I've been playing quite a bit of music recently.




On May 31st, I was roped in to play "film music", which was a new one for me. Mostly cartoon themes such as Some Day My Prince Will Come, Popeye or The Bare Necessities, but the odd tune from films such as The Sting or Black Cat White Cat. The idea was to videoproject extracts from films and cartoons, and play the theme tunes live at the same time. This required quite a bit of accurate timing. As the concert was organized by the music school, it was gaily disorganized from day one.


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We knew from August onwards that there would be a film music concert on that date. Rehearsals started one week before the concert, and panic ensued to make sure we would be able to fit in enough rehearsals before said concert. There was a bank holiday that week, though, which helped. For a start, nobody had any sheet music except the kids, who had been working on this film music since November. Three kids out of an original five or six, but the trumpeter wasn't there, another one couldn't make it, another one got the jitters, that sort of thing. So the organizer roped in a cartload of teachers to fill the stage out a bit. After the no-sheet-music problem, I was told the name of a tune and asked to transpose it. Again, always fun when you've never heard the tune before and it's for the day after tomorrow. One of the violinists was patiently awaited for two rehearsals before we learnt he was in Madagascar and wouldn't be back in time. The concert itself went fairly well, though, despite the odd timing problem, but we had a very good pianist who was carefully watching the screen and filled in between the moment we finished playing and the moment the film extract ended.


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As the next day was the end of a popular underwater film festival, we were asked to repeat the concert for that occasion. We were asked to be present at 7.30. The organiser telephoned at the last minute and asked us to be there at 6. Fifteen musicians panicked. The cellist and her cello needed transport. A girl had offered to take her, but remembered at the last minute that she also had to bring the electronic keyboard and pianist, who just happened to be her boyfriend. A choice was made, and the cellist phoned me in a tizzy, asking me to come and fetch her. Meanwhile, the pianist wasn't dressed yet and nobody knew where the percussionist was. We made it to the venue - the one and only swimming pool in Mayotte, which organises this type of event regularly - and plugged everything in... just to realize that we didn't have the transformer for the keyboard. The director of the music school hurried back with instructions to bring the shopping bag containing the transformer. Meanwhile, of course, the prize-giving ceremony had started. She brought back the required shopping bag, but the transformer inside wasn't for that piano, it was for the one we had used the day before at the church. I grabbed my car keys and the pianist and we hurtled off into the night to fetch the right one, whose location was of course unknown. Plan B being to drive to the church and pick up the other piano, the one we had the transformer for. Pianist phones the music school, drum teacher answers and explains that he had borrowed the piano and thought he knew where he'd put the transformer. Meanwhile, at the swimming pool, little papers had been given out, entitling us to food and drink... but as we'd been out fetching bits and pieces, we had no such thing and as such had to beg for food. By the time we got everything in place and everyone sorted out, the ceremony was over halfway, so we played for half an hour at the end.


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On June 7th, a local café had ordered in plenty of Breton food and had asked the Blue Mango to play Breton music and to bring in lots of Breton dancers The idea being that the Breton musicians would play Breton music and eat Breton food for free, but the Breton dancers would dance Breton dances and eat Breton food for a fee, thus making the whole thing worthwhile for the café. As it happens, we've just gained a Breton bombarde player. That's a weapon of mass destruction, that one. About the size of a recorder, perpetually off-key and producing just over 100 decibels. Oh, and played by a spotty eighteen-year-old who hasn't got his Baccalauréat yet. We explained the idea to the dancers, who know a few Breton dances, and were told in no uncertain terms that if the cook hadn't changed, they wouldn't go near the place even if he was cooking Breton food. That they would bring their own bottles of water because the restaurant was too expensive, and that they would dance what they felt like dancing.

We arrived there with a bit of time to spare, tuned up, dumped the instrument boxes on the floor and moved several tables out of the way to give people space to dance. A few people trickled in, a couple of colleagues of mine among them. One had come to see me play and to dance, the other didn't know it was a special Breton night and had come expecting the café's usual food, so was disappointed. We played dance-y stuff to get people up to the dance floor. Nothing happened. They clapped politely after each piece, but didn't seem interested in the dancing side of things. A girl who comes to the dance workshops regularly got up and danced a couple of times, either with her boyfriend, with another girl or with me, and people clapped again. We played while food was being served to the customers, then stopped and sat down in the hopes of receiving some food ourselves. Nothing happened. Ten or fifteen minutes later, still nothing had happened, and people were having dessert and getting up to go, so we went back up and played again. After about half an hour, I went to dance and we suddenly realized that the music was getting faster and faster. We turned around and saw food on the table. The musicians were hungry. We kept on playing and dancing, though, finally sitting down to eat at the end of the evening... by which time, of course, there was no main course or dessert left, and the chef had packed up.

It finished as a jazz improvisation session with five guitars, an accordion and a recorder playing everything in the wrong key.



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