June 06, 2006

Whit Friday – Comments

Writing about web page /bjkeates/entry/whit_friday_a/

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I've just read through this blog and the comments in a vague hope that I will eventually find out what is being played at Whit Friday this year… maybe Tragedy, maybe SOMF… pity no–one knows for sure. I then decided to add some comments but as they became overly long winded and I haven't got time to write something concise, thought I best litter my own blog!
Having been to Whit Friday many times before coming to Warwick, I knew what I was in for when I joined Warwick for my one–and–only trip in my second year (exams stopped me attending the others) and I have to say that the whole evening was like the other times I had been. Apart from the strange Contest march “The Heavenly Bears” which is a whole different story.
The band I played with before Warwick had a rule about no drinking before we got there and only ½ pints for the first few marches (no drinks for the under age). The first 3 villages were chosen as the best chances of making some prize money. Then we would go on to do 3–5 more villages (depending on queue times etc) in which we were there just to have fun and get drunk (rule about no under–age drinking became less enforced throughout the evening)! With Warwick we seemed to do something very similar in that everyone took the first few seriously and then afterwards 'had fun'. The stereotype about students is that we get drunk! But then the stereotype of brass players is?
Having played some strange road marches (including a New Orleans style jazz thing with swinging bells), I have learned a few things. The march needs to be familiar. You need to be able to find where you are very easily, because it is easy to get distracted by obstacles, concentrating on your feet, and generally out of breathe/tired lips and get lost then realise that the section you are playing with are beginning to struggle and that they need your help (either that or the piece has to be easy, heaven forbid).
It is also very hard to play syncopation when marching. If it doesn't firmly fit to the beat it becomes hard to keep together especially in a large band where the trombones and cornets are a long way apart and playing similar rhythms.
Long sustained notes also don't work. The air flow gets interrupted when marching and only the very best players with years of training can hold even, long notes when marching. The effect on air is a pulse through the note that on one person may not be noticeable but with a whole section in unison the effect seems to get amplified.
Speed is governed by how fast the people in the band march if the piece is too fast it will be slowed down and if it is too slow it will get sped up. With standard marches this isn't too bad but with tunes that everybody knows and loves, they might get a bit upset at this!
So if Tragedy is well arranged it might work… but then my fear is that it will be a mess (few managed to avoid obvious pun!)

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