2 February 2018
Being a musician has been a great part of my life for over 70 years. It all started when I was 10 years old and was selected during a school music lesson to become a member of the newly formed school band.
I was late, or maybe just last into the band room, and the only instrument left was a trombone. Not a popular instrument. However, I persevered and for a year became expert at farmyard impressions and dive-bomber sounds.
The other members of the band were equally proficient on their selected instruments. The overall effect sounded like a herd of angry elephants attacking several dustbins. Our version of The Anvil Chorus was a sound to give anyone within a radius of a mile sore ears.
The repertoire of this embryonic orchestra only included two other tunes: The Overture to William Tell and Jingle Bells. All three tunes were played all year round. A critic once implied that we sounded like an impression of an out of tune Spike Jones and his City Slickers – this we took as praise.
In a perverse way we enjoyed the cacophony. It had an effect on the other children: the sound was so bad that nobody wanted to join us. This was wonderful as we became a clique and were excused lessons for band practice.
This was when the trumpet section became expert at smoking Capstan Full Strength. They also acquired rasping coughs a semitone apart.
The good times had to end, though. A new bandmaster arrived, an American who played all the saxophones, flute and clarinet. He whipped our crew into a group of keen young musicians and gave us proper practice schedules.
Within a few weeks the band had improved 100%. It was this teacher who instilled musicianship into us and what it felt like to perform properly and leave the clowning for when it was appropriate.
These were the very early days. In the years that followed there were numerous situations – ammunition for at least 1,000 anecdotes. However, I’ll leave that for another time.
As a postscript I would like to mention that I have played in many different venues but the best were in New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras – it is madness personified.
By George Oswald, Senior Citizens’ Media Group