Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Friday, 24 November 2017

Desert Island Discs VII

Most of my music selections have been orchestral, and that more or less reflects my listening choices, this is something completely different ~ not a fiddle in sight! Holst's First Suite in Eb was one of the first pieces of "Proper Music" originally composed for Wind Band, and still one of the best. It will sometimes be heard on Classic fm in Orchestral arrangement, but that misses most of the musical point!

I have played this piece countless times, as it is a bit of a "stock" piece for wind bands and I am well known as a band tart (I'll play with anybody).   All too often bands will just go through the motions and miss much of the music by simply playing the notes, indeed the very familiarity of it can be it's own downfall.

With a Platinum Award from 2014 
a lot of water has flowed under that bridge since!
I think I would have included this suite in my selection even it didn't have any particular significance for me, but of course it does.   A good few years ago when my band the Croydon Symphonic Band was going through a bit of a rebuilding process we played this suite in the National Wind Band Festival. It was a piece we knew and felt we could play, we were short of a couple of players and had to make up for that, indeed if I remember correctly I had to play one of the euphonium solos, while playing the tuba part for the rest of the piece.   We didn't do very well and got a bronze award, but this was the start of a process that led to us subsequently receiving several gold and platinum awards at the festival finals!

Way before that, when I was very young (about 13) and I had only recently started to learn to play the tuba I was encouraged to join the local schools band ~ The Croydon Schools Wind Orchestra as it was known at the time.   Looking back I understand that I got in, not because of my natural talent or precocious ability to make rapid progress on the instrument, but simply because I was the only one in the Borough learning the Tuba, and the incumbent was about to leave school.

After only a few months in the Band we had a concert as part of the Croydon Schools Music Festival, this was at Croydon's Fairfield Hall, at that time it was still a leading state of the art venue, a major national, or indeed international concert hall seating over 1,500.   We were to play the first half of the first concert of the Festival, there was also a choir and an orchestra for the second half.   Every parent of every child involved was in the audience along with quite a few aunts, uncles, grannies and grandfathers ~ the hall was full!   Now, I had sung at the Fairfield before but this was my first time on stage, I was a little nervous, then I found out that the seating plan for the band meant that I would be sitting on the (conductors) left hand end of the back row, right at the front of the stage.   The Holst was our first piece, and yes it starts with a Tuba solo.   Looking back I think this was a break or make moment for me, if had not played well that night I may well have given in to nerves and stopped playing, but all went well and the rest ~ as they say ~ is history.
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