The Christmas concert was cheery. The very large community band was decked out in Santa hats, reindeer antlers and green and red garb versus their standard concert black and white. There were clarinets and french horns, piccolos and sousaphones, oboes and xylophones, and, my personal favorite, the timpani drums. You don’t get to a better crescendo than that.
The players were very diverse, ranging from a fresh-faced late teen through a skinny and slightly stooped octogenarian both with full heads of hair, one straight and black and the other a fluff ball of white curls. There wasn’t a cluster around any age cohort–eyeballing the performers they were well distributed across the last sixty or so years. There was an even number of men and women, perhaps five more men than women if we’re nitpicky. And while the majority of the musicians may have been white, it was minor majority. People of color were represented across all sections of the band, from winds to brass to percussion. It was America.
The performance was in the band room rather than the theatre. The program was a light selection of Christmas and seasonal tunes with specialty turns by quartets, sextets and an octet full of various-sized saxophones. A few pieces were clearly well-rehearsed, and well-liked, by the band. A few were a little less beloved, and two of the chamber pieces started and stopped and restarted. The lady on the recorder called a mulligan on one song as did the first clarinet on another. It was all quite relaxed.
The audience was a bit fewer in numbers than the band. They were moms and dads, partners and children, and friends and neighbors who gathered to support their hyper-local musicians. They were welcomed not only with elf-suits and carols, but also with six buffet tables filled with post-concert nosh provided by the band members.
There were trays of to-go chicken, including the wings that disappeared before the trumpet was able to store her instrument. There were pre-cut squares of mild cheeses with triscuit crackers. There were a few dips, mostly of the bean and chick pea varieties, with accompanying chips and pita wedges. The black bottomed trays piled with pre-cut vegetables, like broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, celery, ranch dressing and the cauliflower that was always leftover, posted up one or two looming large on four of the tables. There was a dearth of serving pieces, so nobody ate the popcorn that would have required manhandling the entire contents in the tin.
The youngest in the audience were big-eyed at the tables full of sweets. A bowl full of kisses, a plate with green and white filled oreos, cupcakes with eggnog icing that looked straight out of a TV show bakery, brownies, Tupperwares topped off with chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip and oatmeal craisin cookies. Some desserts were from old country recipes, while others represented the latest paleo or gluten free trends. There were fruit and custard pies, which all looked store bought, and round and bundt cakes that evidenced the love of homemade icing and gaily placed nuts. There was also a fruit tray that became more and more desirable as a palate cleanser after the sugar course.
The band members congratulated each other and laughed through their quick debriefs of their successes and foibles, speaking the shorthand developed after many hours of rehearsals and their common, musical, patios. They mingled with their guests, jostling over that last wing and handing a plastic fork over the table to a stranger who was searching. Turns out that everyone found what they were looking for on this December evening.