Archive for the ‘Rainbow City Band’ Category.


I thought I’d get my monthly post out of the way early here in March.  I know that’s not how I usually do things, but here we are.

Since we last chatted, I’ve been to Milwaukee and back, destroyed a Macbook by spilling hotel-brewed tea and taken a couple of trumpet lessons.  Among other things, of course.  I’m a vibrant and fascinating fellow.

The Macbook incident was particularly galling.  I’d done this before - coffee vs. Dell laptop.  The Dell warranty I had, however, covered stupid stuff that owners did as well as hardware failures, and I got a free motherboard replacement.  While my Macbook was still covered under Applecare, I believe that Apple presumes that Macbooks are all operated by Geniuses® who would not under any circumstance fuck up the liquid/gravity/Macbook relationship.  I got a “D” in high school physics, however (I lied about it when I filled out my application to own a Macbook), and there’s a fine-print Applecare exception for people like me.  The repair was estimated at up to $1200 if the system board had to be replaced (likely).

This happened on Tuesday of the week I was in Milwaukee.  I limped through the week working on various desktops at my client’s, and lugged the corpse home Friday night.  I spent a day dithering about whether to repair or replace, which sounds like I was engaged in critical thinking, but I was just wallowing in the Grief stage. Then I started looking around Craigslist for a replacement.

I ended up finding a 17″ Macbook 2008 vintage (the dearly departed was a 15″ 2008), stopped at the bank for a wad of Benjamins and made a UW student’s Sunday night. I had done a Timemachine backup in early January, so I was able to get my system, including my Windows VMWare machine, back as of that point.  I had determined that my old hard drive was undamaged, so I looked up detailed instructions on how to extract it from my old Mac (the Internet is the best thing since people learned to make arrowheads out of flint).  I put the drive in a casing and brought my system pretty much up to the Milwaukee Valdez incident. All of that took me up to last weekend.  Little fires flare up now & then, and I’m behind on my billing and a few other things, but life is pretty much back to normal.


The trumpet lessons have been an interesting turn of events.  I haven’t had a trumpet lesson since I was a sophomore in high school.  Since I’ve been playing regularly, however, I find myself wanting to improve a bit.  I found an instructor and signed up for an initial session.  It helped quite a bit, as she espied some bad breathing and embouchure technique I’d either fallen into or always had, and I got a nice handful of new exercises to practice.

She also got the idea to hook up with another of her adult students and have the three of us play trumpet trios.  I’ve done that twice now, and it’s fun - I can hear myself in a way I can’t when I’m playing with the full band, and it pushes me into higher ranges, as we trade off parts.  We may try to do some performances if things proceed.

In band, our Russian concert on the 19th and 20th looms.  We had an “extra” rehearsal Saturday (we usually rehearse Tuesday evenings), playing 1812 and Sheherazade, and I thought the wheels fell off in a few places.  There are a lot of solo bits and “bikini note” exposures where intonation is critical.

A couple of funny bits from rehearsal:

  • We were stopped for a bit, and the conductor was admonishing us to play as loudly as we could during a crescendo, but not to lose control of tone quality or intonation. Once we got outside our control envelope, he said, “it’s like a little old lady walking a Rottweiler.”
  • We were rehearsing 1812 Overture, and really working on some passages, always approaching, but never playing, the triumphant climax. About the fourth time we were locked & loaded to drive Napoleon back to Europe, but stopped just short, a woman trumpet player next to me said, “this is Tantric music.” (Her point was that the whole piece is just an extended tease until the ending, but the rehearsal situation made it all the more humorous)

Boris, Dollink - Where Are Moose and Squirrel?

Just returned Friday night from a week in frigid Milwaukee, where temps hovered in the single digits. I once again schlepped my trumpet along, but this time I added a bit of technology that I learned about a couple of weeks ago (click to engorge):

It’s from Yamaha, called “Silent Brass”. The black mute in the bell of the trumpet almost completely silences my playing, a mercy to anyone in adjoining rooms. A pickup wire from the mute runs through an amplification device, and I can hear myself as if I were playing with an open bell. I had to remove an earbud a couple of times to be sure I wasn’t actually peeling the paint at full volume. Yamaha makes an assortment of these devices for various brass instruments, including tubas!

It’s a good thing that I got to play during the week, because we got the music for our March concert over the past month, and it’s pretty daunting. The theme of the concert is From Russia With Love. Yes, we’re playing a Bond theme or two, but the meat of the concert is:

  • Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition
  • Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture
  • Stravinsky’s Danse Infernal and Finale from The Firebird
  • 4th movement of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony
  • Scheherazade - Rimsky-Korsakoff

There’s a lot of trumpet-playing there, and a lot is at high volume. The 1812 and the Shostakovich are each close to 15 minutes long. Mrs. Perils says I should be doing push-ups with my lips. But then, she’s been saying that for decades.

So one night we’re about to rehearse Firebird, and I turn to the guy beside me, who’s younger than I but past his 30s for sure, and ask him if he knew that Yes used to play a recording of the Firebird finale as a prelude to taking the stage. Well, he’s heard of Yes, of course, and liked them, but had never seen them live as I had several times in the 70s. We’re stopped for a bit before playing the last several ecstatic bars, and I tell him this is the point where Rick Wakeman swirls behind his bank of keyboard in his cape and blends in with the crescendo. Blank stare.

The Yamaha kit does one other cool thing - it lets you plug in an mp3 player and play along with music. I’ve obtained this recording by the US Army Field Band of the Shostakovich, and have been curious if it’s the same arrangement we’re playing. Last night, I wired up with my iPod, put my music on the stand and played along, including counting all the rests. This is indeed the same arrangement:

The trumpet part consists of two pages with enough rest bars that we should probably put in leave requests; the clarinets, on the other hand, have 8 pages.

Here’s a video of the OSU Marching Band singing, playing and performing a drill to the 1812 (this is definitely not my band - it’s the 21st century version). There are fireworks, of course, but the interesting thing here is the choral excellence, and the fact that, despite being strung across 90 yards, they’re right on the beat:

When I was in the OSU band, we played a version of the Firebird finale.  If I can find it on my moldering vinyl collection, I’ll rip it and post.


Christmas arrived like a summer storm, and I’ve been running a little ragged.  I’ll be back here soon.  Meantime, here’s a nice number from our holiday concert last Sunday.  I’m in the group of trumpets on the right of the stage. (turn it UP!):

More videos from the concert collected here:

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas day.

Lip Service

So I continue to play in a concert band.  We’re busily rehearsing for a holiday concert on Sunday, 12/20, and the trumpets just have a ton of playing to do.  Stamina could definitely be an issue, so I’ve been practicing at home a little bit longer, and working to extend my comfortable range a bit higher.  The basement spiders should be hibernating now, so I don’t think I’m disturbing their ecosystem.

Another amusing director quote: Anita, the associate director, was rehearsing a piece we’re playing called Three Klezmer Miniatures.  In places there are intricate rhythms that need to be traded back and forth between sections, and the other night we started out a little out of sync.  She stopped the band and said, “If anyone were dancing to you guys, they’d be hurting themselves.”

To get you in the mood, here’s the piece we’ll be starting our concert with (again, not our band):

Let’s Put Up The Tree, Already

At practice last night, we exchanged our TVLand music for the first burst of music for our holiday concert on December 20. The two pieces we sight-read were pretty challenging, and I think that brought us out of a post-concert daze.  One of the pieces was a movement from Gustav Holst’s Winter Suite.  It features antiphonal fanfares from the trumpets, and we experimented with placing pockets of trumpet players in various places around what will be the stage.  It was really exhilarating.  If you go here, there’s an icon you can press to hear the piece (note: that’s not our band).

I’m usually pretty late getting down with the holidays, as my slap-dash gift-giving attests, and look with disdain on the desperate cacophony of holiday commercials that seems to start right after Halloween.  But, after this last practice, my head is in December already.

Also, I finally pieced together photos and video from the OSU band reunion in September here.  It’s taken me a while to get used to the Mac multimedia stuff, iMovie and iPhoto.

Concerted Effort

My Rainbow City Band had its fall concert Friday night.  The theme was TVLand, and we played music from several decades of television shows.  You wonder what kind of petri dish that earworms incubate in?  Look no further:

  • Muppet Show Theme
  •  Star Wars Through The Years
  • West Wing
  • Brady Bunch
  • Olympic Fanfare
  • Mission Impossible
  • Golden Girls
  • Sitcom Medley

We had a “technical rehearsal” at the concert venue the previous Tuesday, in order to get used to the tighter seating, its effect on what we could hear, and to coordinate various announcements and multimedia.  I was a little worried, as it seemed our numbers only sounded good the second time we played them, and there were some technical glitches that I didn’t think actually got fixed.

I was also a little dismayed that, at that point, we’d only sold 150 of the 300 seats in the hall.

Not to worry on either count.  We had a surge of walk-up business, and had to turn a lot of people away.  And, once the curtain opened and the baton came down, we were very tight and focused.  I was thrilled with the entire enterprise.

There was one moment of peril on the night of the performance.  During intermission, the people preparing for an Archie and Edith Bunker skit discovered that no one had bought beer, which apparently was a featured part of the skit.  I volunteered to run up the street and buy a can, and off I went.   As I was running at a dead flat sprint out of the convenience store on the corner of Broadway and Madison with a pair of Budweiser tallboys dangling from my hand, I passed an idling SPD squad car, and my skin started to crawl.  I’m pretty sure that it was the tux that saved me.

The ‘Bones Join In The Battle Of The Saxes

Another gem from band practice tonight, as our director exhorted us to blend and be aware of each other (with a sly grin):

“I want you to listen closely as you insert yourselves into each other’s parts.”

Mouthpiece is still lodged somewhere south of my duodenum.

Also, as a sort of maturation of the metaphor our director used in this post, notes that people have that are particularly exposed have come to be referred to by the shorthand “bikini notes”.


At band practice last night, perhaps the best music teacher metaphor, male band director division: the flutes and oboes reached a spot in a piece where they were in unison (playing the same note), and exposed (not many other parts playing), and they were, well, a bit out of tune.

Our conductor stops the band and says, “Well, that spot at measure ## sounded kind of like when you wear your bikini for the first time in the summer, and you don’t have your baseline tan yet.”

My mouthpiece is still somewhere in my small intestine.

Minority Status

So I spent Labor Day weekend in Ohio performing with my OSU alumni marching band at the OSU-Navy game.  Since I don’t like to have the Friday evening music rehearsal in Columbus be the first time my mouthpiece has touched my lips in a year, I spend an August week or two prior to the reunion down in the basement blatting away just to develop some muscle tone in my lips.

This year, I added a bit of a wrinkle.  Each year when the OSU reunion weekend is over, I lament a bit that, having built up to a playing level relatively devoid of pain, I then park my trumpet in the closet for another year.  So a few weeks ago I Googled around for community bands.

I received an email that a band was starting up its fall concert band schedule, and it seemed a very opportune time to check them out and also to get in some meaningful playing ahead of the 2009 OSU reunion.  So I showed up for practice and I’m impressed with the size of the group (75+), the instrumentation and the friendly enthusiasm.

As rehearsal begins, I’m even more deeply impressed with their musicianship and overall sound.  We play for about an hour, and then there’s a break.  They go through a set of announcements, blah blah, and my ears prick up a bit when the word “community” arises more than once.  Then there’s mention of the Pride Parade in a tone more proprietary than merely participative; and finally, when they begin to discuss a Labor Day weekend trip by many of them to something called the LGBA convention in New Orleans, the nickel finally drops.

I don’t know why the name Rainbow City Band didn’t clue me in.  Probably because we refer to Seattle in so many different ways: The Emerald City, The Jet City, Queen City (no hint of suspicion there, either).  “Rainbow” simply suggested something inclusive, maybe a little Jesse Jackson-ish.  And I must not have perused the web site, relying instead on my email communication with this fellow.

So there I was, enjoying playing with a fine group of musicians, directed by two terrific folks whose day jobs are as middle school band directors, harboring a guilty secret, feeling like an impostor.  I played through the rehearsal anyway, since I valued the reps ahead of the OSU reunion and was enjoying myself musically in a way that I hadn’t in decades.

Then, at the end, I outed myself to the membership chairman and was prepared for a nice-knowin’-ya.  Instead, he assured me that there were a few other straight folks in the band, and that I was welcome to participate as long as I supported their mission.

I paid my dues and went to their rehearsal the next week, on the heels of my weekend playing frenzy in Columbus, and it clicked right into place - I’m playing well enough not to destroy their ensemble and it’s very satisfying.  And since, in high school, the jocks all thought us band geeks were gay anyway, the ambiance doesn’t represent all that much of a paradigm shift.

We have a concert at the end of October, and I understand my gay friends are looking forward to the spectacle.