Hi, James Sutherland here, or for those in the know, Champ. I'm part of the unsung heroes (basses) that make up the engine room, currently on Bb Bass. I’m the longest current serving member of the senior band (14 years) and now a life member at the tender age of 29, which makes me wonder if the band is telling me my time is nearly up…..
Being in the band so long, I am one of a few that have seen our illustrious Musical Director Dave's full reign of the band. All the way from his first rehearsal with a very green band, through to this current rehearsal on the other side of the world. It's interesting to see the development over the time with the whip cracking and expectation from our leader increasing with every year and contest that passes. With this current build up to the Open, sitting near the back of the band, I have enjoyed watching the torment our leader has inflicted on the cornet section being put through their double tongueing paces near the start of Triumph. It's like a Sergeant in the army, breaking down his recruits until they can take no more. Or on the other side seeing Mark Davey on trombone getting a one on one lesson in the middle of rehearsal with our leader on how to play his solo (or at least how to count to three). We all however have been victim of the dreaded metronome. The object of fear, blasting away in the background of rehearsals while trying to play fistfuls of notes, no one has been left unscathed. Thankfully he forgot to pack it for use on this trip.
As part of the preparation, the band finally did what was the secondary (some may think primary) objective of coming all the way to Birmingham to do. Have a curry.
Ever since I can remember, curries have been a staple of the Wellington Brass contest week. Over the years there have been many incidents with this tradition. From curries that are too hot for individuals to handle, people being hangry when their order takes too long to arrive, utter confusion of what people actually ordered, to settling the bill correctly (you don't want to be last in line to pay). This curry was no different, however it started with a twist on the half hour walk to the curry house. Walking through the 'scenic' parts of Birmingham, a local in a car decided he wanted to cut the traffic out of the equation in order to stop the cops catching him. He or she decided the footpath we were walking on would be ideal for evading the cops but did require a couple of us to swerve out of the way, myself included to give them a clear path. Thank goodness I've been skipping for the last year as it may have ended differently. The car thankfully pulled back on the road just before almost colliding with the main group that were 50m up ahead. Once settled at the curry house, there was much to talk about, but for Byron and I, we had a challenge of having a banquet for four, between the two of us. We had a good start, polishing off the starters with ease, but when we saw the naan breads come out for the young guys Dom, Callum, Pat, John, Toby and Kip had we started to doubt our eating abilities. Their naan's are the biggest I've ever seen, being even larger than Kieran. Thankfully however our portions were more realistic and after some determination and perseverance (and a mysterious trip for Byron to go to the bathroom to make more room), we achieved our goal. Another highlight was paying for the meal, with vigorous discussions about how to pay. Many had to be patient (some managed to get a nap in) before it was their turn to settle their bill.
There is however always two things guaranteed at any band curry and this was no exception, an inspirational speech from Mark Davey (although I feel like he has used the same awe inspiring speech more than once), and secondly the smelly next day rehearsals. Considering what was eaten, the Desford Band may not appreciate the aromas that will be wafting in their small rehearsal room which don't have windows to air.
So we are on the finaI push, the home straight with only a few days to go. We are "absolutely fizzing". It’s quite strange from my perspective about preparation for this up coming moment in time. 10 years of dreaming, hoping, a year to plan, months of preparation, countless fundraisers, a week long trip away, all for one day where we leave it all out on display for 18 minutes. Like others I think what I will take out of this the most is the journey. To do this with a great bunch of people reminds you why you do this. To try not only to play the best for yourself, but the best for them as you have been through this together.
Lastly to help with our motivation we have received some tremendous support from fellow members in the banding community and this morning have received a gem from Guy Cleverley and Jennie McInnis. Thanks for the inspiration, the band enjoyed it and can’t stop playing it on the bus.