Stirring Sounds

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ~Berthold Auerbach, German-Jewish poet and author

The Thunderer (Concert March) by John Philip Sousa

We’re midway through the season for Community Band now, and I find myself pondering its attraction.

More and more people turn up every week to listen to our concerts in the park. Some are on walkers or oxygen; some bring their dogs; some choose to sit in their cars. Little kids run around playing tag or catching fireflies.

All profess to enjoy the sound.

And why not?

Every week, as the size of our audience grows, the number of area musicians who join us increases, too.

We’re about a hundred strong now.

And every week the range of music deepens, from traditional marches to spiritual hymns to patriotic tunes to pop and rock favorites.

We rehearse for an hour and a half (!) one day a week; our performance lasts another hour or so on a different day.

My logical brain tells me this is impossible. You can’t learn 10 songs by glancing over them and playing them through one time.

Yet we’re doing it.

The Impossible.

I look at our group and marvel at how many would be considered “old.”

Gray hair, glasses, stooped bodies, paunches in the middle.

But they’re a long way from being washed up.

When our director whips out her baton, we sit up straighter. Focus harder. And somehow manage to produce a sound that at times takes your breath away.

Nobody has to be here. We don’t get paid, and there are any number of other things we could be doing.

But playing in Community Band is one of my Bucket List items, and I can’t imagine not participating.

I might be the least-experienced player in the band. I’ve only been playing flute for two years; even our high schoolers have five-plus years beneath their belts.

But nobody seems to mind. There are no criticisms, no “mean girls” making snide remarks, no singling out over a wrong note or rhythm.

Nobody’s judging me for not knowing the last few of the highest notes on my instrument. Or all the alternate keys or trills. For not catching EVERY note in a run.

Instead, I see genuine smiles, lots of camaraderie, sharing tips and tricks.

Happiness. Contentment.

And satisfaction.

For in the end, music elevates us from everyday drudgery and lets us catch a glimpse of heaven.

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12 thoughts on “Stirring Sounds

  1. This is the most beautiful thing! Music is a wonderful, magical, uniting force that can (and should) be enjoyed by all comers at any level of ability or understanding – whether players or listeners. Too often it is hijacked by the snobbish, the elitist or the divas. No. Music is for the hearts, minds and souls of everyone and has power beyond all understanding. Music is the greatest of all the arts!

    • Ah, Lucy, you’ve expressed it well — thank you! I suppose there’s a time and place for the snobs and divas, but music really should be enjoyed by the masses. Witness the popularity of minstrels, musical theater, and campfire songs. Many of us remember things better when accompanied by music (why didn’t I put the Periodic Table to a little ditty back in high school?!?)

  2. I’m so glad to know that you’re participating in the community band. It’s a wonderful experience, and from what you write, it hasn’t changed much since I took part in our Iowa band. I found this photo of our bandshell. It hasn’t changed much, either.

    It’s really true that in a group like that the level of acceptance is sky-high. And it’s worth noting that the audience is accepting, too. Their willingness to bring the blanket and the picnic basket out to the park and enjoy whatever the band is willing and able to play is wonderful. There’s a time and place for polished performers and difficult, complex scores, but there’s a time and place for familiar music, haltingly played. That lack of judgmentalism you mention is a nice plus.

    • That’s an impressive-looking bandshell, Linda. Ours is more open on the sides, allowing for a nice breeze to waft through on hot summer nights! I’ll have to get a friend to take a photo of us before the season ends (it’s not easy playing photographer and musician at the same time, ha!)

      You know, it’s rather amazing that so many folks turn out for these concerts. Sure, they’re FREE, but for some, mobility is a challenge. But the community is most supportive via monetary donations, enabling us to buy new music, new music stands, and even some new instruments over time. All this tells our director we’re heading in the right direction.

  3. Debbie, this post is so BEAUTIFULLY expressed! It actually brought tears to my eyes because you touched on so many things that are so true.

    “Instead, I see genuine smiles, lots of camaraderie, sharing tips and tricks.

    Happiness. Contentment.

    And satisfaction.

    For in the end, music elevates us from everyday drudgery and lets us catch a glimpse of heaven.”

    Isn’t it amazing how music is not only something we hear with our ears, but also (and I I believe more so) with our hearts? The magic of music is that it’s Universal, it’s neutral; therefore can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone, from anywhere.

    But even more powerfully, I believe that music…is healing.

    I am so happy that you got involved with this Community Band because I can see (and feel) what a blessing it’s been.

    Bravo, my friend!
    X

    • “Hearing with our hearts.” What a lovely way to put it, Ron! And you are absolutely correct, my friend. Music IS healing, and there are plenty of studies to prove it. I think it’s healing not only to people but also to animals. Even the most spirited dog seems to calm down when we start playing!

      I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to join this group, too. As my teacher expressed it, there are things playing in an ensemble can teach you that even a private teacher cannot. Thank *YOU* for your support and encouragement! xo

  4. What a lovely thing to be able to listen to music in the park! Sometimes formal concerts are too formal, especially for kids – you’re supposed to know when to applaud and rules about coughing and so on. I love formal concerts but they can be quite intimidating, I think. This sounds like a much better way to attract people towards music and to make them think that maybe they too could play an instrument. Well done, you! I hope you continue to get so much out of it! :D

    • Ah, FF, you are so right. Too many kids get turned off of music because of stuffy rules and intimidating concert venues. Our casual park concerts are ideal on so many levels, both for us as performers and for our listeners. Because of inclement weather, our first concert of this season had to be moved indoors, something that resulted in fewer attendees. I imagine people like to be outside on a warm summer evening, listening to music!

  5. Debbie, I think that the whole idea of a community band is great for humanity. It engages all ages and brings people together. Though I am not nearly the talented musician that you are and can’t read music, I just bought a used guitar to strum at family gatherings so we can all sing along a bit off tune and share the uplifting magic of music.

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