply to the snare part but not the bass drum part -- percussion music looks like no other music) and I was blithely pounding away oh so proud of my sight-reading when suddenly mid-measure I thought, "Why are there five beats in this measure"? By the time I figured it out we were a couple of measures beyond. This makes me laugh.

- One piece we are playing is a long extended arrangement of Strike up the Band which alternates between 4/4 and cut time -- mostly cut time. So I'm sight-reading my little heart out and continuously on the lookout for this change -- so ready not to miss it that I found it when it wasn't there. What happened was the music went into maestoso while in cut time, and who thinks of maestoso in cut time? So there I am, counting in four, while the rest of the band (and the conductor and the music) is counting in two. It took a bit of time for me to find my way back.

- If the light had been better I actually would have seen that tiny little comma just before the last measure of the Star Spangled Banner and paused along with the conductor instead of hitting my huge big final boom during the dramatic quiet moment.

Ok, I find all this funny. I realize most of you won't see why.

It really was a lot more fun than I feared it would be, and the practice flew by faster than I've ever felt a practice fly.
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