Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

I enjoyed a a couple of good rehearsals last week. There's nothing you can do
to ensure absolutely that you will have a good rehearsal. You cannot guarantee
the sort of magic energetic feeling a good rehearsal can engender. All you
can do is keep plugging away, showing up week after week and giving your all.
It is that showing up week after week with a group of people who are joining
you in commitment that creates the setting that a good rehearsal requires. But
there is no set formula with reproducible results.

Band practice on Monday night was close enough to our December 13 performance
that the music is coming together, which is always a joyful time in the rehearsal
sequence, but it was far enough away from the performance that we were not yet
frightened about the more dubious areas. Our current conductors, Beth and Jacki,
are sweet and likable. There are different approaches that conductors take, and both
Beth and Jacki take what I call the "non-shaming" approach. There is light
banter throughout the practice, but there is never a doubt that every individual in
the room is working hard. Everybody wants to play their best. Everybody wants to
please Beth and Jacki (that likability and charm thing carries you pretty far).

In the three years I've been on leave from the band a small group of new members
has arrived, some men and women in their twenties who have become friends with
each other, forming their own clique of "kids" within the band. Now that I've
been coming for a few weeks, these folks I didn't know have begun to engage
me in conversation during break, to say nice things about having a mallet player
in the room. While we were standing around waiting for the Holidazzle Parade to
begin last week, two of these new young women and I talked about their sense of
gay community, about why they joined the band, about how they were in elementary
school when I helped start the lesbian and gay band in Boston in 1984. We know
our lives were very different, and in time we'll talk more about this. This doesn't
make me feel old at all; this makes me feel respected and welcome.

When you work through a practice each week, you develop a sense of comfort with
the other players. This takes the place of introductory small talk. You play
your instruments together for a while, and you have a bond. It's true. And
experience has shown me that the bond is real, even long term. I was reminded
of this at last week's practice, as we worked to make our music and as I felt
less like a outsider guest musician and more part of the group.

As I say, we had a good rehearsal.

A good Morris dance practice is something different. At a good Morris dance
practice, the room resonates with physical energy. The musicians take risks,
the dancers hold nothing back, there are puns and jokes and songs, and then
you go out for beer. I'm not sure this will explain the mood to those who've
never experienced this, but while we were drinking our beer and eating our
post-practice French Fries we found ourselves singing a song for the musician
who had recently been let go from her job:

Lost my job, what'll I do?
Lost my job, what'll I do?
Lost my job, what'll I do?
Skip to my Lou my darling.

I think everybody needs a group of people in their lives with whom to sing
something like this during frightening times. I think a Morris Dance team
is, by definition, that group of people.

Last Tuesday we had a good turnout and many musicians. Two of the dancers brought
their trumpets (neither has played seriously in many years, although one has been
practicing in secret). So there was a c-melody sax, two trumpets, two accordions,
a pipe and tabor, a clarinet, a concertina, and a bass drum. Traditionally a
Border dance band consists of whatever local musicians are available. We abide
by that tradition.

I can't exactly say the music was harmonic. In fact, I can't exactly say that
the two trumpets ever played quite the same note at the same time. But we
all had fun.

There was a sufficiency of dancers as well, clashing their sticks and learning
a couple of new dances. A week with a couple of new dances and a brass section
at practice is a good week.

So it was a good week.
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