After three seconds, I understood why parents buy violins, tubas and – yes, even drums – for their children. This was an awesomeness activity that literally had all the bells and whistles.
During one piece a grey-haired man from among the nine percussionists played both a gong (one of two) and a bicycle bell. (It was later mentioned that he is one of about ten conductors that have led this marvellous orchestra since 1910.) That piece was called “Circus Ring” and it was aptly named. There were some very silly whistles involved.
As a military band, the players wore uniforms of crisp red and black, and the brass section gleamed like gold. They were also one hundred percent professional, with the kind of unison the aforementioned parents will never hear again. It was glorious! And so LOUD! I barely noticed the grand piano tucked away in a corner, but I certainly took notice of the drums and brass when they spoke.
Another piece was called “Lonely Beach” which was about an American soldier dying alone while surrounded by other soldiers during the attack on Omaha Beach. When the music began, I enjoyed the sound of crashing waves but was slightly disappointed that the band was using a CD instead of just their own music. Except they weren’t. The ocean sound was made by the trumpets (no, I don’t know how). The music interweaved tragedy (a single oboe playing its own melody) and military might. At the crescendo, two more large drums joined with the largest in pounding the beach with shells – from all around (the extra two were placed in the wings), and definitely NOT in 4/4 time.
Play along at home: Go see a band. Any band. Or dust off the flute you’ve got stashed in the basement and spend just half an hour remembering what it was like to make music. Or wait until your housemates are elsewhere and play the saucepans with a wooden spoon – why not?