Nearly summer, and I almost turned the heat on this morning. Not complaining, I’ve learned to relish the coolness here, and to play out the possibility of a sunny day like I would a wily fish. If I were a fisherman, which I’m not.
I’m going to do bullet-blogging just to catch up, but they will not necessarily be chronological.
- We’re still all-in with the Rainbow City Band. Our spring concert in early April was an interesting, and stressful, experience. We were playing challenging music, but, really, not more challenging than the other spring concerts I’ve been involved with (spring is when we play our most challenging music, after a light-hearted fall and semi-serious holiday concert). But 2 weeks before the concert, I was really reluctant to invite people, because we just weren’t locking in, people were missing rehearsals, and I was just not confident that we’d sound good. Then the Tuesday and Friday rehearsals before the Saturday concert, everything clicked together like bank safe tumblers, and I like these numbers as well or better than any other year. The theme was An American Tale, and paid homage to American composers and, to an extent, folk memes. I wish I’d invited everyone I know. These recordings are not RCB-official, they were made by someone in the audience with a cell phone, but you get the idea:
- America The Beautiful, the Carmen Dragon version that I’d played and recorded in high school. There are a lot of moving parts here, it’s deceptively facile, but I think the balance and dynamics are excellent.
- Shenandoah. As settlers fanned out across the American west, they clung to a nostalgia for their eastern homes. This is one of the most evocative instances. Compare to the much cruder “Sweet Betsy From Pike“!
- My favorite piece of the concert, not as readily accessible, is a piece called Ghost Train. The ghost train recurs in early American lore, based on the idea that trains that experienced catastrophic wrecks could be seen plying phantom tracks late at night, especially if you’ve imbibed enough vision-enhancing grog. The piece starts with a ghostly flute solo, then quickly invokes the metallic clangor of the brass as the engine prepares to leave the station. A prolonged buildup as the train gains momentum gives way abruptly to a distant view as the train trundles across the prairie, emitting flute-smoke. Drama builds to a climax as the train either reaches its destination or encounters its mythic fate.
- Variations on a Shaker Theme from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. I’ve always loved this Copland piece, I recall driving from Ohio to Boston on the New York Thruway in the mid-70s, and I was playing Appalachian Spring just as it was dawning and we passed through a preserve somewhere in western New York. We could have used a week or two more rehearsal on this piece(cough-trumpets-cough), but the finale is worth waiting for.
- Overcome, our finale, is the quintessential theme of the evolving struggle for legitimacy in America. Here, it’s nuanced through minor melodies in the woodwinds leading up to a triumphal climax in the brass, followed by a sweet denouement in the low brass and woodwinds.
- So now it’s on to marching season. We perform in parades throughout the summer, and it’s a major transition from sit-and-play-pretty to going outside and music-in-motion. We rehearse on the streets of the neighborhood in Wedgwood where our concert band rehearses, and we’ve garnered a coterie of children and parents who follow us as we find our legs, learn horn flashes and maneuvers and try to make music. It’s not pretty at first, but the kids seem to like it, and when we’re done we give little mini-clinics on how, exactly, we elicit music from the arcane plumbing and buzz-making apparatus that we lug around.
- Marching season inevitably leads to Band Camp, a retreat we take at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know our bandmates a little better even as we work hard over 3 days to improve our marching technique and play well while we’re doing it. It can lead to fun random encounters, as when Mrs. Perils and I were walking the beach with a new band member, and we’re completing each other’s sentences about stuff that happened decades ago, and this person, perplexed, asks, “Are you two RELATED?”
- I continue to do my multi-modal commute to my main client south of town 3-4 days a week. I ride my bike 6 miles to the northern end of the bus tunnel, then throw my bike on the bus’ bike rack for the long haul to Tukwila. I get several good hill-climbs each way, and I figure it nicely supplants the exercise benefit I used to get when I ran around Greenlake most evenings.
- Mrs. Perils and I have forged a mini-tradition of weekend urban hiking, setting off in various directions from our house to explore this city we’ve come to love. There are surprises around every corner, and we’re treated to mountain views, salt-water city parks and opulent restaurants, all without putting a key in our car’s ignition.