Bandshell (Maybe Forever?)

Posted on September 7, 2015

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By Lauriate Roly

One of my greatest pleasures is hearing a band playing in an outdoor bandshell.  From earliest childhood days that I can recall, listening to music being played in the open air is just about the most beautiful feeling there is for me. The music is raw.  No enhancing sound devices involved and hooked up to try to make a beautiful sound, sound better.  Even to-day after so many years, if there is a park around with a bandstand of any kind, and an orchestra playing,  to sit in a comfortable and easy-to-carry lawn chair with a spiked glass of lemonade in a thermo jug, every moment listening to the heavenly music becomes even more heavenly.

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Visiting a friend’s venerable piano store, I was testing a new Yamaha Grand, the latest edition of one of these divine instruments.  Sometimes, depending on who is playing,  Francois has a hook-up that carries the sound to all parts of the store, and it’s a big store. The clientele hear it.

A store customer hearing me commented he was enjoying it.  I explained that I was here buying an electronic piano keyboard which I use now because my damp home isn’t friendly to standard pianos with strings and a sound board… the kind of arrangement that constantly requires costly tuning (too often!). Whenever I visit this shop, I take advantage of  playing on acoustic pianos. I miss playing on them.  They are quite different from the digital, even the very best digitals which I use.

I recognized this customer from band concerts I often attended at the local park band pavilion in the next town a dozen miles away.  He asked if I played professionally.  I explained that though music has been a profession for most of my life, my work mainly has involved commercial compositions and arrangements.  I no longer played to entertain.

“I love what you’ve been playing but I don’t recognize the melodies.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard  them before”.   He was amazed that the pieces I had been playing were my own compositions.  Would I mind if he recorded me?  He had a tiny pocket recorder unit he carried with him at all times.

No.  Fine with me if you like.

During our discussions, David was astonished that I only played my own music, which was only used commercially; that none of my own songs were ever heard unless I played them for my own remembrance and pleasure, or when I might play them to work and improve them.   He couldn’t believe that outside of the mood and effect compositions I have done commercially, I have never heard anyone play any of my personal songs and compositions.  Except for a few, here and there.

That isn’t exactly correct,  because so often in my dreams, I would be some place and in the background I would hear this lovely music.  I would just love the melody and suddenly would realize, still in a dreamed stage: Hey?  What the Hell?  That’s my stuff being played! How come? I still have such dreams and I can’t express how delightful I find hearing full orchestrations of compositions I have created but never pursued commercially.

Some time later, David phoned me, saying there would be a band concert that week. He knew I liked outdoor music; would I like to attend? It was to be the military orchestra he has been an active member of for many years.

“Thanks, but no thanks, I can’t drive after nightfall”.  Aging eyes. “I would love to go and hear you, but driving myself is not possible”.  He called again several times after that,  but my reply had to be always as before.  Night driving was out for me and there was no one I would ask or would expect to drive me.

A few months later, he called again,  saying there was going to be a very special concert featuring his own personal band and it was going to be in the afternoon.  “Wouldn’t you like to come?   I really wish you would.  We’re playing gems of showtime favorites and other special stuff that the older crowd still love to hear”.

He sounded so completely earnest, hopeful, and convincing that I agreed to go, since it was an early daytime performance and night-time driving would not be a hindrance; but mainly it was so genuine that he wished I might attend to hear his own very personal band play his very favorite music to the audiences that have recognized his talent from his performances in the military bands he played with for so many years. Also, I liked the guy and knew his superior talent regarding musical concert performances.  He was accomplished with many musical instruments. There was no denying that this man was a fine musician.

I noticed there was a decent-size audience as I found a comfortable spot for my lawn chair, where I not only would clearly see the performers on the stage, but more importantly, from where I would clearly as possible hear the performers do their acts.

My friend David was so enthused in every moment of the presentations to this very appreciative audience, who knew him from many past performances and recognized that his renditions of anything he promoted and presented would be first class and most enjoyable.

The program he prepared included all kinds of wonderful music.  Current pieces, but mainly Broadway-type music from the late forties, fifties, and sixties and up to date.  The show was wonderful and the audience was completely captivated.

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There was an intermission.

When he and his orchestra returned, very serious looking,  he announced that the next segment of his musical presentation for his many loving and devoted fans , would be a selection of “new stuff”.

“These next tunes are all completely brand new.  You’ve never heard them before.  I found these songs listening to a fellow who is right here in this town.  A fellow whom I discovered has been writing music since he was a child.  Probably, none here know him as a musician, but outside of this town he’s recognized in the commercial music world for his musical work  – but  you have seen him around, I’m certain:  in the bank, at the mall, in Sears…” ( in the liquor store??)

“He never did a thing to have his personal music heard by any at home  audience, except for special engagements played by entrepreneurs  who found and recognized his special brand of music.”

“So now here is your neighbor’s music . . . This is all very new and most of this music comes from a composer who has been working in Europe most of his life, but now lives right here with all of you   –  in this town.”

“I truly hope you enjoy this work as much as I do and trust you will enjoy and understand my appreciation for a composer with works that have not yet been presented or heard here on this side of the Atlantic. Here goes. . .”

Well, I was not just a little entranced by this invitation.  To hear music never before played in America, and totally brand new, was going to be an unexpected treat especially for the likes of me, who just loves to fall upon new sounds, rhythms and melodies.  I hear so many, that to get the chance of listening to something composed locally was to be a new adventure which I hoped would not be disappointing.

So the excellent orchestra with its eager players wanting to excel, began to play.  I wasn’t the only one to become completely enchanted by the beautiful sounds . . . and. . . then . . . I thought:

What the Hell?  That’s my tune.  I wrote that.

Unbelievably, after that, I had two more reasons to repeat that  surprised statement.

Not just one.

(the audience loved)

Not just two.

(the audience loved)

Three songs!

(the audience loved : again).

I couldn’t believe it.  My goodness, they love my stuff!

I asked David how he knew about any of my songs.  I never played them outside my studio. “I loved the way you played at Francois’.  Remember, I asked if I may record you?  Well, I did, and I set the whole thing to notated form and got my band to play it because they loved it all just the way that I did.

“It’s not too late, L.   There’s still time.  You can find another agent like Walter to work with you.  Someone who loves working with you, and also will enjoy being with you enjoying the outdoor band sound and your music”.  Just like it used to be in Switzerland and Paris.”

Sounds good to me, but do you think that person would have an easy-to-carry lawn chair?  . . . to sit with me in one of our beautiful parks . . .   and carry a spiked thermos?

Sounds like a good idea. This could go on for some time, because I think I can still write new songs.

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Lauriate Roly.

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