By Dave Babbitt – Special to the Sydenham Current
Anyone who’s ever been involved in the planning of any event regardless of the scale, has an idea of just how much effort must be applied to the minutest of details if the event is to come off as envisioned.
Being involved in the Arts ever since my teen years has allowed (forced?) me to be involved in many large-scale projects, most of which have been music concerts.
As a teen, I organized a high school jazz band we called “Brass with Class”.
I organized all of our rehearsals and performances.
As a student I was involved in organizing our school Concert Band concerts and after high school, I formed the Brass Factory Big Band which had quite a busy concert schedule for several years.
In time, my years in charge of the Music Department (that was just me, but it sounds impressive) at WDSS had me organizing public concerts, elementary school tours and eventually, my largest projects ever, our Community Christmas Shows.
Eventually, the Brass Factory Big Band was reborn, and we were extremely busy not only with concerts, but this time around, Big Band dances and the big 1995 “Salute to the Bob Jacks Orchestra”.
In addition to these activities, I’ve long been a part of the Wallaceburg and District Council for the Arts and had a hand in organizing dozens and dozens of concerts.
And now, the Wallaceburg Concert Band.
I do not tell you any of this as a way of saying “look what I’ve done”, but merely to illustrate that I have gained much experience in the organizational end of things.
While I love what I do, it’s not always easy and most events require long-range planning.
As our Concert Band is about to present our first post-COVID concert on June 26, I thought that I’d explain a bit of what goes into preparing for these types of performances.
Our band has two “seasons”.
One is in the Fall, and one in the Spring.
As Music Director it is both my responsibility and privilege to select all the music we will play in any concert, and I must always be thinking a season ahead.
For example, in pre-planning for our upcoming 2022 Christmas concerts, I’ve been listening to, and looking at hundreds of potential new scores over the past several weeks, all the while preparing for our Spring concert in just over a weeks’ time.
For those unaware, band music is “graded” by difficulty level.
Music can range anywhere from grade .5 for beginner musicians, up to grade 5 which would be for professional/semi professional level players.
It’s important that I select music that best matches the skill level of our musicians that will allow us to be successful in its preparation which in our case, is usually in the grade 2.5 – 3.5 range but the most important thing to me is the quality of each arrangement.
There are some arrangers that have built a reputation for quality and Directors often gravitate to their work.
For each concert, I usually choose a selection that is a bit more difficult and will challenge our musicians, pushing them further in their skill-development.
Just before each season begins, I meet with our band Executive, and we decide on concert dates so that returning band members can reserve dates on their calendar even before we begin.
Having goals is extremely important for musicians as it makes them buckle down to work.
At this point, we must make application for the venues we wish to use, whether it be indoors at WDSS, or outdoors in a park.
Sometimes I choose a theme for a concert and other times, I don’t.
For instance, a few years ago we presented “Spies, Swashbucklers and Superheroes” and all the music fit into one of those categories.
For our upcoming concert, I simply chose music that I feel will resonate with audiences either through familiarity, a sense of nostalgia, or simply toe-tapping music.
In choosing new music, sometimes our members will make a request for a specific music title, movie, or musical soundtrack.
I’m always open to those requests but it’s not always possible to find a good arrangement or any arrangement at all.
Sometimes, I locate a good arrangement but can’t fit it into the current theme so it must wait for a later concert.
The absolutely most important thing to me is that the music I choose resonates with our members as they are the number one reason we even exist, and I always seek to please AND challenge.
Of course, not everyone likes every selection we tackle but there are always more hits than misses.
Once I find scores that I want to work on for our next season, I turn the title and publisher list over to our Music Librarian, Rebecca Rysoever and she orders the new scores months ahead of time.
Once the new scores arrive, Rebecca stamps them, sorts the parts out, ensures that we have enough copies for each member, files a set of Master copies, then gets them ready for distribution.
This is a HUGE amount of work.
We begin rehearsing new scores at the beginning of each new season and as they take shape, I slowly push one’s we’ve had the least difficulty with to the back of our folders and merely touch on them every few weeks as we concentrate on the more challenging material.
As we get close to concert date, the advertising machine must be fired-up in order to get the word out.
Then, comes concert time.
With scores rehearsed to the best of our abilities, we must move this giant organization to the performance area, and this takes much planning.
There amount of equipment to move is quite staggering and we need transportation and dozens of sets of hands to move it all efficiently.
Thank goodness we have a most amazing crew who assist us in this process including all of our members and in many cases, their family and friends.
One might be inclined to think that there are only chairs and music stands to move but the percussion section alone has a great deal of equipment including drum kit, timpani, keyboard, congas, bells, tubular bells and a host of hand percussion.
Additionally, there is an entire sound system to set-up and test, lighting (when playing indoors), our screen, projector, decorations, stand lights and more.
While this no-doubt sounds like a lot of effort, I can assure everyone that what we all do, is a labour of love, not work.
Performance day brings a nervous excitement that is hard to describe and a hope that we haven’t missed any of the details in our organization and culmination of months of work.