Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Zoo concerts

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

Patriotism, Band Music, and July 4th

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Folks, earlier today I took part in one of the most patriotic things any non-United States veteran can do on July 4th: I played in the City of Racine parade with the Racine Concert Band.

Now, why is this patriotic?

Mostly, it’s because we play marches while sitting on the parade float. (Today’s three, for the record, were “Liberty Bell” by John Philip Sousa, “South,” an arrangement of various tunes by Hal Leonard, and an arrangement “God Bless America” by someone whose name I’ve already forgotten.) And in case anyone forgets marches are usually intended to be patriotic, we had flags all over our float, while most of us wore additional bits of red, white and blue on our uniforms (or, in some cases, in temporary tattoos on arms, faces, or hands).

The fun thing about playing in the parade is to see how people respond to this music. People of all ages clap their hands, bob their heads, wave at the band (we usually wave back when we’re not actually playing), some of ’em dance in the street, and a few even pretend to conduct the band (waving an imaginary conductor’s baton in the air).

Some of these folks on the Racine parade route may not see the Racine Concert Band (henceforth shortened to RCB for ease of reference) at any time during the rest of the year, though we play free concerts at the Racine Zoo in July and August and have three winter concerts for minimal prices at the three Racine high schools (Case, Park, and Horlick). So playing the parade does more than a few things…it helps remind Racinians that the RCB exists, and that we can still bring joy to people, just by sharing a bit of music with them.

The RCB’s first free Zoo concert of the year is July 5 (that’s today, as it’s ticked over past midnight since I started writing this). There’s a trombone soloist, a trumpet trio, lots of marches and patriotic arrangements…people will know nearly all of the songs that we play, and the ones the audience don’t know right off, they probably will by the time we’re done playing it for them.

See, there’s something about marches, show tunes, and patriotic arrangements that really hits people, emotionally. Even folks who don’t think they know “Liberty Bell,” once they hear it, ask, “Isn’t that the music from Monty Python’s Flying Circus?” (At which point, I reply, “Why, yes. Yes, it is.”)

And seeing a free concert in the park can be inspirational…which is one reason I’m glad my hands are doing well enough that I have resumed my chair in the RCB.

If you live in Racine, Kenosha, other parts of Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, I urge you to come see the RCB tomorrow at the Racine Zoo for our first free summer concert of the year. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and free parking is available.

Because, really…what’s more patriotic than a John Philip Sousa march or two on Independence Day weekend?

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 5, 2015 at 12:20 am