Playing My Trombone for the First Time in a Year

It’s amazing how life changes, even without Covid in the equation. Playing my trombone (which I nicknamed Gwendolyn!) was a huge part of my life for so many years; I never thought a day would come when it wasn’t anymore. I have numerous amazing memories of practising, rehearsing, performing, teaching, and conducting – some of these are covered in my Conducting Experience and Menai Bridge Band posts.

On Tuesday I picked up my trombone for the first time in about a year. ‘Gwendolyn’ could do with a bath…and I’d have washed the mouthpiece if I’d known she’d be put away for so long! Oh well.

I enjoyed reminding myself how to breathe properly and how grounding it is to play a wind instrument – it feels as if every part of your body, mind and soul is involved. It was natural, nostalgic, and a little bit sad.

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A Tribute to Gwilym Roberts

When I was told that Gwilym had passed away, it was the first time I’d felt truly lonely here in Cornwall. I was suddenly hundreds of miles away from my band family and gutted not to be able to return to North Wales for the funeral or for the band gathering in his honour.

Mum saw Gwilym at the Eisteddfod just a few weeks ago and he was asking after me, saying he looked forward to me coming back. Thinking about that and knowing I won’t see him again…it breaks my heart. As they say, in these sorts of situations: ‘Words fail’. But as a writer, I must try.

Gwilym was my right-hand man for the six years of my conducting experience. He had already been involved with the band for many years and was the loveliest and most supportive man. When I started out, he was a little on edge, ready to pick up the pieces if necessary!

Gwilym worked hard for Band Porthaethwy, as well as the wider Continue reading

A Tribute to My Conducting Experience

I wrote a Music Journal from summer 2014-2016, a detailed record of the lessons I taught and the rehearsals I conducted. I wrote about the people who were there, the funny things that happened, what we played, our progress, and even messages from parents that meant a lot to me. It’s 70,000 words long – the length of a novel! Over the six years I conducted, I could have written a trilogy.

After the first concert I organised, my grandad observed, ‘You talked to each member of your band as if they were the most important person in the world to you at that moment.’ That was wonderful to hear; it was always a big priority for me, perhaps even more than the music itself, to make sure people know that they matter and are valued. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t cost me personally at times. I’m incapable of faking an interest in people, so I became very attached to everyone and was sad if they left band. There were many tears shed.

However, my overwhelming feeling now is: Continue reading

Being Andrea Bocelli

I had several dreams the other night. One stayed with me.

I walk into a huge hall. It is empty, but your voice fills the room. I can’t believe it – first I meet Aiden Turner and now you! You don’t see me, of course. You never will.

‘Mum,’ I say. ‘Look!’

Andrea Bocelli.

Mum follows me in. Her face falls into a frown, and she Continue reading

When Someone Steals Your Harmony

Room 101 Series: Day 4/7

There’s always some ‘musician’ who comes along and steals all your juicy notes. It’s the way of the world.

Why are they your notes in the first place, Hannah? Well, because I sing a consistent tenor line, serving my time (as it were), looking forward to the wonderful moment in which I can cadence with the middle of the chord – the sandwich filling. But no, some impostor swoops in. They’re far louder, infuriatingly out of tune, and as smug as if they’d invented music itself. The reward for your virtuosic labours has been stolen from you, STOLEN, I SAY!

There’s the same problem in brass band. I’m The Continue reading

News: A Change

While I was away for graduation in November, I made a big decision: I’m going to stop conducting the Beginner and Intermediate Bands at the end of this academic year.

I sat in the Holiday Inn in Cardiff with my friend and began to talk about the future. It was clear that something needed to change.

I’d struggled for quite a few months. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to Continue reading

A Tribute to Menai Bridge Band

I still remember stepping over the threshold for the first time. My trombone-carrying arm shook a little as I took in the brassy smell that is typical of any band room. I’d been asked to help them out for a competition – that was a nice feeling, especially because it’s my home town.

I held my breath as I walked through the small hallway and turned into the main room, eyes searching around for somebody to put me at ease. I instantly relaxed, as there were a few people I knew. But it was more than that: open, warm smiles from complete strangers. Continue reading

Music Doesn’t Inspire Me to Write

I recently talked to somebody about my musical experiences and then, presented as a completely different aspect of my life, discussed my relationship with Creative Writing. I realised something: I rarely write about music.

I am near the end of an Open University degree: ‘Humanities with Music and Creative Writing’. My two favourite subjects are sitting side by side, and yet even there they are separate.

It seems strange that music, which is a huge part of my life, should rarely make it into my writing. I love conducting, teaching music, playing trombone, music theory, singing, playing in band… I hear so many stories, witness so many hilarious events, and know that many of them would make a thrilling read! I just don’t often write them down, apart from in my journal, and occasionally in a Facebook status. Continue reading

Crossfit: Should You Practise What You’re Good At?

People often gravitate towards the familiar; we like what we’re able to do. We all have our favourite movements at Crossfit, and playing to strengths is often a good idea. But can it go too far? Are we missing out?

When I was younger, and learning to play the piano, I always had a favourite exam piece (usually the fun jazzy one). I would play it over and over, getting faster and faster, until I knew it from memory and could probably play it backwards. It became annoying to my family, and rhythmically all-over-the-place, but that’s beside the point! The joy I had playing those pieces fluently is not to be dismissed, but I know that I was choosing the easy option. Learning my scales properly would have been a far bigger achievement, and I would have become a better player.

It’s the same with Crossfit. There is great joy in a workout that consists of movements which are within your comfort zone. But Crossfit is about ‘constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement’ – it is designed to train the whole person, not just to repeat the things we find easy. Continue reading