Bandstand – a fixture of local parks in the UK, and I hope elsewhere in the world. I assumed that, like choirs, bands have had a tough time during Covid. This prompt left me thinking of the resurrection, or at least that’s how return to normality must feel for some groups.
As always, thanks go to KL Caley for keeping the #writephoto prompt well and truly going at New2Writing.com. This lovely photo did the honours this week. My effort is just under 650 words.
I’d like to dedicate this to the Epping Town Band, who were truly awful when I moved there in 1985. By the time I moved away they were a credit to the community. I actually enjoyed listening to them.
The bandstand stood empty in the park. People walked or jogged past, keeping their distance from each other, ones and twos stepping way off the path to pass groups, families, perhaps. A whole summer had passed, and the bandstand stood, forlorn, paint peeling.
Autumn brought renewed interest, an official coming to inspect it, suggesting a new coat of paint, but nothing happened.
Winter came and all was quiet. Nobody even came past on sunny days, not that they had many. In the spring, the band leader came back. Two others joined him, with their own ladders and paint, and they set to, doing two panels each, keeping apart from each other.
“I don’t know if it’s worth it, though,” one said, taking his mask off to drink from his thermos flask cup.
“Oh, it’ll happen sooner or later,” another said. “They can’t keep changing their minds forever.”
“I just want to know when we should start band practice again. I mean – rule of six! How can a fourteen piece band practice in a rule of six?”
“Surely we can practice—it’s out of doors.”
“Still rule of six, or two bubbles.”
The first one nodded. “You’re right. But… how about we practice in groups of six. One there, one there, and you conducting there, with the drums either side?”
“I’ll never hear the rest!” the leader said. But he looked at the hexagonal bandstand, and the divisions they could make, and pondered.
Next day he came back with a tape measure. They’d only have to be two feet away from the bandstand, but it would be possible for all of them to be on the same side. He could stand on the steps if someone was going to get shirty about whether under the roof of the bandstand was ‘indoors.’ Not perfect, but better than nothing… He spent the evening contacting everyone.
Thursday evening was a lovely one. The band would normally assemble at 6.30, so they stuck to that. Their first get together for fifteen months. They’d tried a Zoom meeting… it was ridiculous, what with bad connections and sound levels cutting out every time a trumpet blew…
Now they stood around in their allocated spaces, warming up their mouths, their lips, their instruments.
“Right then. Let’s hear some scales—first brass side, then the rest of you. Yes, including drums.”
Frankly, even the scales were a shambles.
A few people stopped to watch. Inevitably someone started heckling, but surprisingly, one of the other watchers told them off. “When did you last play an instrument?” they asked. “I bet they’ve not played together since first lockdown.”
Encouraged by some sympathy, they had a go at the first verse of Land of Hope and Glory. The leader winced, frequently, but they got through.
“How are you feeling, then? Don’t want to overdo it , I bet most of you haven’t been allowed to practice.”
General murmuring suggested he was right. After a struggle through another favourite, he called a halt. “Well, how many of you can meet tomorrow, same time?”
Several hands went up. “Tuesday?” Fewer. “Wednesday?” Most hands. “Well, look, let’s meet Friday and Wednesday for those who can, and Thursday regular practice. You weren’t that bad, really.” He cringed. “So let’s hope we can do a real bandstand concert as soon as we get out of this tier stuff – June 21st they say.”
June 21st came and went, but the number of people who stopped to hear them practising rose.
The grand ‘Freedom Concerts” on Saturdays started on July 17th. By September they’d raised over £1000 for local charities, but more importantly, the food bank collection box had doubled in size and still overflowed, every week.
Even the mayor came. His words afterwards put the seal on it. The bandstand was staying, and would get a proper maintenance budget next year. And the band got a grant from the community fund.