Archive for the ‘Rainbow City Band’ Category.

Look Of Love

As bad as I am about keeping up with current events here, I still hold it out as a more durable repository for my life events than Facebook (which I enjoy for its immediacy and instantaneous dialogue).  But there are some events that have a more permanent effect on me, and, at the risk of backtracking and cherry-picking, I’m going to recount one here.

Sometime in 2014 at a fund-raiser for Rainbow City Band, we purchased the opportunity for Mrs. Perils to sing with an affiliated jazz band I play trumpet in (Purple Passion Swing Band).  She selected a song from back in the days when we were courting, The Look Of Love (not because of nostalgia for me, she just liked the song and it was in our book).

We rehearsed it several times with the band, but didn’t know exactly when the opportunity would arise to perform it. Then it happened that the jazz band would perform after a formal Rainbow City Band concert, and that would be her opportunity to do the song.

The venue was dicey, a high school auditorium attached to the performance hall where RCB had played its concert, but the audience was almost totally RCB players, and it was sort of a VIP after-party.

When Mrs. Perils walked out for her number, she was wearing a sorta-little black dress, and was much appreciated by certain quarters of the audience.  A trombone player in my jazz band turned to me and asked, “Does she always look like that?”.  I shrugged noncommittally (well, she doesn’t wear that get-up around the house).

The effect on me of the performance was odd.  On one hand, I wanted to just listen to her sing; on the other hand, I had to devote most of my attention to playing trumpet in her backup band.

I think we both did well.  I had given my Canon S1-IS to someone to record the number, but he couldn’t make it work, so he switched to his iPhone, so the sound is not the best, and there are quite a few aural artifacts.  But there she is, my chanteuse, singing to an appreciative crowd:


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.

Autumn Adventure in Atlanta

Mrs. Perils and I returned to Atlanta a couple weeks ago to attend the LGBA (Lesbian & Gay Band Association) annual conference.  The conference is an occasion for musicians from member bands to congregate for an intense, but convivial, long weekend of music-making and fellowship.  Our Seattle-based Rainbow City Band hosted the conference in 2011, and we put nearly 300 musicians on the stage of the McCaw opera hall with awesome results.

When I saw that the 2013 conference would be in Atlanta, I leaped at the opportunity, as my baby brother lives in Alpharetta and I knew that my mom would be living in the area after we moved her down there from Ohio.  Ever since I joined the Rainbow City Band, I wished that my mom could attend a concert.  In fact, for a lot of my life I’ve experienced events like plays or concerts at least partially through the lens of “my mom would really like this” or, if I were a participant, “I wish mom could hear this”.  Of course, she’d heard us play with the TBDBITL OSU alumni band, but she’d never been able to hear my Rainbow City Band, and I thought that the Atlanta LGBA gig would introduce her to my late adult brand of music-making.  However, the onset of her terminal disease made this a remote possibility, and she died two weeks short of our performance.

Since all the arrangements had been made and tickets purchased, and because my brother and SIL were still willing to sacrifice their ears to the concert, we journeyed to Atlanta to participate.  It was a great decision.  My attraction to the Rainbow City Band, beginning with my first rehearsal, was its spirit and love of music, and the euphoria attending the Atlanta rehearsals and impromptu gatherings was infectious.

The weekend was pretty ambitious, as we were playing 11 pieces for a symphonic concert, plus 4 numbers for a marching band performance in the Atlanta Pride parade.  We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and had a music rehearsal that evening. Friday brought two more concert band rehearsals, then a marching band rehearsal in the evening.  Saturday morning, we had another concert band rehearsal, and returned to Georgia Tech for our evening concert.  Sunday morning we walked to the start of the Pride Parade in lovely weather and played for vociferous and enthusiastic crowds along the parade route.

Here’s a video I made from my SIL’s iPhone recordings of our concert, plus a recording I made of a marching band warmup:

And here’s a link to a page where all of the music we played can be heard.

While the busy schedule preoccupied me, and I was gratified that my brother and SIL seemed to genuinely enjoy the concert, I still had to reckon with the feeling of playing to an empty chair.  My mom would have loved this concert, my heart aches that she didn’t get to hear it.  I play the video and still want to call her to hear her reaction.

Later in the weekend, my brother and I went to our mom’s apartment to retrieve some items that required some heavy lifting.  It was so strange to go back to that stillborn domesticity, at once so familiar with the furniture of our childhood and the juicer I’d used to entice her waning appetite during my recent visits, versus the otherworldly absence of her resilient spirit.

I’m thinking it’s not over.  I’ll be playing to that empty chair as long as I play music.

R.I.P. Mom 9/14/27 - 9/26-13

Can’t think of a better requiem than this number from our RCB concert last spring.  Like her, it’s at once both lyrical and fierce. While you’re listening, check out the anecdotes of her life as I collect them.  Feel free, if you knew her, to add anecdotes in comments below, or email, and I’ll incorporate them in the body of the post.

I’m gonna record some favorite anecdotes about my mom here, and it won’t happen all at once, I’ll be adding to this post as the muse grabs me.

  • I don’t know a lot about her young life, since we were not often in touch with her family in Lancaster, but one thing that she related about her time in high school amused me.  She said that she and some friends would meet in an alley or somewhere either before or after school to gossip, maybe smoke?, or just hang.  She said they called this meeting place “the heath”, a reference to the Weird Sisters scene in Macbeth.  You go for years thinking your parents are bland and pedestrian, and then some something endearingly literate like this bubbles up.
  • We had some testy interchanges about cars.  5 generations of my dad’s family (including me) made their living supplying glass to General Motors, and the American auto industry was our sugar daddy during the 50s and 60s.  When it came time for me to buy a car, though, that industry had surrendered its technological and qualitative edge to Japanese companies, attempting to compete not with innovation and quality but with import quotas and government subsidy.  The only new car I’ll ever buy was purchased in 1985, a Honda Civic wagon.  In later conversations with my mom, I’d talk about my disgust with the American auto industry and its failure to manufacture cars that met the quality and emissions standards of the Japanese cars.  She steadfastly castigated my assertions, and averred that the guys running Honda and Toyota were the same guys that were shooting at her high school friends who were sent to the Pacific theater.  It was hard to press my factual argument against her passionate and visceral position.
  • The joke she never tired of telling: A tipsy fellow is using a shortcut through a graveyard to get home from his watering hole when he comes upon a freshly-dug open grave, dirt piled to the side. As he approaches, he hears the plaintive cries of what is certainly a fellow inebriate who has fallen into the excavation, “Help! I’m so cold!”  The first fellow staggers carefully to the edge of the excavation and says, “Well no wonder you’re cold - you’ve kicked off all your dirt!” and proceeds to push the adjacent dirt into the hole.
  • Mom went to Ohio State after graduating from high school, with an idea of pursuing speech and/or journalism.  She ran headlong into swarms of GI-Bill veterans who were flooding campuses, and found her classes dominated by them.  She became intimidated as the faculty began to cant the classes to the GI’s, and recalled more than one professor addressing the women in the increasingly male-dominated classes as “pursuing their MRS degrees”.She met my dad (a GI-Bill vet) at OSU, they married and I was conceived in view of Ohio Stadium.  I think she always regretted not advancing to a degree, but the times were what they were, and she became a more typical 5os stay-at-home mom.  She wasn’t bitter, but I think she wanted more than she got from her college experience.
  • My parents were lifelong registered Republicans in Ohio, and it shaped my early political outlook.  I remember wearing Nixon/Lodge pins to class in the 6th grade in 1960 and, in my first election as a legal voter, I selected Richard Nixon over George McGovern, to my eternal shame.As the years progressed, Mom continued to cleave to the ideal of the progressive conservative that was never dominant in the Republican party, but that was at least prominent in its rhetoric.  A church-going woman, she became increasingly disgusted by the ideological poisoning of politics by religious and backwards factions, and so much of her conversation became stridently opposed to the party she was registered to vote for.  This one time in the early aughts, we were walking while she was bitching vehemently about anti-abortion Republicans that dominated Ohio politics, and I asked her why she was still registered as a Republican.  I honestly think it was a question she’d never posed to herself, she was so imbued with family-generated inertia.  I’m pretty sure that, within a week of that haphazard conversation, she changed her registration to Democrat and never looked back.Had she lived, she might have been the only Democratic vote in her adopted Georgia county.
  • From her neighbors Dave and Lana who lived in my grandparents’ place next door: “We were blessed to have Carol and Mickey as neighbors and as friends. Carol’s life should be an example to all of us.  Her gentleness ad selflessness was something to be admired.  Carol’s words of wisdom will remain with me as a mother and a friend. Thank you for sharing your mother with us! : (Mom:) Don’t worry about what your house looks like..invite people in”.
  • Watch this space…

What I Did With My Summer Vacation

Well, the rest of it, anyway, since my last post derived from our Ashland trip.  Most years, the Ashland trip in late June IS my summer vacation, because I’m forced to plan it in November; similarly ambitious ventures for the rest of the summer remain figments of my imagination due to lack of focus and total inability to plan, and Labor Day hits me like a wrong-way drunk on the interstate.

This summer, however, events contrived to afford me several additional adventures.  That’s owing in no small part to the fact that I’m not flying to Milwaukee a week a month any more, due to a persistent downturn in my client’s business.  I’d been making that trek for the last 11 or 12 years, and the rhythm and routine of travel, the Road Warrior’s mentality, has been a huge part of my life.  That monthly trip would pretty much take out two weekends, as I’d fly out on Sunday morning and land at SeaTac around midnight on Friday night.  I had become far too wrapped up in the Frequent Flyer mindset of whether I’d get upgraded, and scheming about how to squeeze in enough miles in a year (75k) to make Platinum, instead of lowly Gold (50k).  My last trip to Milwaukee was in December, and I haven’t checked into, where “elites” bitch endlessly about every little imagined indignity the airlines are visiting on them, in months.  If you’ve seen Up In The Air, you’ve gotten a whiff of that mindset.

I still work with my client remotely, and I can’t say I don’t miss that full week’s revenue, but so much stress has slaked off of my life this year since I don’t have to screw myself up to slog through TSA, and hole up in hotels furtively practicing my trumpet and making serially bad dietary decisions.  I’m Gold on Delta for the rest of the year, but I’m resigned to being mere Silver next year, and permanently consigned to steerage thereafter.

So, on to the rest of the summer.  One benefit of not traveling was that I got to participate fully in my band’s  marching season.  We played some really fun music, and played in parades in Seattle, Bellingham, Kirkland and Vancouver, BC.  The jewel in the marching season’s crown, however, was the wedding of two dear bandmates on a San Francisco-esque foggy August day in West Seattle.  We were commissioned to play the processional and recessional, but the wedding guests were digging it enough that we played a few more numbers, and I was grateful, as it was our last performance and I really didn’t want to let go of the summer’s music. The video begins with nieces of the brides waving rainbow streamers in lieu of carrying flowers. You might consider, in the future, why your wedding shouldn’t include a marching band. (password is “RCB” in caps):

(video here)

Check out the brides’ private moshpit as the Black-Eyed Peas recessional draws to a close.

I’m not a crier, generally, and I’ve probably attended fewer than 10 weddings.  My record is still clean, but it was very affecting to observe the joy of the brides, and their parents and families.  If possible, it was more moving to observe the couples in my band as the ceremony, so emblematic of their struggle - our struggle - progressed, sniffling, holding hands so tightly that their entwined arms evoked a metaphor of nothing so much as a wishbone.  Can you tell me with a straight face that marriage needs protection from people who yearn for it this fervently?

The brides still needed to drive to Iowa to become completely legal.  Fucking Iowa.

Well, what else did I do?  Oh, yeah, there was that 6-day, 5-night kayak-camping trip in Desolation Sound, BC.  I think it needs its own post. Watch this space (click to enlarge).


Here’s a podcast with all of our RCB 2011 marching music, recorded at band camp a couple of weeks ago.  The recording was made in a cavernous room with no acoustics, during our last session on Sunday, so lips are a bit tattered and the sound is what it is.  Still, I think you can tell how much fun we’re having with this.

The theme is Dance Party, and our music director tried to make selections from the last 4 decades:

Gonna Make You Sweat
Ladies’ Night
I Gotta Feeling
Land of a Thousand Dances
Four Minutes
Soul Bossa Nova
You Dropped A Bomb On Me
Hey, Baby

More about band camp later.

Band Geeks Only

Some recordings of our parade music from band camp.  They’re a long way from the Sheherazade of our spring concert!  Percussion is way over-emphasized in these due to the room where we did the recording, but it’s OK by me because they bring it righteously.  We’re a little light in some areas (we march about 45, half the size of our concert band.  And only one clarinet?!  Calling Mrs. Perils…), but I hafta say, in my unbiased opinion, the trumpets ride into each song like the damn cavalry.  You really have to be a band geek to play more than one or two of these, or else you want multiple 80s-era flashbacks.  I’m posting them mostly for my marching-band brother, and maybe my mom.

I think these are going to be really fun in the parades we have scheduled this summer.  As we practice marching through the neighborhood near our rehearsal space, we pick up a camp following of kids and adults as they come out of their houses in slack-jawed amazement (and maybe annoyance), and then follow us gleefully from block to block.  I like to think we’ve given them a little ray of sunshine in this extended spring of gloomy weather.

Jai Ho, the theme song from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Interesting mixture of Indian rhythms and motifs and pop-song refrain.

Pick Up The Pieces. Your Average White Band.  Nice trumpet breakout in the middle:

Mas Que Nada, a sultry samba.  It’ll be summer here sometime… I first heard this in college by Sergio Mendes/Brasil 66. We do a drill routine during the 16-bar percussion feature:

Let’s Groove - Earth, Wind & Fire.

Bad Romance, Lady Gaga. Not an 80s song.

Don’t Stop - Fleetwood Mac:

Soak Up The Sun - Sheryl Crow:

Americans We - Henry Fillmore. Just to show you we can play a straight-on Fourth of July march. And follow the dynamics now & then:

Gimme Some Lovin’:


Drumline cadence when we’re marching, not playing.  You really have to be a band geek to listen to this:

Camping, Musically

Still chewing on May here.  One of the fun things we did was band camp with Rainbow City Band.  It was held over a weekend at Fort Worden in Port Townsend (where most of the movie Officer and a Gentleman was filmed), and it represents sort of a breakpoint between the sit-down concert season and the less-structured marching season.  The fun started on a Friday night with a music rehearsal (of course), then a talent show that sounded like a gas.  We missed it, because I was out of town the week before, and didn’t arrive at SeaTac until nearly midnight Friday.

Mrs. Perils & I got up at 5 Saturday morning in order to catch a ferry at 6:10, as I really wanted to attend all of the planned activities on Saturday.  And planned they were.  Even as a late arrival, I still participated in 1 sectional, three music rehearsals and 3 marching/playing rehearsals in about 36 hours. In between, there were festive mealtimes in a dining hall where we sat at various tables and really got acquainted with other band members.  Our Tuesday rehearsals are so tightly focused, and the space is so cramped, that I actually had not met many of the people from the other side of the band. I was gratified by the warm and ready acceptance of Mrs. Perils, and of us as an entity.

The piece de resistence occurred Saturday night. The theme for the weekend was Alice In Wonderland and, after our post-dinner music rehearsal came a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  All of the communications about Band Camp had encouraged costumes, but since I was out of town the previous week I never got anything together. This, as it turns out, was a huge mistake.  The costumes at the party ranged from clever to extravagant.  There was a fully-formed green caterpillar with a hookah, Tweedle Dee & Dum, a Cheshire Cat, various playing cards including the Queen of Hearts with a formidable-looking axe, and one or two Alices in drag.  The costume that tickled me the most, however, was a guy in street clothes with a pregnancy tester hanging around his neck.  When we asked what he was supposed to be, he looked at it, frowned, and said, “I’m LATE! I’m LATE! I’m LATE for a very important DATE!”  There were numerous tables with various board and card games going on, and every 20 minutes or so, the Mad Hatter would scurry around the room forcing people to move and mix with others at different games.  Among all of the wine and other beverages and hors d’oeuvres, someone uncorked a huge barrel of a deadly concoction called Strip and Go Naked (contents: beer, lemonade, vodka), as if this occasion needed more encouragement.

We slept in a large dormitory building that used to be barracks at the Fort, and the organizer thoughtfully polled everyone regarding their bedtime/noise level preferences, and arranged our accommodations accordingly.  We were fortunate to land at the end of the “quiet” folks, as there was apparently an after-party to the tea party that left one wing of the band decidedly fuzzy Sunday morning.

At one point during our marching practice, we were approaching a chapel in which a wedding had just been consummated, and it was our (or their) misfortune that we were just finishing Bad Romance (Lady Gaga).  We tried to make it up to them by playing Over The Rainbow and Don’t Stop, but I’m not sure they were amused, and it seemed politic for us to hie ourselves to another part of the facility.  One other amusing thing: a guy who played French horn during concert season is playing Glockenspiel for marching, explaining that he’s bisectional.

We got a lot of work done, and had a great time.  Even got several beach walks in (click to enlarge):

The trumpet section…and the perspective of the drumline


(Ed: Looks like this got stuck in my Wordpress queue and never got published.)

It’s hard to comprehend, but I’ve run out of April here in Seattle.  Tomorrow I head for Milwaukee for a week; on Friday, I fly to Atlanta to attend a Microsoft software extravaganza called Convergence; on the following Wednesday, Mrs. Perils will join me in Atlanta, and we’ll fly on to Myrtle Beach, SC for our annual family reunion at the Litchfield resort.  When I get back to Seattle, it’ll be May.  2010.  The lilacs, just budding now, will likely be gone.

I continue to play my trumpet.  The Rainbow City Band has entered its summer “marching season”.  I was wary at first, because what I liked about the band was the quality of musicianship and the challenging music we have played in our concert incarnation.  The “marching” rehearsals have sorta disabused me of this wariness, as the director has carefully chosen pieces to perform, and breaks us down and makes us play them with a high level of musicianship.  He avows that we’re a “concert band that marches”, a theme that I like.  A sampling:

  • Jai Ho - the Bollywood-ish theme from Slumdog Millionaire.  It’s an interesting mix of Indian meter and American song standard, and the rhythms are challenging.
  • Soak Up The Sun - I have always liked Sheryl Crow
  • Let’s Groove - Earth, Wind & Fire is great outdoor music
  • Mas Que Nada - a little Brazilian touch to offset the funk
  • Pick Up The Pieces - Average White Band

What I think is happening here is, we’re reprising our director’s salad-day soundtrack.  We’ll perform in several parades during the summer, and I’m thinking it will be a lot of fun.

I’ve also been whoring around with another community concert band on Thursday nights that plays more standard fare like Oklahoma, Music Man, etc.  Not as demanding as 1812 Overture, to be sure, but amiable, and I find it preferable to lace up and play with a group than schlep down to the basement to practice.  And I continue to take a lesson now & then, and play trumpet trios with my teacher and another of her adult students.  We may do a recital later this summer, if we can settle on 4 or 5 of the gaggle of stuff we’ve been experimenting with.

Out Like Soggy Wool

After a premature warm spell that got everything blooming and budding early, our weather has been drippy and chilly for two weeks or more, and the light in the evening is often the only sign of progress in this stillborn spring.  I think it’s driven me to “cocoon” a bit - there have been a couple of days lately that I didn’t leave the house at all.

The NCAA basketball tournament may have had a lot to do with that.  At first, when Ohio State was playing, I felt compelled to watch, both their games and, of course all the others, because you never know which of the other teams they might end up playing; then, after OSU bowed out in the Sweet 16, it became merely an excuse to dally.  Since all the games are now available via online streaming, I could sit with a game on one of my dual computer screens, pull up a spreadsheet on the other and tell myself I was multitasking.  Didn’t even need a “boss” key.

The license to sloth ended Monday night with a thrilling championship game, however, and I need to get out & get active a little more.  I’ve been barely maintaining: biking to the gym every second day but, other than a leisurely 12-mile kayak trip a week ago, the bulk of my other exercise has been walking to restaurants.

I’ve had a chance to process the videos Mrs. Perils took of my band’s From Russia With Love concert.  Here are my favorites, not necessarily in that order.  My camera records sound nicely in stereo, but likes to normalize extremes, so these sound better at higher volumes than lower:

Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance and Finale from the Firebird.  Relentlessly driving, then a gorgeous horn solo before the finale.

Shostakovich 5th Symphony Finale:

1812 Overture.  Sprawling with thematic ebb & flow, 15 minutes long.  Amusing when Mrs. P figures out where the “cannon” is coming from:

The whole concert here.

OK, I’m going to go act on my assertion above.  Still drippy & cold, but it’s a downhill ride to the gym.