Respect … where respect is due.

And yes, festa season is now officially open! It is the most intense season of them all. Preparations are in full blast, excitement is sky high and everyone can’t wait for his special week to arrive. A few weeks ago we had a great seminar and we addressed a lot of issues regarding band clubs, respect and loyalty between clubs, between local musicians (a.k.a tal-post) and their own club, and all of that. It was a great seminar and a fruitful one. Many musicians called and asked, what about them; where we even considered? what are our awards and obligations?

To be honest, the latter question was not featured many times, and that is what triggered this post. I would like to start from the management side as there are many things that need to be changed or better, need to be made better.

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Let’s take in consideration the most challenging part for the band, the feast concert. Many a time band clubs want to be bombastic, show fierceness, show greatness, but many a time, this is shown in the wrong ways. Example of these is extra super long concerts. A person who loves hearing music has a span of attention of not more than one hour, one and a half, max. More than that, is useless, unnoticed and boring, even if the band is playing the greatest masterpieces in the world, it still becomes boring and tiring. So first thing is, feast concerts longer than one and a half hour of music and thirty minutes of presentations including speeches is just about fine. Many will argue, but we are paying for more than a normal service and all that. It is all crap talk. Musicians during concerts are far more concentrated, have more responsibilities and every mistake is much more noticed. So no, it is not a normal service. Apart from that, we have to also consider rehearsal time. More than two hours of rehearsal time is just not on. Let’s say it, attending rehearsal is not something musicians look forward too as the remuneration is almost negligible in some clubs. I am pretty sure that if we pay for the concert at the same price of a three-hour march and give at least 5 euro an hour per rehearsal, both the attendance and the performance would be better. Having said that, setting up rehearsals as early as can be would be much appreciated. Most, if not all musicians are part-timers and after an eight-hour shift of work, some do not even go home to join the rehearsal, two hours of rehearsals is just enough. With this in mind, we can’t have a two hours worth of music during the concert, as it would not be possible to really rehearse as one should rehearse. Obviously, this would mean that each musician should attend at least two to three rehearsals to make sure that at least he would have at least rehearsed each piece once. Another thing that would also help would be if we stop recycling the same music and invest in new compositions and arrangments to make the concert more attractive, demanding and interesting.  I recall playing the same music with various clubs throughout the years, which now became nauseating. I agree that there are some immortal pieces but we need to put new “blood” in our concerts and why not, give some opportunity to local and emerging youth composers.

Then, during marches. Apart from having to play the same marches from one band to another, which lead to losing the identity of the band itself, cause nowadays we have to have all the marches that have that stupid boom boom cd which nonetheless is ruining the beauty of the march itself, and we lost the authenticity of having a march that if you want to hear it, you have to go to the village which owns it. The long roads to nowhere, in order to feel proud that we went all around the village when in real fact everyone that really want to join the feast is at the main square. The number one excuse would be because that the club is given lots of financial help when gathering funds. The sad reality is that most of the time, people want the band to go near them so that they could call out the neighbour and have a bbq with the kids throwing paper on the band. What most of us do not notice is that, if we only stay in the inner perimeter of the main square, no one would say a word, and we might even gather more people during the celebrations. During these celebrations, we find clubs that do not even offer one moment of drinking time to the musicians, which have to blow their horn for three hours. At least, the bare minimum should be, one drink in every hour, and during morning celebrations at least once every three-quarter of an hour. Then we have some cowboy clubs that insist to play marches one after the other as if the band is a jukebox. Another really important thing: Three hours is Three hours and not Three and a quarter. Five minutes are acceptable but more than that is not right, unless all musicians accept to do more for whatever reward.

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Photo: Jonathan Brincat

Then we have the musicians part. It would be better to accept one concert per week rather than four in order to attend at least two to three rehearsals for each concert which would mean better performances. Be as punctual for rehearsals and stay throughout the rehearsal. Seeing musicians come in late and leave mid-rehearsal is just frustrating. During this season, rehearsals would be better if are started a bit earlier so that musicians can attend to other services they have afterwards without any or at least, less hassle.  The saga of the 1st and 2nd or 3rd part. It is really unprofessional and very childish for anyone to demand to play 1st just because he feels insulted playing a 2nd or 3rd part. It is very stupid if anyone things that playing 2nd or 3rd are useless or feel like being mocked. The 2nd and 3rd part and the foundations of good harmony and sometimes even more challenging than the 1st part as you would need to read more carefully and can not rely on ear playing. This is also something we need to start doing again in marches, as we are losing all the harmony within our bands and it will just sound flat and without anybody.  Musicians also need to understand that they are being paid for playing and whatever part you are given, you have to play, and play it correctly as that is your job for the day.  It is not cool at all, to mime will a musician is supposed to play. I am not implying that a musician cannot take a breath but not play is just not on. It is simply theft towards the society that put faith in your abilities and putting more pressure on the fellow musicians.  Do we really need to have the music director or whoever is in charge, going round to see that everyone is doing his bit?

Nevertheless, we are at it. I wish all musicians, music directors, and clubs the best of luck and enjoy our favourite season. Let us be a true showcase of music and traditions.

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