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Blog: BBC Maida Vale

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Still feeling a bit tired, also VERY sun-tanned, The Crop In My Arable Field and I hit the ROCKING TRAIL again yesterday and headed over to BBC Maida Vale Studios, where we'd got places booked at the Play It Again Event there. I wasn't sure what to expect - I thought it might be an Introduction To Playing Music and, to be honest, thought it might be a bit Worthy And Slightly Dull. I was WRONG!

We turned up, registered, and got led through Maida Vale's INCREDIBLY WINDY CORRIDORS to drop off our GEAR in one of the studios. We were split into groups, and then got taken back to Studio ONE to hear the BBC Symphony Orchestra perform. A chap called Tim Steiner took to the platform in a Colourful Shirt and did Classical Music Is FUN! type gags with some gigs, reinforcing my preconceptions, and then the orchestra started playing. It was dead good, a big slab of music that, to me, sounded more like Incidental Music in a film or, actually, in a CARTOON. It was all very impressive but, as ever on the RARE occasions I've heard an orchestra, slightly disappointing - I always expect it to sound AMAZING and LOUD and KRAZY, but it always sounds just like it does on the radio or on Telly, and I find myself (watch out!) a bit ALIENATED from it, like it's not really happening in the same room as me.

After that we went off to a seperate room to learn our PARTS, and it was at this point things got GOOD, also A BIT SCARY. I was in the "Others" group, which meant guitarists, bass players, a banjo, an Egyptian Fiddle and a whole lot of Saxophones And Other Brass Instruments. We had a chap called Lincoln guiding us through, and we started off making a BLOODY GRATE RACKET following his hand signals. I was surprised to find it was all so KRAZY and FREE FOR ALL and, actually, ACE, and also found it HARD WORK with the CONCENTRATING on watching what he was doing.

THEN we learnt a chord sequence - when they introduced it they said "And here's some music for the guitar players" and i felt RAW TERROR, thinking it WOULD be ACTUAL MUSIC and I'd be stuck there like a lemon, but handily it was chord diagrams. QUITE DIFFICULT chord diagrams, I must say - my idea that it would all be a bit PEASY was by now FAR out of the window. We started playing it and were ENCOURAGED to JAM it and find different bits, and we ended up following the lead of a chap in front of me who was doing it A Bit Funkily. It sounded ACE! We started playing along with the bass and fiddle and it was all GROOVY and EXCITING... and then the BRASS joined in and, suddenly we LURCHED around as they didn't quite have the sense of RHYTHM that the rest of us were displaying. It was quite sweet really, as we all (inwardly) went "WHOOOAAA!" every time they came in, but what was more surprising to ME was that the rest of us were doing it so well, as I'd thougth AGANE it would be much more Beginning Players going wonky.

After THAT we did some more KRAZY IMPROV, EXPRESSING OURSELVES in short "fills", and we did this thing of tapping instruments and guitars to express RAIN. It sounded DEAD GOOD, although it was slightly to the disappointment of our There's Always One person, who seemed to think THIS was going to be her BIG CHANCE. All through it she was trying to get in the front of the action, doing LOUD EMOTIVE LEAD SINGING in bits where the rest of us were just singing along, trying to do show-offy LEAD GUITAR (and asking for an amplifier) and generally being THAT person. The most annoying thing was that she kept loudly saying things like "Yeah, I've just got back from Glastonbury, I ended up doing about 11 gigs!" which a) made me think "around 11 camp fires, i bet" but also b) "Oi! Stop it! How am i suppose to CASUALLY say 'Oh yes, i have been here before of course to play MY RADIO ONE SESSION' if you keep going on so?" THUS i had to NOT MENTION IT, not even ONCE!

I did, however, get to utilise a long un-used talent i.e. being able to play the Grand Prix Theme Tune, which we all had to do next. HOORAH! I was quite pleased with this, as it's not often i can actually DO something like that, and was HELPFULLY showing the people either side of me how it went, LIKE AN AXE MASTER DELUXE. Unfortunately i got a bit shown up on the NEXT bit, when we got MORE music WITHOUT chord diagrams, and I was showing everyone how to play a D seventh, when we were MEANT to be doing D MAJOR seventh. I felt a bit embarrassed, and also AMAZED - this was all WELL advanced stuff, FAR beyond what I'd expected. How on earth was it all going to work?

After LESS than an hour of learning all this stuff we went for a cup of tea, then got filed back into the main room for the BIG PERFORMANCE. We were all sat in our little groups around the room, and Tim Steiner came back in, having REMOVED his Colourful Shirt Of Classical Music Fun and replaced it with the Black Shirt Of Orchestral Seriousness. We all went through our different bits, with our GUITAR AND EGYPTIAN FIDDLE bit getting selected for it's VERY OWN SOLO. OH! We were so proud!

And then it just sort of started! It was TERRIFYING - we'd played all these different bits as groups but with no idea how it'd all fit together or in what ORDER it'd go, and suddenly had all these different SIGNALS to follow. The HUGE RACKET following HAND SIGNALS sections were VERY small, and got used at SEEMING RANDOM to fill in gaps - the conductor guy was MAKING IT UP as he WENT ALONG! We were JAMMING!!!

It was FANTASTIC - we did our SOLO bit, although it was with some DRUMS, and it sounded BRILLIANT. As we were playing it I became aware of a HUGE and DERANGED NOISE coming from the other side of the room, where other people were making a right old racket. It was AMAZING - NOW i felt part of the whole orchestra, and it was LIKE jamming with a BAND except with LOADS of us, and with someone in SORT OF control moving us from part to part. Our Group Leaders looked panic as they looked over to the conductor and back to us, trying to work out what was going on, but there was so MANY of us we all got swept along in the momentum. This was the most GROOVY bit of it - suddenly EVERYONE was in time, you couldn't help it, there was SUCH a massive sound happening you got carried away. HEY! I even started playing LOUDER and DIFFERENT guitar as it moved along - OK, it was the SAME sort of different guitar i ALWAYS end up playing when we have a Big Jam with The Vlads, but it was STILL jamming. WHOO!

We did the "fills" bit and we were into the BIG CHORUS bit at the end, where the conductor BROKE IT DOWN, with a solo section for the percussion, the VOCALS, and others - it was like he was MIXING it LIVE. It all finished much too soon, and I have to say it was REALLY exciting. Can you tell i enjoyed it? I came out ABUZZ and we strolled down to The Warrington Arms for a Calm Down PINT, just like we did LAST time.

Cor tho, I mean, GOSH! I didn't expect THAT! It was GRATE!

posted 9/7/2007 by MJ Hibbett

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