Monday, 4 March 2013

Top Banding

It’s been an action packed few days here is the valleys. Arriving Monday and heading up to the Cory rehearsal I’m struck by how different it all feels, and then I realise, I have only been here in the dark before! At the Cory rehearsal I’m treated to 2 hours of top class band playing and watching master conductor Phil Harper work through a score. After this, I grab 5 minutes with him to have a look at my sketches so far. It’s fair to say that most of it won’t work, it’s either too high, or there is nowhere to breathe. So we come up with some solutions about how to write this sound using different techniques, splitting rhythms over parts and dropping sections into different keys. 

Tuesday starts bright and early to a cheery welcome from the 7 year olds at Ynyswen school, who, thankfully, remember me. “Miss, Miss, are we going out on another trip?” “Miss, Miss can we go for a walk?” The first visit seems to have stayed with them. I pull up the scores of the sketches I’ve written, which were based on their compositions we did last time. We talk about how the dots on the page are like a script for actors, they tell the musicians what to play. We also talk about other types of scores and before long, we’ve got the children making their own graphic scores of my pieces. We talk about what sounds to listen to, spiky, smooth, loud, quiet, high , low, short, long and how we might draw them. The whole group go dotty at a staccato cornet passage! 

After a quick coffee with Craig and Charlotte (Making Music and Ty Cerdd respectively) to discuss the logistics of getting 2 brass bands on one stage (!) I head off to have tea with local historian and walk designer Cennard Davies. Cennard greets me with true Welsh hospitality and I am offered bara brith and tea. His head holds so much of Treorchy’s history, it’s a truly fascinating afternoon, recording his stories for the guided history walk and a poem by Ben Bowen which we’re hoping to use in the performance. Cennard tells me the story of an old friend of the family who used to come to his house each year to commemorate a momentous event in his life. The dining room served as the operating theatre when he was carried down from an accident at the mine. His leg was amputated with nothing but whisky for anesthetic and the kitchen table for an operating table. Each year he came back to toast the table with a drink. I can’t resist taking a photo. 

Straight from Cennard’s stories I head to Abergavenny band rehearsal, where they have a work through some of the sketches I’ve brought with me. There’s still a lot to learn about writing for band. Some of the sections work quite nicely but others need breaking up, changing register and rethinking. I’m writing this as I listen to their rehearsal. Tomorrow to Friday I have booked myself writing days, so I’m hoping to get these ideas and developments down, into scores and away to Phil to try by the weekend.