Words I never thought I’d be saying: ‘This one, time at band camp….’
That ‘s right! I am headed to Band Camp for 5 days with Sandrine, the conductor le Chef of the group I play with in Masseube and her boyfriend, Mickaël. With our instruments (sax, tuba, french horn) bedding and luggage we are packed into the little car like sardines. We are on our way to Arreau in the Hautes-Pyrénées. Thankfully it is only 1 hour away.
This band camp is for the department (county) of the Gers in this southwestern area of France. A bus soon pulls up and approximately 80 students from about 10 years through high school loudly descend.
Surrounded by the beautiful mountains- the Pyrenees I am reminded of the book Heidi which I read countless times while growing up. What a perfect place to play music! Cyclists navigate this rugged terrain with the Tour de France each year.
Les Chefs, (the music conductors, teachers) and the couple of other adult players who are not teaching (including me) are not staying here at the Band Camp with the kids. We are staying at château Rammon about 5 km from here.
We go there briefly to check into our rooms and drop off our stuff before heading back to the Camp to eat and to rehearse. There are about 15 of us. I laugh when the others start humming the theme song from Harry Potter as we approach the château.
There are seven beds in my room, which I will share with two guys and a girl (all I would guess to be in their mid twenties at the most)! Everyone brought a sleeping bag. I didn’t have one so I just brought sheets and a blanket and luckily brought a towel as none are provided.
All 15 of us will be sharing 2 showers! How weird is this? I only know 1 person here-Sandrine.
There are no student french horn players here. But it turns out that I am not the only adult horn player. Laurent who plays professionally with the French military band is here. 2 Chefs (who play with great proficiency several instruments) will also play french horn.
It also turns out that I am right about there being only 1 person older than me. It’s George who runs the camp.
But I am the oldest musician playing, and the oldest by many years. This is a first for me. I am hands down the worst horn player here. This is also a first.
I am used to being the best. It never occurred to me I would be the worst.
These shocking realizations travel around in my head as I inhale deeply and breathe into my mouthpiece. I am as unsure about my feelings and emotions as I am about the air flowing through the winding tubing in my hands. Will it emerge out the bell with a beautiful powerful sound?
Yes! My tone is strong and clear (for the most part) and I am holding my own. I will have to deal with my feelings later as I begin having technical difficulties. During this first practice my second valve begins sticking. Merde! My valve oil is in my backpack at the château!
I hear a distinct clink and look down. A piece of metal has fallen off of my second valve! Although I fixed my trigger valve quite some time ago with a pipe cleaner I hold up the little piece of metal which is barely an inch long and know instantly that there is nothing I can do to fix this.
My horn is dead; full stop. It has died during the first rehearsal!