22 May 1998

Farming almost second fiddle to brass…

SOME time ago I wrote an article describing the musical initiation of us hillbillies by our daughters headlong thrust into the world of brass band playing. I decided it was high time I indicated to the farming community in general just how far up the dizzy heights of the banding scene our forays have taken us.

In fact our lives now seem almost to revolve around concerts here and competitions there. We have been thoroughly seeped in a marinade of test pieces, musical connotations, innumerable practise sessions and concert venues. Such notable locations as the Birmingham Symphony Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Manchester Bridgwater Hall and Nymex Arena, not to mention Austerlands Cricket Club, trip familiarly from our lips in everyday conversation.

I am now becoming so single minded that I have begun to name the horses I breed after pieces of music and now have a quartet. It would be easy to become blasé about the whole idea of having a musical connection, if it were not for the fact that I was up a ladder with a paint roller last week, applying a coat of emulsion to the band club ceiling. And then there are always the everyday farming occurrences which give pause for thought. We sat in our living room the other night listening to our prodigy and three others, along with their musical director, rehearsing for the British Quartet Championship next week. It was the second such practise in our house. On the first occasion my husband had strolled in halfway through after spending the day delivering two loads of gimmer lambs to their winter lodgings, having crawled about in the decks of the trailer once or twice and chased about to load them. Most FW readers will appreciate the change in the atmosphere of the comfortably warm room after his arrival.

Having been suitably reprimanded, he duly arrived washed, brushed and polished for the second rehearsal.

Halfway through I went to answer a knock at the door and peered out into the darkness to discover an unusually wary looking neighbour who had arrived to collect two of his sheep which we had shut in a loose box. Retrieving my husband from the audience I resumed my place and thought no more about it. It only occurred to me later that to arrive at a hill farm in the middle of nowhere and hear the strains of Dear is my little native vale being belted out by two cornets, a euphonium and a tenor horn, would be enough to make any hill farmer look wary. In fact I feel certain that the hot gossip in the local pubs is that the folk at Wood Farm have got so much above themselves that they have taken to holding musical evenings.

It was actually touch and go whether this quartet would actually get off the ground. The eleven-year-old boy chosen as one of the cornets was not at all keen to find himself stuck with three teenage girls. However, when the answer to the question "How much prize money do we get if we win?" proved more than tempting, he rapidly became more amenable.

Win or lose I actually come out of this with a major gain.

Determination on the part of this same boy to see whether my daughters bedroom could possibly be more untidy than his – as I had assured him it must be – has achieved in a frantic 48-hour blitz what years of nagging had previously failed to do.

Annette E Hirst