I will confess to a little nervousness, after all who doesn’t feel a bit apprehensive after the year we’ve had? But fourteen months after the Southwest Regional Brass Band contest in Torquay I once again made the journey to the village of Drybrook in the Forest of Dean for a band practice. The place hasn’t changed much in the last year but it was a bit of shock to see a brand new housing estate, and a myriad of roundabouts, along a road which was still a building site when we last traversed that route. The journey itself was pretty uneventful and we arrived at the dedicated band room in just under an hour, the usual sort of journey time.
There was plenty of room in the large car park adjoining the band room and we parked up. The door to the band room was open and I put on my mask, took my Trombone and mute bag and went in. The first thing to note was the sanitiser mounted on the wall, that wasn’t there before, but after sanitising my hands I entered the band room and this was very different! The room was the same carpeted and well lit room that I remembered, but social distancing had taken its toll. The room was only big enough for about half the band and so we had been divided into two groups, one following the other. Consequently, the chairs seemed miles apart, and certainly much more than the two metres that the guidance allowed, which was actually quite comforting to see. All the chairs were facing the same way towards the MD at one end of the room, and I was the only Trombone player in this first group. I finished up in a corner by an open door, I’m not sure this was anything to do with Covid or somewhere the MD had wanted me all along!! All the doors and windows were open but this was not a problem as although I had to keep a coat on it provided good ventilation when I had to take my face mask off (it’s so difficult to play with it on!!), and the nearest player to me must have been at least 3 metres away.
When we started playing, what struck me was the difference in the sound. I know there was only half a band but the fact there were only about 11 players sitting a long way from each other, (percussion by the way was in the kitchen at the back of the building) made it much more difficult to play together. I also lost any sense of a blended sound and there was more of a feeling of 11 people who just happened to be playing the same piece in the same room. This was interesting as I had to concentrate really hard on what was going on, and listen to other people playing, something which I suspect we will really be aware of when we do play together again properly.
The whole thing went off without any drama and it was good to be playing together again, albeit in less than perfect conditions, and to see other people in 3D was another big plus and created a positive atmosphere and any nerves dispelled quite quickly.
Hopefully we will be able to reassemble as a full band after June 21st but this is at least a step in the right direction.