Updated: Oct 8, 2022
Recap 9/12/2022 and 10/4/2022 from August course
The C-Section Band
Almost all guitar circle courses contain a group performance challenge. The excellent change this year is that the organizers only tell us at lunch that there will be a Thursday evening performance. In the past, we are given the assignment the evening before, so many of us end up losing sleep. Being an old fart, I am useless after around 11PM, so I am very happy that we only have 8 hours or so to prepare.
17 groups (well, 15 + 2 soloists) are selected from the hat. Actually, it’s a little worse than that. Originally, there are 16 groups with 1 soloist and then RF says that he is thinking of adding another solo performer, but that would be cruel. Brief pause. There will be 17 groups with 2 soloists. One of the soloists declines to be solo, and my roomie Mike is the one reluctant remaining soloist, an assignment he takes seriously and ably.
Our band is 10 people: 8 guitarists and 2 alleged non-musicians. Our 2 “innocents”, Mirella and Christine arrive at our first meeting probably expecting an easy listening and spectating experience. Ha, no. I set them on their mission to find percussion instruments, anything they can find. Spoons, I suggest. There is a sense of urgency, because OMG 8 hours! Inclusion of “non-musicians” into the bands is a huge and welcome change to the performances. We are forced to go beyond the crafty plinka-plinka-plinka guitars and find a broader means of expression. Dance. Kalimba. Singing. The addition of audients to Guitar Circle courses is a new feature since 2021. My observation is that both this year and last have gone well beyond what I recall from our performances in the past. Simply put, with an all-guitarist ensemble, the palette is generally limited to what we have come to expect from an all-guitar ensemble. Adding non-musicians launches us into another dimension. In our case, we also have Hilary, dance professional and guitarist, so she naturally takes on responsibility for choreography, which is a procession as we play our opening riffs. The piece is titled “Walking While Chewing Gum” because of this.
Our percussion section returns with their chosen weapons: a dish tub and wooden spoon, actually a couple of different spoons, and an ice bucket. A kitchen worker observing us on the way to the hall finds our percussion section hilarious, and I find myself laughing thinking about him during the show.
Christine and Mirella are the anchors on either side of our 10-person orchestra. We quickly establish a basic 4/4 pulse. In Guitar Craft tuning C major is a good beginning place. I am nominally composing the piece with contributions from everyone working together. It is the smoothest working band experience I have ever had. I feel I have been working on difficult things all week, so I advocate keeping it simple in the beginning. Brent and I establish the 4/4 pulse.. ||: C C rest rest :|| and our arpeggiating guitarists doing their thing over the top. Under the direction of dancer Hilary, we plan our procession. Left, rest, right, rest, left, rest, right, rest. My friend in front of me is usually not in step. It’s all good. We arrive at our appointed places, groove commences. ||: Boom boom chicka chicka :|| full guitars, percussionists, everyone dancing as much as they can, Chris moves to center and faces the team, 1 2 3 4 (trying not to bob his head excessively in rhythm, lol) AAAAAAHH! The choral a capella bridge. Then the groove changes to 6/8 in Am (relative minor to C major, all the same notes as C major), and the fancy choreography part.. This is the “C Section”, also the band name. Hilary walks out, David walks out, in 6/8 meter (it is originally going to be in 5/8, but during practice I keep playing in 6/8, so it evolves to that), Hilary is shooting scary looks, David steps back, audience laughs, we fall back into line, Hilary kicks to cue us back to C major, Chris steps forward again, choral finale 1 2 3 4: AAAAAAHH! We are the last of the 16 bands. It feels like a celebration, easy and light. One thing I love about this piece is that we mainly rely on visual cues for each section transition. We don’t need to think very hard.
C-Section - the Happiest Band in the World - this is one of our stated aims before the performance.
I look over at Mirella just before we perform. It is her first musical performance. She is just beaming! For a few moments we are the happiest band in the world. I exchange glances with the audience on our way off stage. It feels perfect.
One aim is to remove the barriers between the performers/musicians and the audience.
To see Robert Fripp dancing in the audience to one of the other bands is worth the price of admission. Jaxie says that she has only been to two concerts that she didn’t want to end: Leonard Cohen and this performance.