Some Memories Linger

When Memory rings her bell, let all the thoughts run in. ~Emily Dickinson, American poet

Spring semester for symphonic band has started, and we’re practicing for two concerts, one in March and the other in April.

To say this is a busy time would be an understatement.

Typically, our director chooses several pieces, lets us sight-read them, and gives us a chance to weigh in on the merits of adding any (or all) to our program.

I might not appreciate every piece chosen at first, but by the time the concert rolls around, I’ve grown accustomed to them. And often find snatches of tunes noodling through my mind.

Recently, I had to miss one rehearsal because of icy roads, but I was pleasantly surprised the next week when I heard several members practicing snatches of a favorite of mine from way back when.

I knew I’d played it before. Probably in junior high or high school.

I suspect every band around here played it. It was that popular, particularly as a contest piece.

Back then, we were encouraged to sit quietly and listen as other bands performed their contest selections. It was fun, educational, and inspirational to pretend we were the judges. To compare how we did against how they did.

So I knew the melody of this particular piece, but not its name. Or who composed it. Or even on what occasion I’d played it.

In introducing the piece, our current director explained how concert band literature “back in the day” was heavy on clarinets and trumpets, while today’s composers tend to spread the sounds around among all the sections.

Which makes for a different listening experience.

Later, I hummed its familiar eight-bar theme to my son Domer, who said he, too, had played it in school.

Timeless, right?

You’re probably wondering what piece I’m talking about: Toccata for Band by Frank Erickson.

Maybe you played it as a former band member?

I wish I could recall the particulars of when I played it. If only I could go back to the scrapbooks I saved, the ones with the programs from such events.

But that can’t happen because the scrapbooks got trashed in the dismantling of our storage shed some seven years ago.

So I’ll have to satisfy my curiosity with memories. You know, snatches of music, whiffs of certain scents, and touches of a favorite material all have a way of carrying us back to days long ago.

And how cool that I’m getting to make new memories — and collect new programs!

22 thoughts on “Some Memories Linger

    • Ah, yes, Frank. We played English Folk Suite last year, and I love it so much! The flute part was a huge challenge for me, but we grow with challenges like that, don’t we? Thanks for the link!

  1. “So I’ll have to satisfy my curiosity with memories. You know, snatches of music, whiffs of certain scents, and touches of a favorite material all have a way of carrying us back to days long ago.”

    Debbie, I love the way you expressed that because it touches on all our senses. And to me, that’s were all our memories are contained – our senses; particularly when we hear a piece of music or smell a certain scent.

    And yes, I have heard that piece before. My older brother (who played the trumpet) was in his school band, so perhaps that’s where.

    I’m so happy and excited for you as Spring semester for symphonic bands starts up. I wish you could tape part of the concerts so that we could hear it in one of your blog posts. That would be so cool!

    Have a terrific Wednesday, my friend! X

    • Oh, I’m happy to hear your brother played it, too! It’s sort of like one big happy family when we’ve shared certain experiences, isn’t it?

      I’d love being able to videotape part of our concert to share here, but I just can’t. In fact, the college that sponsors this band won’t let any recordings be made. There’s something about the copyright law. I guess because music scores are copyrighted, we don’t want to have to pay extra to use them and record our performance, too. Nice suggestion though.

      Enjoy the rest of your week. We’re having lovely weather today … 50s with lots of sunshine! xx

  2. We are preparing gor a March concert. Wr are not, of course, ready. 3 rehearsals left. We have an interim director, the music is harder, but he is helping us grow as musicians. I played Tocata in high school too.

    • Out concerts must be the same week, Dawn. We, too, have three more rehearsals, and I for one am starting to get nervous. We just got Toccata, and it’s had the least practice time of the pieces on our program. Fingers crossed, we don’t fall completely apart! Glad to hear you played this one — the clarinet part is stunning. Good luck for your performance!

  3. It’s so true how music, scents, textures and pictures can carry us back, even if the memories are a little fuzzy with the passage of time. Something can seem so familiar and yet we can’t quite pin it down. “Toccata for Band” sounds like it would make a good movie soundtrack. Enjoy your rehearsals and upcoming concerts, and all the new memories!

    • Thank you, Barbara! How I wish I’d decided to join community band years ago — it’s not like I didn’t have the instrument. Time, I guess, was the stumbling point. It’s hard when you work full time and are raising young’uns. Perhaps it means more now that I do have more time.

  4. “Toccata for Band” was part of our high school repertoire, too. I preferred the Ralph Vaughn Williams Folk Song Suite, but both were challenging, and pleasures to perform.

    You’re certainly right about scents, sounds, and even single words releasing a flood of memories. Probably the most famous is from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Here’s the selection. In these days of texting and Twitter, we’re not used to writing like this, but the man could write!

    Every now and then, when they’re burning the cane fields in Louisiana and the wind is out of the east, the scent takes me back to Liberia. On the other hand, when I catch a whiff of burning leaves, I’m back in Iowa, helping to rake up the piles we’d play in before they were burned.

    • You too, Linda? How splendid! The clarinet part is stunning. We also played the folk song suite, and I found myself practicing extra hard to get my fingers nimble enough to nail the flute part!

      I’ve never had a petite madeleine, but I looked up the recipe. Oh, my, it sounds yummy. And you’re so right: Proust’s essay draws you in, to where you’re right there tasting tea and eating snacks with him. Thank you for the link.

      There are houses in my neighborhood where my friends used to live. Lo these many years later, I’m sure you could blindfold me, and I’d know whose house was whose, based on scent alone!

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