Herding cats with the BOS Big Band

By Stephen Kellett
2 October, 2012

Yesterday I had the honour to play with the Business of Software big band at the conference party in the Julep Bar, Boston, MA.

The band members are delegates at the conference. I think it’s fair to say that if you are a marketing monster, a sales superstar, a software geek or a data nerd you probably don’t have time or energy to also be a professional musician. So I’ll make a guess and assume that everyone else is, like me, an amateur musician, playing for fun and pleasure.

The true test of a band is when they are playing how many people stay in the room continuing to do what they were doing before? If you’re doing badly you interfere with their conversation and they leave. That didn’t happen. Result! The band passed the “radio listening” test.

On Sunday I attended the practice in the afternoon but had to leave early because I was too tired. I found out later they practised until 8pm (about 6 hours total). Respect.

The band played some rock tunes then asked me to play some folks tunes on my border bagpipes. I chose to play three traditional French folk dance tunes (a 3 time waltz, a 3/8 bourree and a Schottische) followed by a Mazurka that I composed. I was accompanied by Patrick Foley on violin and Alexander Yumashev. Patrick free formed around the tune I was playing adding whatever counter melody he thought fitted. Alex, well Alex is Mr FunkMeister. His bass playing added lots to our performance. The sound was rounded out by the very capable Mr Unknown Guitarist. I never did get his name.

In the UK I play these bagpipes to provide music for other people to do traditional French dancing. I also dance. I may play unaccompanied or with others playing Hurdy Gurdy, Melodeon, Accordion, Violin, Clarinet and so on. All unamplified. I travel a wide area to play in sessions where I like the musicians. I’ve never played with an amplified band before. Surprised how well it worked.

Playing tunes live is a strange thing. You can practice and practice and practice and then on the day some thought about something trivial gets in your head and you’re unsettled, nervous and tense and you just can’t play fluidly. You play badly. Other days you have this “I don’t care attitude” in your head and you’re relaxed and play awesomely. And other days it goes to plan. You can’t tell. Although I had volunteered for this I was a bit apprehensive about how things would pan out. If I could actually deliver the goods.

I am stunned at how relaxed I was. I only sway side to side when it all just works. And we’d never played before. The others hadn’t even heard the last tune before I started it. They did a great job making me sound better than I am.

So thank you guys for letting me play with you. Thank you Jeff Gibson for doing the hard work and herding all the cats into one place to make some music.

If anyone has any photos of this event please let me know.

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