Gartan Weekend

Well, what a weekend it was! From the children, to the leaders and to all the parents that attended, thank you all, you really made a fantastic event and hopefully one we can continue with over the next few years. The weekend started for Gavin Barr and me with a run to Derry to collect one of the tutors from across the water, Gary Curtin. From here we went down to the Gartan Educational Centre and, after a cup of tea, began into the work.

On the Friday I started with Noel Jnr in the youth band and we spent the first few hours on one piece alone, “Bandilero Calypso Calapso”. After this I thought that because I was going to conduct the junior band on the actual concert night I should familiarise myself with this group and their ability. After dinner I decided to spend the evening session working with them on the first of three pieces that they performed on the night, “Can-Can”. Many thanks to Gary for introducing the children to this and having them warmed up and ready for me! Over the evening session Gavin and I worked with the juniors to figure out notes and rhythm and by the end of the night, besides having sore lips, the children were starting to sound like a proper band.

Day two began how I left off on the previous night, with the junior band and doing more work on the Can-Can. After a lot of time spent they were beginning to reap the rewards and they were growing in confidence, both as individuals and as a band. After Gavin and I were satisfied with the first piece we moved on to the second, “Papa Paquita” taken from a beginner brass band series. This focused on timing and the band now needed to really listen to each other, a formidable task I thought, but one met with ease, both to my surprise and delight. The band worked well through this and after 3 sessions they had it wrapped up. It was then I decided that we would have to begin a new piece, “Fanfare”; both to stop any boredom of repetition of playing the same music and to challenge the children more than I had done.

Noel and I decided to try Fanfare because it would be challenging in a new way. Rather than just playing through every note or bar the children really had to concentrate and count every single beat. It also made every player feel important because they had to play their part perfectly or it would cause havoc as each part was intertwined with another with players relying on hearing an entry to make sure they were in the right place; one mistake would have spelt disaster!

Fortunately though the children excelled themselves and the concert was great. They really did themselves proud and I was immensely pleased at how well they performed. The youth band played 5 pieces and they were awesome to listen to, such a sound they had on the night, it was a pleasure to listen to. Hearing Gary’s performance and indeed playing along with him throughout his solo rendition of Geo Doughty’s “The Grandfather’s Clock” was a fantastic feeling and I dare say I wasn’t the only one with Goosebumps hearing him play his cadenza! Gavin Barr then played “Over the Rainbow”, a famous melody from the film, the Wizard of Oz, and in true fashion he did not disappoint. Finally, the senior youth band played 3 pieces before the audience were addressed for the final time. These went down well and I’ll not boast too much as I was part of it. Of course an encore was customary and in this there were some 60+ players crammed into the top end of the hall to play one final piece, “Let’s Rock & Roll”. After much deserved applause the crowd were thanked and we were on our way home.

Overall I was thoroughly impressed with both the professionalism of everyone involved, from my fellow tutors to the children who were all keen to learn, and from the feedback I heard were greatly satisfied by the weekend.

A thank you to all Gartan staff that were very helpful and provided great activities for the children and especially the chef who had meals ready promptly, with more than enough for everyone.

Finally a word of thanks to all the leaders and volunteers who came down for the weekend and helped to make it what it was, a blistering success. I hope that we can do it again next year, with the children’s participation and your support the futures bright!

Mark Rouse