Just had a really fabulous weekend of Ukafrolics at the September Convention of the GFS (George Formby Society) at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool. These weekends happen four times a year, every March, June, September and November, and since our first, just over two years ago in June 2012, we have only missed one, and that was because were abroad. You go once, and you're hooked. The atmosphere is something REALLY special. The enthusiasm, the warmth, the friendliness - well, you just have to go and experience it to really understand what I'm talking about.
The main convention experience for most people is sitting in the audience to watch the performances. I, for one, hate to miss anyone's performance, whatever level player they are. That means I do miss out on a lot of back-room and bar-room interaction - but that's another story! The performances are what most people are there for, whether to perform or just to enjoy. And people will travel thousands of miles to be part of this. Last weekend was typical. There were enough folk from other lands to make a whole band of them on stage, for one special number! And most of them got up on that stage and did their own spot as well.
One such was a man I can only refer to as "Fred from Quebec". He performed to a very welcoming audience with great style, a very funny song about a highly-sexed rooster. Fred brought the house down, lovely performance. And he chose to be backed by the band. Now I really do want to spotlight the band at this point - because they are nothing short of magnificent. Sometimes people choose to perform to their own backing tracks, because that's what they are used to, but I do always think that's a shame because that band can back anything and anyone and they don't need the music in front of them, they just pick it up and give the performer just the right balance of backing, whatever they need.... so talented! Even on a song they haven't heard before, like Fred's rooster song.
In that part of the show, the band comprised Dale Norman on drums, Dave Partington (who has written an excellent book on how to perform Formby solos) on bass guitar and the GFS Musical Director, Matthew J Richards on keyboard. Fred began his song. The band listened for a few seconds. Dale came in with a light percussion accompaniment. Next in was Dave on bass, then Matt was in on keyboard - and it was as if they'd known the song all along. That's how good they are. It all sounded brilliant. What stars!
Fred's video doesn't show clearly how the band joined in, but they did, I was there!
I occasionally clamber up onto that stage, always with the fear that I will suddenly "blank" on words or chords, I know it happens to everyone at some time - but the thing is, if you are playing to a backing track and you do suddenly go blank, a backing track will not forgive a moment's hesitation, it just goes on and leave you derailed. With the GFS band you can have confidence that they will follow you and rescue you, even vamp for a while, while you get over it if necessary - it is pure joy to watch and listen how they support the performer, even when a performer misses beats, not waiting until the natural end of a phrase before before beginning the next. Some people do do that if they are sort of "new" to music - but the band are onto it and will not let the performer down. Brilliant. If I were a chap and I wore a hat, Id take it off to them.
Thanks for dropping in - more coming up!