Posts tagged with “High School”

Audience on the Run

Wednesday, 29 April, 2015

by Johnie Jonker

As was the custom at the time, our 1974 Std 9 class held a school concert in order to raise funds for that year’s matric farewell.

One of the items on the program was live music provided by a school band. The band members comprised Bernard on guitar, James on drums and myself on keyboards – that being the upper and lower manuals of a Yamaha Electone organ.

As a group, the three of us had made our debut during the previous year’s Musiek Aand, organized by the very likeable music teacher. In haste, the band was named “Hot Ice” by one of the teachers.

That event was a rather serious music evening comprising song upon song performed by the choir and solos by Marietjie, who later made a professional career out of operatic singing.

Numerous piano solos and duets, pieces for two pianos – some with lid open and others with lid closed – followed. If it was at all possible to fit THREE people abreast behind a single piano, the concert would have contained trios also.

The (welcome) light relief was provided – briefly – by Hot Ice just before interval. We shot to instant fame, as old tannies recognized us on the street afterwards, on our way between the school and the Springbok Kafee on a Tuesday (langdag). They wanted to know why we did not play more than the allocated 3 numbers, as they liked the variation very much.

This was the basis from which we started rehearsing for the Std 9 concert.

But this time we felt that a fuller sound was required. Basically this meant “louder”. Bernard wanted to sound like Carlos Santana, James like Ringo Starr – he already had the hair to go with it – and me like Santana, Deep Purple and Focus, all rolled into one.

In addition to Michael who volunteered as conductor, we enlisted the help of 3 matrics to expand our sound. Let me introduce them to you:

Pop: Owner of a 12-string acoustic guitar which he could play really well. We had all heard him on a number of occasions previously, and especially his rendition of Donovan’s “Catch the wind”, was a favourite.

Bruce: You could not tell the difference between him and George Harrison when it came to playing Daytripper. Accurate, tonally perfect – a good rhythm player for the band.

Patrick: Band manager.

He was one of those laid-back people who could insult you to your face and you would not realise it. At times we thought that his response towards teachers bordered on disrespect and that surely some repercussion would follow, but he somehow used to charm his way out of it.

Now, we thought that such a diplomat would be beneficial to our band’s existence. This, and his actions during the compulsory weekly singing period in the hall, which comprised all the senior classes.

In spite of having 3 resident music teachers, for some reason the headmaster decided to lead this gathering himself. He would start us off on the first song and would then ask for suggestions from the floor. An indeterminate voice – we all knew it was Patrick – would suggest: “Page 29” of the songbook. Our choirmaster would then fervently page through the book and discover that it had only 28 pages. This led to him becoming visibly annoyed – not to the point of his favourite expression: “Mark my words, Pappa”- but rather: “Jy’s nie snaaks nie!” We of course thought otherwise.

OK, so we would sing patriotic songs: “Nooit hoef jou kinders wat trou is te vra …”, English drinking songs: “Hahaha, you and me, little brown jug oh I love thee” and then the “indeterminate voice” would suggest: “On Top of Old Smokey”. Not because that was a particularly popular, emotional or upbeat song, but rather of the way in which it could be manipulated.

The first verse still went as expected, but the second time round, the chorus would be somewhat altered in terms of timing – like this:

“On top of auld Smoooooookeeeeeee,….





The rest of the assembly would have finished “I lost my poor lover, for counting so slow” when Patrick and his male sub-choir would still be finalising the previous line. “Yes sir. Sorry sir. No, never again, sir.” Until next time.

In summary, therefore, Patrick’s demonstrated excellent understanding of timing was the deciding factor to his appointment as band manager, what with compiling the practise schedules and getting us to the sessions in good time. And talk us out of a hole, should the need arise.

Now for those that are unfamiliar with music amplification, there are a number of industry standard names. Back then it was VOX and Fender. The latter did not only make amplifiers but also guitars. Almost all blues guitarists have at least one Stratocaster.

We managed to borrow one each of the above for the event, and Bruce was completely smitten with the valve-driven 100W Fender – with Tremolo – and duly annexed it for his sole use. It had to continuously be turned down – after he turned it up – during rehearsals.

We were rehearsing in the sick bay behind the administration block – and were becoming somewhat of a public nuisance due to the sheer volume of the music. It even warranted an investigative appearance by the headmaster – his office was well within earshot – on occasion. It is probably becoming clearer now why we needed Patrick: “Yes sir. Sorry sir. No, never again, sir.” And the band played on – at a somewhat subdued level. Briefly, at any rate.

Finally the big day arrived. With great anticipation our appearance was awaited by our supporters – the last item of the evening. At least our play list had now been expanded to 5 items – Black Magic Woman, Evil Ways, House of the Rising Sun, Yellow River and Paint it Black.

Everything was going well, but when we started the second number, Bruce “GOTTA play that FENdah!” stepped forward and turned up the volume from 6 to 7. It was now getting somewhat loud. The fact that the hall did not have good acoustics – hard walls – did not help either, as you …