Uxbridge Museum Heritage Day - I was dressed for the occasion and sitting on a bench that I donated.This month’s column is a very different perspective on the current status of music in our part of the world. There is no point in discussing in generalities the coronavirus pandemic. We have heard enough about it. As a columnist friend, Roger Varley, who writes for Cosmos, a weekly community newspaper in Uxbridge, recently remarked, “It’s rather like going to a Luciano Pavarotti concert only to hear him sing Nessun Dorma over and over again for two hours.” Instead, let’s have a more specific look at how this pandemic is affecting our musical world, starting by dividing our musical world into two groups: performers and listeners (with, hopefully, almost all performers being listeners to forms of music other than that which they perform). The coronavirus has forced us all into quarantine.

Performers

The regulations now in effect, affect music makers in several ways. First, as they stand, the laws have closed all possible locations where groups might rehearse or perform until further notice. Second, even if there were places, no groups larger than five individuals, other than those who live in the same location, are permitted to assemble. Third, all people in a group must maintain a separation of at least two metres.

Read more: Digitally Aided Rehearsals and Reminiscences

Last month’s column opened with the following cautionary note: “Beware the Ides of March. Thus spoke the soothsayer as he warned Julius Caesar of his impending doom. As we know from history, the soothsayer was correct in his warning to Caesar.” With this quote, I was merely indicating that we had no idea what might be happening in the band world, because we had not heard from any bands about their scheduled activities. We did not think that there might be any impending doom. We certainly could not have forecast the doom which has beset our planet. Call it coronavirus or COVID-19, this pandemic has certainly upset our musical world. Most community musical groups rehearse and perform in schools, community centres, churches or similar venues. Almost without exception, these are all closed until further notice. Even if the venues had not been closed, most groups would certainly not get together with so many people in close contact.

For many bands this will be a wait-and-see situation. Some have already announced a suspension of all rehearsals and concerts for the season. A couple that we have heard of have announced innovative plans. In one case, the band has made arrangements for those who do not have their music folder at home and would like to keep up with practice during this break time. The Band Librarian has offered to create PDF copies of music from individual music folders. These would then be emailed to those who wished, and they would print them at home. In this situation each member would be limited to three or four pieces. Members also have been given the link to MP3 sample recordings of music in the band’s practice folder. 

Another approach is to have the band “Go Virtual on Practice Night.” Their band memo says: “COVID-19 might stop us from having our weekly Monday rehearsals and social gathering BUT with modern technology we can “STAY CONNECTED”!! Band members are invited to “Join our rehearsal night VIRTUAL GATHERING (in lieu of rehearsals) from your computer, tablet, iPhone, iPad. They are also given information on how to join a Zoom meeting. 

Read more: Didgeridoo Meets Theremin While We Wait and See

Beware the Ides of March! Thus spoke the soothsayer as he, correctly, warned Julius Caesar of his impending doom. While “impending doom” is probably not the cause, we haven’t heard much of anything from our current band world about any activities planned for the month of March of this year, at least not in time to report on here. On the bright side, while waiting for information on coming band activities, I had time to check on the meaning of the Ides of March. While the term originally referred to the full moon, in ancient Rome it was the time for several religious observances and was also a deadline for settling debts. It is the word “deadline”, particularly, that caught my eye. In fairness to bands in our part of the world, it may be that the month of March may be one of preparation, but not performance. In a few cases, notices we receive, about concerts that have been in the works for months, arrive only a few days before the event. For us to mention an event we must receive any notice no later than the 15th of the month prior to the event. Be aware of the Ides of March (Sunday March 15) is therefore my message this month. Send me your April concert listings by then and I will be sure to make mention of them here.

Newmarket Citizens BandBehind the Scenes
As many of you know full well, keeping a concert band going requires a few activities other than concert preparation and performances. These include library updating, financial matters and executive elections among others. As I think about such non-performance activities, a few stand out. Obviously a well-organized and well-catalogued library tops the list. There isn’t space here to detail the many possible formats, but with most bands having access to computers, a spreadsheet where searches may be easily done based on title, composer, library catalogue number, style etc. is easy to create and maintain! A few bands I know have a numbering system for all selections in their libraries, but others just stick to names. I’m a big proponent of a numbering system. When the conductor calls out a number to rehearse, everyone knows what to get. If the conductor should call for a selection such as Pop and Rock Legends: Elton John, and filing is alphabetical, one might look for Pop, Rock or Elton John. Numbering all of the charts would eliminate any confusion. Years ago I played with someone who filed any chart with a name starting with The under the letter T.

Read more: Tenth Anniversary: NHB’s Expanded Horizons

Here we are on the cusp of the month of February, eager to know what’s in store for us in the year’s shortest month. There is always February 2 to look forward to, namely Groundhog Day, for prognostications about what to expect weather-wise in the coming weeks. However while our trusty Canadian groundhogs, Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam are renowned for their weather forecasting, they have never told us anything about upcoming community musical events. Where can we turn for such information? Right here, one might hope to say, if we were hearing, with some regularity, from community musical ensembles regarding their coming events. Alas, such communication is rare. We have heard very little so far this year from the band world. Send your listings in, folks, and I will let readers know about them.

Novel Seasonal Celebration
It is quite common for bands to have an end-of-season party before the Christmas break. Such parties provide the opportunity for band members and their families to mix and meet. Spouses or partners get to meet band members other than their mates, and band members get to chat with other band members that they may see from a distance every week, but really don’t know. How often do tuba players chat with clarinet players, after all? This year the Newmarket Citizens Band took a different approach. They decided on a 45-minute open rehearsal where family and friends sat and listened. After that, all in attendance mingled and partook of several tables of tasty goodies arrayed on tables at one end of the band’s rehearsal room. Two birds with one stone, you might say.

Read more: Impeachment Polkas and Bugles (again!)

Last night, as I drove home after a rehearsal, I heard on the radio to expect a once-in-a-lifetime event at precisely 11:15pm – the most spectacular meteor shower in over 30 years. As I looked out of the window, though, I was barely able to see the road in front of me, through the dense fog. Now, sitting at the computer, staring at the screen, I am dealing with a dearth of information, unusual at this time of year, about happenings in the band world. Usually at this time of year, I would expect to receive quite a quantity of information on Christmas concerts, festive-season events or holiday shows. A temporary blip perhaps, or maybe just a sign of the busy times we live in. Since I can’t write about what I haven’t been sent, though, it gives me permission to write about what I like.

HMCS York Band (2019)Speaking of signs of the times

At a recent concert of the combined bands of HMCS York from Toronto and HMCS Star from Hamiton, I was stunned to see Lieutenant Commander Jack t’Mannetje sitting in the audience rather than on stage conducting. I then learned that Jack, who has been the Director of the York Band for many years, has been promoted. He is now executive officer of HMCS York, Navy lingo for second-in-command. It’s rare to see a military band conductor promoted to a position of command. Congratulations, Jack. As for the duties of band director, that falls to longtime band member, chief petty officer Maggie Birtch. Again, congratulations to Maggie.

Read more: Sound the Bugle!
Back to top