The band’s last rehearsal together before lockdown was a practice for the upcoming area contest, if we had known what was coming I think we would have made more of a big deal of it! We all know what followed next.
There are lots of things that just aren’t the same in this new normal we find ourselves in, and playing live music together is one of them. We and many other music groups around the world quickly discovered that playing together using video conferencing software is basically impossible. Different equipment and speeds of internet connection create a ‘lag’ between you making a sound and someone else hearing it. The result is a musical mess.
We realised we needed to focus on what we could still do together. We could still meet for a chat. We could still rehearse together virtually each playing along separately to a piece of music, which was frustrating to start with but better than nothing. Members of the band played at 8pm each Thursday to support NHS workers, and we recorded those and shared them with each other.
We also started to think about what we were sharing with the local community – our summer programme was cancelled but we still wanted to play for people to hear. We sent out mini concerts by email to care homes, friends of the band and family. Virtual choirs, brass bands and other groups started to produce isolation performances – each person records their part separately and then it’s glued together digitally to make a whole performance. We decided to give it a go and thanks to the technical wizardry of our MD Steve and great dedication from the band, who are all battling with different lockdown challenges of their own, we produced the Great Escape (have a look for it on YouTube).
Another opportunity came up – the real Whit Friday contest that we would usually go to in June was cancelled, but instead it was being run virtually. We pulled together another isolation track with a seaside theme and after a great evening listening to all the entries as they were streamed online, we found out that we had come 2nd out of 12 bands in our section!
Meeting up in the bandroom on a Thursday night won’t happen any time soon and there are bound to be lots of challenges – minimum distances, plexiglass screens, and who knows what else. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, and a few bands are starting to meet in small groups, at a distance.
I do know that I’m really proud of what the band has achieved, and the way that everyone has come together to keep making music for our community.