SAISA music was a very enjoyable trip, where I learned a lot about being a better player and had a ton of fun while doing it. This year, SAISA music was hosted at the American School of Bombay(ASB) in Mumbai, India. In addition to SAISA music, SAISA art was being hosted there as well at the same time as music, so the amount of people for each trip was more limited this year, with a maximum of 20 people total from teach school. With our flight leaving to Mumbai at about 11:45pm and arriving at roughly 2am, we were all exhausted upon arrival, and we only made it to the school by about 4am. This was not helped by the fact that we had to sleep on gym mats in a multi-purpose room, as it was seen as too early to try and go to our hosts houses, and it proved to be the worst part of the trip in my opinion. That same day, we got to experience a little bit of the city by going out for breakfast and spending the rest of the day at a mall, though it was certainly a challenge to stay awake after effectively getting no sleep the night before.
The music that we played at SAISA this year was much different from last year’s music. This year, the theme of the SAISA was “zero-hour”, and was aimed at raising awareness for several environmental activist organizations. Because of this, the music was aimed at more nature related pieces. We had 4 songs: “Lightening Field”, “Nurture”(actually composed by the guest conductor who led the ensemble this year), “Bellah, Sun Woman”, and “Freedom”(a piece sung with the choir and that was commissioned for SAISA music). In terms of difficulty, I’d say that they were about the same as last year’s pieces, though I enjoyed last years music far more. I enjoyed it more because last year, the music was much more varied in terms of the general sound, with last years having each song be in a different style. This year, all the songs felt way too similar for my liking. As well as that, last year’s music had some killer euphonium parts that made it super fun for me to play, where as this year I was relegated to pretty simple baseline parts. Still, the music did sound really good this year, and “Freedom” with the choir was really cool.
The schedule that we had this year was intense, but it was also quite good. We would play for a couple hours at a time, have a break, then some more hours. Some of the rehearsal times were solely dedicated to practicing Freedom with the choir. While I was exhausted and my lips hurt, I was generally having a really good time during the rehearsals. One of my favorite parts about band is just hearing a piece of music come together for the first time, and feeling part of an enormous, beautiful sound. In particular, the first time we did Lighting Field as whole after some practice was awesome, and it’s very hard to not get swept up in the music and get lost counting. Freedom was also really neat in this regard, because we got to hear it as a band first, and then incorporated the choir which managed to really elevate the piece to a new level.
However, as mentioned before, I did enjoy the music more last year. In fact, there was actually a song I didn’t really like this year, that being “Bellah, Sun Woman”. “Bellah” was a song based around traditional Australian aboriginal folk tales about the creation of the sun, and was split into 5 separate movements, each very different from each other. They ranged from shouting while whacking drumsticks against our chairs to more standard band pieces. The 3rd movement, “Kundna – Lizard Man” was particularly difficult as the low brass section(trombones and euphonium(me)) had to pat and clap out a fairly complex rhythm on our bodies, while chanting loudly. During this part, the band was also playing regular notes too, so we had to be very loud or we wouldn’t be heard. I made the mistake of not practicing this particular movement at home, and we did very little rehearsal of it during the actual festival. Unfortunately, I failed to really get the rhythms of it down, and couldn’t do it for the final concert. Despite that, I feel I learned much about percussion and grew in terms of dealing with complex rhythms.
The final concert rolled around very quickly. While we technically had the same amount of time as last year, it felt like it went by much faster this year. After the final concert, we would have time to briefly explore the SAISA art exhibition and then OSC would head off to the airport. The concert was livestreamed as it normally is, though the quality this year was really good, so major props to the AV team at ASB. The first piece we played was Lightening Field, which sounded very good and strong. Everyone really nailed the angry dynamics of the piece, and really gave it some punch. The next song, Nurture, sounded nice but I think that we’ve played it better in practice before. Then, we had Bellah, which turned out less than ideal. The conventional parts of the song went fine and sounded good, but the aforementioned 3rd movement didn’t turn out all that well. While technically correct, the problem was that the rest of the band was far too loud to hear the drumming and patting and chanting, which was one of the main focuses so the song was lacking without it. Finally, after the choir did their pieces, we had Freedom, which turned out pretty well. And with that, the official part of SAISA music was over. I said goodbye to my friends, went and packed up my Euphonium, and then immediately had to go, which was unfortunate because I missed most of the art exhibition.
Live stream link:
For those wondering why I’m not wearing a proper dress shirt, I had forgotten it at my host’s house in the morning. Lesson learned: Always, always check the closets.