If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.
Poetry…hmmm…better head to the bookshelf. But music… that has been simply presenting itself!
Two weekends in a row, it’s been wind and brass. The first was planned: there was a regional bands competition up the road, so of course off we went. First, the marching bands. They assembled down the road. Band by band, they came up to the start line, lined up, were inspected for their starting order, then – whistle, count in, and march off playing. The judge marched backwards in front of them to check their file, then stopped and watched them pass to check their rank.
Funny how these words reorganise themselves in your mind when the origin of the saying is stepping out in front of you. It had me wondering what children think when we say “I don’t give tuppence!” – or perhaps most of us have forgotten the idiom with the coinage.
But back to the bands. They were from all over, small towns, and big. Well-funded in tailor-made uniforms, and make-do in “ so long as it’s a black jacket and black pants, we’ll match okay”. Some had the works – a director marching on the left point, a flag-waver marching on the right, and a baton-twirling leader stepping out in front. Others… well one leader was what they could enrol and that was that.
Then there was the band, a bit small and scruffy, but with a woman in a purple satin evening dress and megaphone marching in the rear. And their marching tune was “Happy Days are Here Again”. Huh? Then they got to mid-point of the track and the tune. Up came the megaphone. She belted out the song. They did fancy tattoo-style formation marching patterns, criss-crossing and circling, almost in tight order. They made me think of our Village Strummers ukulele band. Sometimes enthusiasm and joy in performing outweighs precision and perfection.
At least the risk of ukulele-injury is slight: Mani and Margrit were reminiscing about the mouth-injuries Mani in his youth, and Margrit’s son in his, had suffered when you hit a hole in the paddock with a trumpet at your lips!
After lunch, we abandoned the marching bands for the concert hall. Here the brass was joined by the wood-winds, and a permissible percussion section and double-bass… and we were into seriously good wind orchestral playing. Each orchestra played one piece of their own selection, and one set-piece; the judging panel rotated, and so did the audience, as the friends and relatives of each group of players followed their fortunes.
Then, next week’s dose – serendipitous music! Hans and Inge had found a country pub they wanted to introduce us to. It’s one of umpteen along the country-side roads and walking and cycling tracks – the benefits of a population large enough to be in constant movement through the countryside and in need of refreshment.
So – in the late afternoon we’re at the Grüne Baum, eating, drinking, and noticing some of the people at the next table were wearing music logo’d shirts. Aha! They were members of the Reuthi Musik-Verein (club) – left-overs from a gig the band had done at the pub that morning, who’d decided that there was no better place to be on a Sunday. And yes, they’d been playing at the Diepoldsau competition last weekend.
By this time, they knew Mani and I were from New Zealand, but more importantly, that before he “out-wandered” Mani had played first trumpet in the Rheineck Music-Verein. (Auswander is such a wonderful verb – much more about exploring the world than emigrating.) In solidarity, out came their instruments, and in trio, quartet or quintet depending on who had the music books and who had the beers, these remnants of the band entertained us.
Next to music, beer was best.
Reuthi is a little town down in the valley. I don’t know how big the Music-Verein is, but to make up a marching-band, I reckon every second house down there would need to contribute a player. So, alongside the local choral groups, yodelling groups, folk-bands – because every town seems to have those too – there must be no getting away from the opportunity to make music, and the happy duty to provide an audience.