The Daylesford Community Brass Band has been a beloved institution in our town since 1862. There aren’t many of us who don’t know someone associated with the band. From Carols by Candlelight to the ChillOut and New Year’s Eve parades, they are part of the soundtrack of our community life.

The Wombat Post spoke to Mark Lyall, the acting musical director of the Band, about how they make music together during the lock down.

Brass bands are by nature a collective activity, Mark. How can you be a band when you can’t get together?

Banding has always been an activity best pursued in the company of others, and not being able to gather on Monday evenings has been tough on our members. It’s through rehearsals that we grow as musicians, and also as friends. As the social distancing measures came into effect, it became obvious that we needed to sustain both our musical craft as well as our social connection (we use the term ‘band family’ a lot in this organisation!)

Satisfying our social needs was relatively easy and we’ve met informally via Zoom each Monday evening since face-to-face rehearsals were suspended. But variable internet speeds mean that playing together in ‘real time’ via Skype or Zoom isn’t possible, so we needed to be more inventive when it came to meeting our musical needs.

 Tell me about that. How have you been playing together even though you’re all at home in your own living rooms?

There are lots of little steps involved. First we share the scores with members, along with a recording of the piece for them to play along with. This computer version has a ‘click track’ added to it, like a metronome beating away in the background; it helps us to stay in time.

During our weekly meetings in Zoom we talk about any issues people are having as they practice at home. Once they’re feeling confident, they record their own parts directly into a laptop, tablet or phone (whatever is handy) while they listen to the computer version on headphones. They upload their part to a cloud drive, then the parts are downloaded, mixed and edited into a final video.

Our latest piece The Floral Dance might only be 2 minutes in length, but it took us about three weeks from circulating the scores to final mix.

That’s amazing. To be able to coordinate a group of people to make music at a distance. It’s like a microcosm of what we’re all having to learn at the moment…..?

I guess a lot of us are learning to value rituals formerly taken for granted. I’ve learned that there is something mysteriously complex and beautiful about the Monday evening rehearsal, something that is impossible to replicate in the online space when you need to create it from scratch.

Another important learning is that physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. The virtual band project has provided new opportunities to entertain the Daylesford community, and The Floral Dance currently has more than 1000 views (but who’s counting!). It’s also allowed members living in other parts of Australia to re-connect with the band and make important musical contributions.

It seems paradoxical, but as we have retreated to our own homes the effective reach of the band has increased. And the band has learned new skills in isolation, including how to play with rhythmic precision to a click track.

What about the future of the band?

Over the years the band has had players aged from teenagers to octogenarians but we are definitely looking for more younger members (they have a habit of going off to uni … or work … or somewhere else). We have instruments in the band room specifically for teaching new players, and several music teachers in the band to help them along.

If you have a brass instrument tucked away in a cupboard (or if you’re thinking about learning how to play) please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.


Phone : 0409 954 712

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