Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Racine Zoo

Risk-taking and Concerts

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A few hours ago, I finished a concert with the Racine Concert Band. I played a solo on clarinet in front of about three hundred people at the Racine Zoo; they weren’t there to see me, because we had vaudevillian Pinkerton Xyloma there and he’s always extremely popular. (He’s a man of many talents, is Pinkerton Xyloma. But I digress.)

Anyway, the piece I played was the “Pie in the Face Polka,” by Henry Mancini. It has a lot of runs, arpeggios, and is meant to be bouncy, a little jazzy (in an old-timey way), and fun.

Now, why was this a risk, as if you’ve read my blog for a long time, you know I play clarinet as well as alto saxophone? Simple. I haven’t had as much time for my clarinet in the last few years as I’d like. I’m not playing steadily in any groups on clarinet. And my health has not been what I’d like it to be, so that means I have had to concentrate on what is in front of me — the groups I’m already playing in, on saxophone, mostly — rather than other things I’d like to do in addition (that is, playing my clarinet much more often).

Even so, I’d asked to play a clarinet solo for three years running. This year, I got one. I learned it in a couple of weeks.

And then we had our rehearsal — as we have one rehearsal for each summer concert — and I thought I played terribly. At best, I got seventy-five percent of it, but between playing sax for most of the rehearsal (as I also did on the concert) and being tired to start with, I knew that was the best I could do at the time.

Of course, I practiced even harder in the intervening three days. And I felt much more confident with it tonight, even though I still made mistakes and played at about ninety percent of my own personal capacity.

In other words, I didn’t embarrass myself. And while it’s not the best I’ve ever played, it’s possibly the best I’ve played in two or three years on clarinet.

I’m very glad I had the opportunity to play the “Pie in the Face Polka.” But it was a risk. And not just because of the information I’ve already given you.

See, I was recovering from some sort of upper respiratory infection (again). My back went out (again). And during the previous Sunday night concert, I’d managed to turn my right ankle — meaning I was walking with a notable limp (and very slowly, besides).

Not to mention, it was also my late husband Michael’s birthday. (Yes, he was born on Bastille Day.) He wouldn’t have celebrated it, but he’d have turned sixty-one, had he lived. And of course I knew that…so I wanted to play the best I possibly could in honor of him, wherever he is in the cosmos. (As matter can’t be created or destroyed, I firmly believe at least a little of Michael continues to exist outside of me, somewhere and somehow.)

You see, Michael always enjoyed hearing me practice my instruments. (Any and all.) He also read any of my music compositions, as he could read all clefs, and he could talk intelligently about music. I knew if he’d have been here, he’d not have BSed me in any way, but he’d still have enjoyed himself — the ten percent I didn’t get, he’d have said was due to the vagaries of performance and art…and that who wants to hear a perfect concert, anyway? (It’s the imperfections that make it interesting, he always said.)

So, despite all the obstacles, I got it done. That’s the important thing.

And the audience seemed to enjoy it, too…even though I still think they were there for Pinkerton Xyloma! (Wink.)

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2019 at 2:55 am

Summer Concert Season, Again

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Folks, I wanted to drop in a little bloglet, and let you know that the Racine Concert Band’s season of free summer concerts has started.

As of last night (June 30, 2019, to be exact), the RCB will have seven free concerts at the Racine Zoo. And if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, and want to hear some fun band music, you should stop out and see us. (Did I mention it’s free?)

Now, as to why I didn’t say anything before the first concert? Well, last year, we had a rainout the night I talked about the band, and I knew inclement weather was forecast. So call me superstitious, if you will — and you probably will — but I didn’t think I should say something until at least one concert was in the “good books.”

Plus, I will admit that my health the past week wasn’t the world’s best. (Even by my admittedly low standards, unfortunately.) I was diagnosed with an acute sinus infection, asthma exacerbation/bronchitis, fluid in both ears, allergic conjunctivitis in both eyes…basically, I was a hot mess.

Fortunately, after a breathing treatment at the doctor’s office, and six prescription medications later, I’m starting to feel better. I even wrote a little fiction, for the first time in three weeks…and, of course, I’m writing this little bit right now, to keep y’all informed.

So, I did get the first concert in. I didn’t feel that great. I don’t think I played up to my standards. (I think I played maybe 3/4 or a bit more of my usual standards.) But the crowd was appreciative, no band members gave me any dirty looks (which can happen when you’re playing very badly, as it’s the only way we have to blow off steam silently), and I didn’t collapse.

Which, of course, is the very definition of a win. And while that’s not precisely the win I wanted, I am glad I was able to do it…and as I am responding to the antibiotics and prednisone well (two of the six Rxes), I expect that in coming days I’ll be able to do more and more of what I normally would.

Brief Concert and Voting Reminder

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Folks, I’ve been working on a story and an edit this past week or so, which is why I’ve been so quiet. But I wanted to do two things before I forgot, so here goes:

  1. Tonight at 7 PM is the Racine Concert Band’s final free Zoo concert of the summer. We will have a giveaway called “the summer sweepstakes spectacular,” and all you have to do to get involved in that is show up, and pick something in the multiple-choice quiz. Fill out a paper, give it to the guy who collects ’em, and they’ll all be put into the tumbler for various drawings. I’m not sure about all the prizes, but one of them is a Fitbit; there also are usually gift certificates to local restaurants.
  2. The Wisconsin 2018 primary is upon us, so if you are a Wisconsin voter, don’t forget to vote on August 14. Your vote is your voice. Use it!

Hope to be back blogging later this week, providing I can get the story I have slaved over to lay a bit better…stay cool!

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 12, 2018 at 6:03 am

Concert Prep for Sax Solo, 7/16/17

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Folks, a while back I wrote a blog about how frustrated I was that I couldn’t seem to do what I used to do, as a musical performer. I’ve mostly played the second part, since I started playing again five or six years ago, and that’s really tough on the ego; furthermore, because they’re lower parts that mostly blend in, only the other musicians and the conductor tend to even know I’m there at all.

I was always a soloist, you see. Trained as an oboist, played in bands and orchestras, had musical scholarships, then picked up the saxophone in high school because I wanted to play in jazz band. I picked up the clarinet as a senior in high school because I wanted to play the doubled parts in jazz band (sometimes, the sax parts also have a small clarinet part, where you “double” during the piece and play both instruments), and in every case, I ended up playing more solo parts than anything else.

So, to go from first chair anything to second parts has been very difficult. And while “we also serve who stand and wait” (only slightly mangling that phrase), I like playing things that actually showcase my abilities now and again.

Fortunately, when I asked my conductor for the Racine Concert Band, Mark Eichner, for a solo, he gave me one. And I’m playing it tomorrow, on July 16, 2017…the first solo where I’ve stood before the band that I’ve played in twenty-one years.

What’s the piece, you ask? It’s Isaac Albeniz’s “Tango,” for alto saxophone soloist and band. (Yes, it’s an arrangement. But it works.)

I’m not the only soloist tomorrow, mind you. Eric Weiss, a very fine trumpeter, will be playing Clifton Williams’s “Dramatic Essay.” And a master illusionist, Pinkerton Xyloma, will be also helping to entertain the crowd during four of our band pieces.

So, since I put “concert prep” in the title, you might be wondering what that entails. (I hope so, ’cause I’m going to tell you anyway.)

Mostly, what preparation means, in this case, is to be prepared to play the piece. This includes physical preparation (repetition, playing it many times), mental preparation, trying to get rest, eating well, and also trying not to stress out over it all.

And I have done all of this.

My hope is that if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, that you’ll come down to the Racine Zoo tomorrow night and hear the band play. It’s a free concert; the show starts at 7:30 p.m., but the doors open about an hour ahead of time. (Park on August Street, or on Goold. The main doors are not open for the Zoo during RCB performances.)

If you do, be sure to listen hard to my solo, and come up and say “hello.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Second Blog-i-versary . . . Some Quick Hits

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Folks, my second “blog-i-versary” passed on July 10, 2012, without comment, mostly because the weather in Wisconsin has been extremely hot.  While I’ve continued to blog here and there, certainly this hot and humid weather we’ve had — which has destroyed crops, damaged lives, and caused all sorts of financial problems, as our 2012 summer is being compared to other, difficult summers like the summer of 1988 and worse, the “Dust Bowl” summer of 1936 — has gotten in the way.

That said, I’m very pleased that my blog is still here, two years after I started it (two years and a week, to be precise).  I hadn’t anticipated this, but I suppose this blog still being in existence shows a good side to the Law of Unintended Consequences after all.

Here’s a few quick hits as to what’s going on right now in Wisconsin, aside from our dreadful weather:

Last night, the Milwaukee Brewers dropped a heartbreaker, 3-2, to their arch-rivals the St. Louis Cardinals.  Particularly troubling in this loss is the fact that the Brewers led, 2-0, in the top of the ninth; closer John Axford got the first two outs (though both were long fly balls caught close to the fence, meaning both hitters nearly hit the ball out of the park rather than made these long, loud outs), then loaded the bases.  Eventually, three runs scored, and Axford was removed from the game; Kameron Loe got the last out.

So, what happened to the Brewers in the bottom of the ninth?  The hitters put too much pressure on themselves, that’s what.  Corey Hart, who’d hit his 17th HR of the year earlier in the game, went to a 3-2 count before striking out.  The next hitter, Rickie Weeks, took a few pitches, but also ended up striking out.  And Martin Maldonado — well, he didn’t do anything, either.  So the Cardinals closer, Jason Motte, got the three outs he needed, while the Brewers closer, Axford, was wild in and out of the strike zone and didn’t pitch effectively.  Now, it looks like Axford may have been removed from his job as Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) has 19 holds and 1 save, and has looked far better than “Ax,” and no one can blame Brewers manager Ron Roenicke for wishing to try someone else at this point.

Oh, yes — the guy who started the game, rookie pitcher Mike Fiers, pitched extremely well (again), but didn’t get the win due to Axford’s meltdown.  (I like Axford a great deal, and believe part of his troubles with command of his fastball and breaking ball come down to the usual problems relief pitchers have from time to time.  But I have to call ’em as I see ’em.)

Otherwise, I’m continuing to work on AN ELFY ABROAD, and have some reviews planned this week at Shiny Book Review for Stephanie Osborn’s third book in her “Displaced Detective” series, and for Rosemary Edghill’s VENGEANCE OF MASKS . . . I may even review another book on economics, to keep my hand in the game.  So stay tuned.

Finally, I played a concert with the Racine Concert Band last Sunday; for the record, I played second alto saxophone, and didn’t have any solos, though I did have a few good parts.  I was glad I was able to play the concert despite the heat and humidity; the crowd at the concert (which was free, as it always is) was a bit diminished, possibly due to the heat, but we still had a couple of hundred people there and that’s encouraging.  This was my fourth service for the band this year; I have a few more planned later this month and into August, though I hope to be playing clarinet at that time (I say “hope” because originally I’d been scheduled to play my clarinet on the last concert).

But whether I’m playing in the group or not, if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin and love free, live music, you owe it to yourselves to get out to the Racine Zoo and take in the Racine Concert Band.  Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays in July, and are at 7:00 p.m. on Sundays in August through August 19.  There’s a wide variety of music, including marches, show tunes, light operas/operettas, and more — and best of all, it’s free.

Now back to our regularly scheduled sweltering, already in progress.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm