Every week, all around the country, orchestras, choirs and groups of musicians get together to rehearse and practise. Every weekend we play concerts and gigs in churches, halls and pubs; sometimes for charity, sometimes for beer, always for fun, and the excitement and exhilaration of making and playing music with others.
In between time we spend hours practising at home, and not with a hairbrush in front of a mirror. Virtually everyone in these groups makes absolutely no financial gain, but taking part is massively rewarding, and a truly important part of our lives.
We don’t posess the deluded self-confidence of X-Factor wannabes, in fact we’re often clouded with doubts. Last weekend the Stroud Symphony Orchestra played our latest concert. The final rehearsal on Wednesday was a bit of a shocker – no 1st Trumpet, Clarinet, Bassoon, no trombones. It was a bit rubbish. But on a sweltering Saturday afternoon it was electrifying, almost too good. Wonderfully, we were able to reproduce that in the evening performance. And then afterwards, we manhandled the heavy church pews back into place.
I’ve learnt a lot about teamwork playing in an orchestra… knowing my role, following direction, listening, playing to my (horn’s) strengths, letting others take the lead. I can bring personal interpretation to the performance, but not at the expense of others. It requires concentration and physical stamina, and the other players depend on me. I recommend it.
Last Saturday we played a tremendous piece by Arthur Honegger, Pacific 231, in which he evokes the sounds and power of a steam locomotive. Seriously. This challenged us as players and our audience: if you watch the clip below you’ll soon realise this isn’t Mozart. But we all rose to the challenge, and loved it. It’s exciting and evocative, and I hope left everyone else even slightly enriched for having heard it.
Thomas Beecham (responsible for this post’s title) had quite a range of witty repartee. Another one of his lines is…
It is quite untrue that British people don’t appreciate music. They may not understand it but they absolutely love the noise it makes.
This clip is a tremendous montage of archive footage, compiled to accompany the piece, as well as demonstrate the inspiration behind it. There’s not too much to understand. It’s more visceral than that. We felt it, loved the noise it made, and our audience did too.