Buckfastleigh Biscuit Band

Hugh Nankivell – BSO Associate – 6 May 2016
Session 3

It is only very occasionally that I have those moments where I feel like I am in a film, and I had one on Friday at the Biscuit Band. Billy and Martine were playing ‘Sway’ on guitar and fiddle and some of us (old and very young) were dancing and some of us singing and all of us smiling. I was dancing with Gladys, who always looks forward to a dance with us ‘younger’ men! Bill had requested that we open the door onto the patio and the sun was streaming in. Suddenly – at exactly the right moment – Andy walked in through the door playing his sax at exactly the right moment for a solo. It was magical.

There were also some very funny things this week, especially with Rita (the lovely lass who each week insists that we sing ‘Quartermaster’s Stores’). I was standing by her playing the accordion and she kept asking me where the sound was coming from, and it became a kind of joke. I was becoming a kind of ventriloquist accordion player!

The Buckfastleigh Biscuit Band is producing many special moments in the way that it is a very happy, creative, multi-generational and energisingly positive place to be.  We finished out theme song, we developed our instrumental ‘Taverna’ piece (and our playing got incrementally better) we welcomed new folks – both old and young – we had a lullaby story/song (about the ceramic dog called ‘spiderman’) and a new song for/with Peggy called ‘Pianos and Bombs’).

We finished our song today with a bridge and a final verse. Two interesting things about this process:

1) I suggested that we needed something other than a verse for the next section and we discussed the bridge/middle-eight of a song offering a diferent point of view and then came up with a very good section and a key change:


We meet on Friday
All nice and tidy
We meet all our friends
The fun never ends

We then sang it, and it was a bit slow and ‘mournful’ and so we had a few chats about this, and tried a few alternatives. Some of the group were really clear that it was not right and it took until we realised that it needed to be sung at the same tempo as the rest of the song for it to be a success. The relief on some of the participants faces as we found our way to the solution was really wonderful. They were completely investing in the song and did not want it to be wrong.

2) Anne came along with two new verses today, already written. This was great and she gave them to me on post-it notes. I felt immediately that one of them was exactly right for the final verse and so wrote it up on the board:

final verse

When we’re feeling rather low
Mum calls out – where shall we go?
There’s only one place that we know
Let’s all go off to the hob-nob show

What I really like about this is that Anne, who had a song written for/with her last week, had  taken on board the idea of writing songs and gone away and come back – unprompted – with a lovely ending which mentions the fact of the youngsters joining in with the oldsters, another example of the group realising its potential.

In the break I sat and chatted with Peggy and came up with a song called ‘Piano and Bombs’ and sang a quickly rehearsed version of it with Billy and Martine. I think I will work on this further, as I think there is real potential in it. It being a song about how Peggy’s Mum played the piano, but she never did because of moving about and being bombed in the war.

Finally we ended with a lullaby improvised song story. I sometimes use this approach when working with early years, and as we had a few very young children (some of whom were quite tired) it seemed appropriate for nearly 5pm on a Friday. I worried that it might be not applicable to the older folk, but they loved it – taking part, coming up with ideas, singing, acting (cleaning teeth, washing face, opening windows etc) and it made me realise that it is not always the nature of the material that is relevant to different age groups, but the way in which the group accepts that material and plays with it.

Such a pity that we only have two more Biscuit Band sessions to go!


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