In which our reluctant hero breaks a leg. Or something.
In a change from my usual routine of work and mildly amusing parenting mishaps, I’ve been doing something for me over the last week or so. I have been treading the boards. In a play. A play at a proper theatre no less. Blimey.
“Brassed Off” hit Wolverhampton to a flurry of press interest, five star reviews and a top trending twitter hashtag (#brassedoffwlv) to boot. It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable time of music, camaraderie, and hanging around in a sweaty dressing room with half naked middle-aged men. This is where I’m currently sat, frantically bashing at my androidPodTunesPhone in an pitiful attempt to ignore all of the wobbling. Every silver lining and all that.
Back in the day, before gluing things became my main hobby, I was quite musical. I learned brass, guitar, bass, bad piano and random bits of percussion that became affectionately known as “The Early Learning Centre Orchestra.” I’m no virtuoso at any of these things, but manage well enough for it to have presented some interesting experiences, of which performing in Brassed Off is the latest.
I’ve played Roy Castle’s trumpet on stage with Roy Castle, played at Wembley (not on the pitch), at Molineux (on the pitch), at various gigs and festivals and apparently shared a corporate pastie with KT Tunstall and Whispering Bob Harris (whoever they are.) I’ve performed at a tribute night for one of my favourite songwriters, Elliott Smith, and played on a Kerrang Radio single of the week. I even got recognised at the Latitude music festival a few years back, much to the annoyance of my wife who instantly realised there would be plenty of miles in this anecdote. And, as ever, she was right.
I could go on, but that’s enough blowing my own trumpet. There’s a post to write.
Playing an instrument is great isn’t it? Well, yes… and no. It’s great when you’re fairly decent at it, but you have to spend an eternity learning the blooming thing. And we all know how much pain that can cause, mostly for everyone else.
Little people are sponges and learn things far more quickly than us dinosaurs, but what should ours start with?
Let’s go route one here. I play brass, hence the Brassed Off. I remember learning to play brass. People learning brass have two volume settings. Loud or off. Technically, there’s one between known as “split” and you hear a lot of that. If the twelve hours or so of child generated noise wasn’t grating enough, add an hour of “Little F & G March” to the mix and wave goodbye to your sanity.
We have a plastic trombone thing at home which may work as a sort of compromise though. It’s certainly useful for waking the missus up on a Saturday morning ready for Park Run.
What could possibly go wrong with a piano? Well, shove one down a mine shaft and you’ll end up with A-flat minor for starters. Ahem.
Purists, close your ears now. The real things have to go. Electronic equivalents have volume knobs which are an absolute life saver. Or they would be if turning everything up to eleven and pressing the demo button wasn’t the instinctive reaction of the average three year old. I may well be haunted by Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” beyond my almost certain premature grave.
The phrase “sounds like a cat being strangled” exists for a reason that has little to do with cats and strangling. Adult human ears shouldn’t be exposed to the torture that is a child learning a violin. It’s inhumane. My head can’t get past thinking that all children’s string recitals most likely sound like Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima.” But accidentally. Am I prepared to be proved wrong? No thanks.
Guitar and Bass
A more acceptable alternative perhaps, especially if acoustic, and I can teach them the basics. But what if the little people start wearing rock pants and get curly perms or, worse still, learn slap bass? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
If a bass player attempted to slap a bass when I was in bands, it was perfectly acceptable to slap them repeatedly until they stopped. Apparently you’re not allowed to do that to children though. Stupid government and their pro eighties rock stance. Bah.
Everybody remembers learning the recorder, right? Did you continue with it? Exactly.
The flute has appeal due to its size and general wispiness, but nobody actually gets to learn the flute as schools are still working through the EU clarinet mountain from way back. Should an instrument really be making a sound like a buzz saw suffering from radio interference? No. It shouldn’t. And did you hear the one about the clarinetist who played in tune? No, neither did I.
Last, and most definitely least, we have the more hitty half of the Drum ‘n’ Bass engine. Cue wannabe Ringos.
I wrote about us getting a drum kit some weeks back and, fortunately, the initial enthusiasm for this has long gone. As has the washer and wing nut holding the cymbal on. *Ting*
Terrible din asides, there’s only one issue that I have with the little people learning percussion and that it’s not really learning music, is it? Drummers are the sort of people who join bands to hang out with musicians. And what to they actually do? Beats me.
Seeing as that hasn’t helped, and I’m shortly on stage to win the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall for the tenth time this week, I’ll finish with an appropriate little tale. Probably.
An A, a C, and an E walk into a pub, and the landlord says, “Sorry, we can’t serve minors.”