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  • Writer's pictureCold Ash Brass

A day with the best band in the world... Virtually!

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

On the 30th May I was one of approx 80 bandsman from 14 countries to attend Cory's inaugural Virtual Brass Day. This was the latest digital venture by the world leading band that has maintained a high online presence during this "lockdown" we find ourselves in whilst finding clever ways to keep the balance sheet happy without engagements in the calendar. The day was advertised as a full day of performances, challenges and master-class with 5 principal players in the band.

In advance of the day I was sent a link to download parts of When I Grow Up from Matilda along with a video message from Philip Harper instructing us to take a look at our parts ahead of a sectional on the day itself. As a relatively new soprano player I tentatively downloaded the relevant part and had a blow through. Thankfully the part was playable, apart from maybe the 3 semibreve top C's at the end of the piece! It was good to see they had catered for various skill levels on each of the instruments and offered to tailor make if they didn't work for you.

On the day itself I said "bye" to the kids (apologised to the wife) and locked myself in the bedroom looking forward to a day of "banding" that I have very much been missing lately. After introductions from Philip and tutors we were led through a gentle warm up by the MD followed by the master-class session where each principal talked through foundational topics such as breathing, nerves, warm-up routine, vibrato and technique/double-tonguing. Although on mute there were opportunities for participants to practice the techniques being demonstrated.

After lunch there was a Q&A with the Cory Principals where they fielded questions from the group and opened up about other past-times and how they fit daily practice in their work/life schedules; the answer seemingly is to make it part of your regular routine, like meal times. Philip then shared the "Secrets of the Cory Bandroom" including the rehearsal routine and contest preparation schedule of Cory.

The following section was, for me, the main event (and would have enjoyed longer than the 1 hour on the agenda). This is where the participants split into separate rooms based on instrument to attend Sectionals led by the respective Cory Principal. In my case, Tom Hutchinson. After some tips on brass band cornet section playing we began working through When I Grow Up, albeit mostly with microphone's muted. One attempt was made all together un-muted which sounded as good as you would imagine! A pleasant surprise was that we were joined in the cornet sectional by soprano cornet legend Steve Stewart and it was great to be able to ask him questions directly.

Back in the joint room we were treated to 2 x short pre-recorded solo's from each of the principals which were flawlessly performed and certainly inspiring to keep up the practice! At the end of a well polished, professional day Philip wrapped it up and asked us to record ourselves playing the set piece for a mass virtual banding video. I think I need to get back to those top C's...

- Lewis



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