Sunday, September 23, 2007

Piano Improvisation Number 1


McNeil High School Drum Line at Belton Drum Line Invitational Competition
Photo by: Suna

It was a weekend of music—occasional, programmatic, and metaphoric. There was Friday night football, a Saturday afternoon drum line competition, and a Sunday morning debut.

Marching Band

The weekend started Friday night with a trek to Belton to watch the McNeil football team take on the Belton Tigers, whom I kept thinking of as the Bulldogs from last week. We sat with some other band parents, one of whom was upset that the band did not act like the one she was in 12,543 years ago.

At one point, Belton scored a TD. They paraded three B flags in front of the home stands in celebratory ecstasy. I wondered why they were celebrating the Better Business Bureau. There were several other moments of near humor as we watch McNeil squeak by 25-23. Like when I noticed Belton’s twirler had the same swirling flag as their dancers. I said, “Look. The twirler has a swirly thing, too.” But all some of the other parents heard was, “The twirler has a swirly.” They wondered what a toilet was doing on the field.

The band program, however esoteric and inaccessible, is coming along well. The band looks and sounds much better with each passing week. I still don’t get the somnaphobia theme—as if the kids don’t have enough to worry about without being programed for insomnia.


Beccano and Cymbals
Photo by: Jim Jones
Drum Line

Saturday brought another trek to Belton, this time to watch a drum line competition. Beccano played the swirly cymbal and a crash symbol. He did really well, although I think some of the other bands may have scored better because their music was more accessible. McNeil’s music was written by one of the directors and was very difficult. I was impressed by the students’ ability to memorize it and play it so well.

Round Rock High and Cedar Park High were two of the other star bands there. Cedar Park had 50 people in their drum line (the part on the side line that does not march). For comparison, Belton calls their band the Marching 100. Both of these bands were very impressive, and their selections, while no less difficult, were much more accessible.

Piano Improvisations

So we wrap up the weekend in church on Sunday morning. The music director’s son played a mini-recital for the prelude and postlude. He is currently studying music in college, and the two pieces he performed were piano improvisations he had composed. (How can an improvisation be composed?) Both had nice timing changes and interesting accidentals. I can’t remember which one had a large section based on minor seconds.

The improvisations tied in nicely with the first sermon delivered by our new intern minister. His sermon was titled “No Wrong Notes.” It was inspired by a jazz pianist at the resort where he honeymooned this summer. The guy told him, “In improvisation, it doesn’t matter which note you play. There are no wrong notes. What matters is which note you play next.”

This philosophy ties in nicely with UU theology. Life is one long jazz improvisation, and we are all in the band together. There are no wrong notes so long as we follow up with a correct action. The sermon was much longer and much more eloquent, but that was its thesis.

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