For one of our singing escapades we were accompanied by a percussionist who's also a serviceable pianist, and we all got on very well. She plays with the Bordeaux Wind Band who have a really good reputation. Most French towns of any size will have a wind band, a military band, called une harmonie, and the band will play at commemoration services etc.
Anyway the Bordeaux Wind Band give free concerts and when there's one coming up she sends us a little email to let us know. They play in a theatre in the middle of town, always at 5:15, and either on Saturday or Sunday. In the past we hoped to go but were prevented by the rampaging gilets jaunes, but now that they no longer run amok in the town centre I was able to.
The band must have been about 60 strong, augmented by two harps and 5 or 6 double basses. The programme comprised arrangements of orchestral works, firstly Berlioz' overture "Le Carnaval Romain". This is a crazy frantic romp. I used to play it with the brass band as a nipper and I've always loved it. It has solos, notably for cor anglais.
Then came most of Mussorgsky's Picture at an Exhibition, originally for piano, arranged for orchestra by Ravel, then for wind band by person or persons unknown. It's a massive, monumental work. I was impressed by the ensemble playing and the precision of the complicated rhythms. The soloists struggled a bit. The ending is so huge, an ocean of sound.
The concert ended with the Light Cavalry overture by Suppé. This is a bit of a laugh, really, and the horns played along by swaying side to side while some of the percussionists rode imaginary horses.
In all about an hour of music. Cracking! On the tram on the way back there was a lad in white shirt with a black jacket over his shoulder and a gig bag by his feet.
"No, a bassooon"
"You just played?
"I just listened."
We chatted about the concert, the bassoon and stuff, then I thanked him and got off at my stop.