The timing for the vaccine could not have been worse, just before I was due to make an online recording for my band’s entry in the Cory Brass Band Competition. The nurse said it might make me drowsy and have vivid dreams. Might!!?
My headphones are in place. The music is on the stand. The guide track of the next brass band piece is ready to
rock-and-roll. It has been a long painful day and just this recording to do before I put my feet up.
My eyelids head south as the side effects from the Oxford jab take effect. The guide track blurs and morphs into a familiar tune, “Variations on a Shining River.” I open my eyes and to my amazement, I am indeed looking at the music stand on a riverbank. A white rabbit, resplendent in a red band jacket, races past, then stops, pulls out a pocket watch from his waistcoat and exclaims “I’m late, I’m late for a very important rehearsal!” and darts down a rabbit hole.
“Curiouser and curiouser”… I follow him to the end of a tunnel where there are three doors and I look through the keyhole of each in turn.
The first is a stage door into an empty Royal Albert Hall, holding only the shattered dreams of the 2020 qualifying bands.
Through the next keyhole is the empty Birmingham Symphony Hall, where a large shield and a Mortimer Maestro sit unclaimed on the stage. Only the mournful wails and gnashing of teeth of spring festival qualifiers and fleeting passages of Gregson’s ‘The World rejoicing’ drift across the high Balcony, filling the space where three men in a tent should be.
Through the third door is a beautiful park and bandstand where a band is playing ‘Of Distant Memories’ and I start to cry as I cannot get through the door.
I see a cornet with a message ‘PLAY ME’ and rip through Carnival of Venice. Faster and with far more style than Tom Hutchinson (I know, I know…. I am dreaming!). I shrink but realise I have left the key on the table high above. I find a drum kit with a message ‘HIT ME’ on the snare and make Cory’s Steve Jones sound like a one-legged woodpecker. I grow almost filling the tunnel and empty so much water out of the cornet that the tunnel fills and I float away on a sea of spit.
After having a weird conversation with a Duchess holding a bass mute in a bonnet, there is a Russell in the tree above. A Gray cat, who says he is a past Great Britain National Championship winning conductor with a band from Cheshire, peers down. He has a very wide grin and purrs like a saraband. He explains that everyone in this dream is quite mad and directs me to the march cards house.
Around a garden party table sit a hatted soprano player who is crazy (no surprise there!), a second baritone player asleep in a teapot (no surprise there apart from the teapot) and a talking march card, who tells me they were perpetually trapped in a band tea break. A heated debate on open adjudication develops and gets nasty, but the strains of Arthur Bliss’s masterpiece draw me away.
A ceremony of red bishops on a croquet lawn is interrupted.
“Off with his head,” shrieks the Black Queen, and then it gets really confusing. I am falling into another fairy tale and Siobhan Bates, accompanied by Queensbury Munchkins expertly delivers ‘One day over the rainbow’.
I look down at my shiny black stage shoes which turn ruby red and I click the heels together.
“There’s no place like Band… There’s no place like band.”
I wake up in the kitchen once more to the real nightmare. A virtual recording, but still no real band.
We are all trapped in what has seemed to be a never-ending band tea break, but there is light at end of the band room tunnel – our Journey into Freedom.
Published in Brass Band World magazine March 2021