On Tuesday 18th May, 2021, the UK Government announced that artists and performers across the country would be allowed to rehearse again after over a year of silence.
Well, not quite silence. Although organized musical activities weren’t allowed in person, the pandemic saw many bands across the country finding innovative ways to keep in touch and carry on making music, from weekly Zoom quizzes to virtual rehearsals. Some of these were more successful than others but, generally, rehearsing over a video call just doesn’t work. That half a second lag makes all the difference when it comes to a semi-quaver run! Because of this, some bands decided to make music completely remotely; each member recorded their own part, and someone mixed them together with a nifty tool like Garage Band. These virtual performances took the internet by storm, and the Cory Band even hosted an Online Championship, encouraging ensembles to produce their best multimedia masterpieces to help cure their Lockdown Blues and keep banding alive.
However, not all bandsmen—or women—had the means to produce music virtually. The inability to practise together led to many players feeling disheartened and demotivated.
One of the ways in which we tackled this at Ascot was by holding fortnightly virtual Guest Nights, in which we invited musical figureheads in the banding world to talk to us about their experiences. Ian found the guests, Kim organized the virtual events, and Mark led us through the interviews. Hearing others talk about how they first found their love of music, and how they continue to find joy in playing, certainly inspired me to pick up my cornet again, and I’m sure a lot of others who joined in these meetings would say the same.
And then the announcement came.
So, on May 24th, it was with mounting excitement and nerves—as I’m sure many others also were, I was a little guilty of not having practised as much as I could have over the course of the last year— that I pulled into the parking lot of St Joseph’s Church Hall in Maidenhead. I got out of the car, smiling to see other band-os walking in, music bags and instruments in hand.
Though a lot of the band have been playing together for years, it was a new rehearsal experience for all of us. Bell covers, hand sanitizer, face masks… Not to mention two metres between each player and the next. While that may have distorted the sound somewhat, I have a sneaky suspicion that the euphs and baris quite enjoyed being a little further away from the trombones (sorry, Ian).
Anyway, the point is—despite being so far away from one another, as Kelvin raised his arms and we played the first few notes of Lavenham, I had the feeling that we as a band had never been closer together.
It’s good to be back!