I was born in Sheffield. I was brought up in Sheffield. Now from my new adopted home (I’m a Geordie in every other way) Sheffield is ‘south’. It’s not “in The South”, which is a pretty serious term of dis-endearment, but even so, it’s not part of God’s Own Country.
But in Sheffield and the areas around, we know about Brass Bands. Seriously. As a certain drink is to the people of Scotland, as rock is to Blackpool and as rain is to Manchester, so are brass bands to citizens of the independent republic of Yorkshire.
Despite that, for a while in my rebellious teenage years I delighted in the ‘joke’ that I thought brass bands ought to be. (Gettit?) but as I approach maturity (I’m 49!) I have to say that ‘blood will out’ and I’m softening. I believed they should be allowed, tolerated and even encouraged as a form of Care in the Community.
Today however, I took me a massive step towards becoming a full believer.
In Didcot of all places, near Oxford. May God forgive me.
I heard a brass group there which I’d commend to all non-Brassers. Oompah Brass are a five-piece (six if you count the occasional exceptional vocal) and I sat there in a kid’s concert with a grin on my silly face from start to finish.
Being a kid’s concert it was short, light and funny – but even when being elephants and horse there was a technical competence to delight even the most serious cynic. Here are musicians playing for the fun of it and for younger audiences not because they can’t make in the ‘real world’ of serious music but because they chose to.
Nary a split note, articulation to die for and an understanding of the audience that I recognise only because of my theatre background. Truly, they made it look so easy that only a professional curmudgeon could complain about them not ‘doing the swan thing’. (Never show your audience how hard you’re working, let them think it’s all glamourous gliding along on the surface, despite how bloody hard you’re paddling under the water).
Suffice it to say, I, a Yorkshireman remember, duly handed over my hard earned ten pounds of Sterling for a CD on the way out. Currently I’m listening to a cover of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and loving it.
Did I mention that I’m a musical purist too, and find it hard to forgive anyone doing covers? If it had been intended to be played on kazoo and spoons it would have been bloody written for kazoo and spoons in the first place… but for Oompah Brass I’m prepared to make an exception.
If they pass your way, go.
If you have to wait until next year’s Britain’s Got Talent, vote.