Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Picnic in the Park: July Fourth

Every performance of the Kenwood Players has been a learning experience. Since I'm being much more a facilitator than a leader of the group, the direction the music takes grows out of the group's musical interactions. With any particular group of players and instruments there is a potential sound that can develop organically over time, and since schedules mean different groupings of the basic set of Kenwood Players for individual performances, that development doesn't go in a straight line.

This time we didn't have percussion, so I stuck exclusively with the banjo and had worked with the tubas to be more rhythmic and precise in their playing. So the tubas were more present in the mix and it makes for a nice effect. Also noticed the tuba solos caught the attention of the audience more than usual.

Bill B. has joined the group to take Gabby's place when she heads off to college next month. He plays tenor, alto and soprano sax. For this performance he played just the soprano at my request, mainly because we were outdoors and needed all the volume we could get. He and Dick (on trumpet) alternated solos with my vocals, and having the extra treble voice was a great addition to the sound. Bill has a natural feel for "tailgating", or filling in between the end of a vocal phrase and the start of the next, which made my singing a lot more fun.

The most pleasing aspect of this performance was our connection with the audience. On every number there were people moving with the music and/or singing along. After various solos there was applause that indicated some of the audience was following the music closely and liking it. Also saw various members of the Community Band listening with big happy grins, indicating they could tell how much fun we were having.

One of the aspects of music therapy that's nearly magical is that as long as everyone has musical tasks that are within their skill level, various skill levels can blend into great music. One thing that struck me forcibly going from the banjo with the Players, to the horn with the Community Band, and then back to the banjo for the Players' second set was what a world of difference playing within my skill level makes. Being the only horn I had a part in America the Beautiful that is beyond my current ability. Anxiety over that colored my entire time on the stage. Never again. From now on will do up those high parts in Finale for other instruments of the director's choice. Going the normal music educator's route simply sets me up to fail.

The schedule for the Players' performance kept shifting right up to the end, due to fitting in with the skydivers, the chorus and band, the fireworks, and the canine unit being unable to perform. We had way more material prepared than needed and were able to jump around the songbook to make up the sets as we went along. That flexibility was really helpful.

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