26 May 2012

Spell check

Eisteddfod is an impossible word for anyone born outside Wales. Practice makes perfect, so I’ll write it again: I went to the Eisteddfod the other night. It’s one of those relics of empire, but a valuable if low-key institution. I doubt it’s low key for the school kids who perform.

Thursday night’s competition was for jazz bands. I heard a range of big bands from various schools, of varying ages and competencies, at various levels. Each band had 12 minutes of so to perform and played two or three tunes. Adjudicator Lindsay Frost gauged and commented on the bands then gave awards at Gold, Silver or Bronze level. Every band got an award, so this was a measure of competency or development, rather than of ordering and wins and defeats. Lindsay is a successful school band leader, a graduate of the Canberra Music School and a performer with the Army and other bands. I was interested in his comments: be bold, have confidence; “move air” as a message to the horns; his support for unusual instruments playing jazz – cello, violin, oboe; balance between sections; importance of the rhythm section; a welcome to guys who sing. I loved some of the tunes. There were lots of pop tunes of different eras, all standards to be: Sting, Picking up the pieces, Don’t know why, Ain’t no mountain high enough and a few earlier ones, including Ella’s A tisket a tasket. Then there were the jazz tunes: Night in Tunisia and Blue train; Little sunflower which worked really well in this format; Monk with its rhythmic challenges; Israel for a sophisticated challenge that I didn’t expect to hear. There were some nice bands through the night, but I lazily didn’t keep tabs. But I must just highlight the Combined Grammar School Band. They were the last band I saw, and they were the most involving and professional amongst good company. Given John Mackey is their leader, I am not surprised. The Grammar Schools have excellent music programs with the best local teachers. Their set was the infectious instumental funk, Average White Band’s Pick up the pieces, Ella’s A tisket a tasket, surprisingly and very well sung by a male, then Ain’t no mountain high enough sung in true gospel style by a female. (The female singer from Campbell High School band was very good, too). These were both very mature singers and the band was confident and grooved. Good song choices, too, that had the parents grooving in the aisles.

Good on the Eisteddfod and the better parts of empire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sting tune was Wrapped Around your Finger.