BERLIN BOUND - Isobel Daws secures place at Karajan Academy

Issue 6125

SCOTTISH FUNDING - SBBA receives Creative Scotland award

CONTEST CANCELLED - West of England Regionals off

CURTAIN RISING - RNCM Festival set for take-off

PUSHED BACK - Australian Nationals postponed

Column: Liv Appleton - The gift that keeps on giving

Thursday 23 December, 2021

As the end of the year approaches, British Bandsman columnist Liv Appleton thought it was an opportune time to reflect on the best that 2021 had to offer; after all, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom.

With the last of the present wrapping well under way, Liv looks back at some of the gifts banding gave to her in 2021.

Well, it’s that time of year again. Where on earth has this year gone? I was looking forward to two weeks of Christmassy music making when I was struck down by the dreaded COVID, which meant I had to pull out of my band’s festive performances. Well, they say the third time’s a charm – so hopefully next year I’ll be able to enjoy the full festive season without this terrible virus getting in the way. While I admit I did spend quite a few days feeling sorry for myself, my 10-day isolation period gave me time to reflect on the past year and realise that despite the virus, this year hasn’t been all doom and gloom.
First real concert

After more than a year of waiting to perform live again, it was a real treat that my first concert back was the Festival in Halifax. I don’t think I truly understood how much I missed live performing until I finally walked out on stage again and saw an audience looking back. Feeling that buzz as I came off stage was exhilarating and I wasn’t quite sure how I coped without live performing for over a year. But after all the fear, panic, worry and isolation brought by 2020, the time spent on stage during the festival was a real gift.
Musical celebrating

Brass bands have brought me many things, one of the most important being my friends. It was amazing to celebrate the union of two fellow banding friends with lots of other banders in the form of a flash mob for their first dance. We all got our instruments out and celebrated the bride and groom (who also played with us) entering their new life in the most fabulous way. It was such a moment of joy, showing how brass bands can bring people together in the most beautiful way. Also having the honour of playing a solo during their ceremony is a moment I will forever be grateful for.
The return to flugel

Cornet was the instrument I learned on and I have spent more years playing it than I have the flugel, so I always feel guilty when I say that I enjoy flugel more, but it’s true. What started as a guilty pleasure, has turned into a long-term affair and a lot of my favourite performances have been on the flugel. It has been amazing to be back on flugel full-time, playing for the Wingates Band. I may be biased, but the flugel part is always brilliant. It’s like a pick and mix of all the best parts of a piece – in my opinion anyway.
Childhood dream

Speaking of the Wingates Band, joining the band has been a massive achievement for me. For many, this may not seem like a big deal but sitting on a solo seat in a Championship Section band was the dream from when I first picked up an instrument. Some kids dream of playing for England or winning a Grammy award; this was my dream. It’s been an incredible learning journey too, which has done a lot for my playing and I’m really excited to see what next year holds. I’m not talking about contest results, I’m talking about the friendships I’ve made within the band, falling in love with my playing even more and learning so much from the players around me. It’s very exciting.
Virtual concert

Recording the virtual Christmas concert with Wingates was one of the biggest highlights of this year. Not just because it ended up being one of the only Christmas concerts I got to actually do (cheers COVID), it was such a fantastic day. Performing a duet with my other half, Rob, is a moment I will never forget and will always cherish. Watching the recording back made me so grateful for this hobby.
All in all it’s been another weird year, but once again I am grateful that I picked up a brass instrument nearly 18 years ago and I’m so thankful that brass banding managed to return. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. From forging new friendships, creating memories and lifting spirits, this amazing musical community we have has provided so much hope and happiness for me this year and I’m sure a lot of us feel the same. With the rise of this new variant, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned for what impact it may have on our music next year; we all have to keep our fingers crossed. However, we’ve got to keep going. So far, we’ve managed to traverse almost two years of ups and downs, obstacles and lockdowns and we are still here. We’ve got to keep going – because the results are invariably beautiful.