Bands I Played In

The horns I played, the French horn and the tenor sax, were a welcome extension of me everywhere I went. I brought my horns to church, to parties and to bands. New friends who loved music as much as me came with my horn connections.

Back in college I played first horn in a symphonic band. Beside me sat a pretty young woman who played second. We got to like each other. Throughout that year we did many things. We swam in the ocean, we went roller skating, we went to movies and we kissed.

Once on a trip along Route 66, Diane and I stopped to snack in a village coffee shop with a stage. A local band was playing.

“I have a horn in the car,” I said to the leader.

“What kind of a horn?” he asked.

“A tenor sax,” I said. “Can I play along with you?”

“Sure,” he said. “Get your horn. You can do fill-ins for the next song after we break.” And so began another friendship.

When I was editor of Rupert’s Land News, part of my job was going around to churches in the diocese to promote readership. The best time was Sunday morning in church. I often accompanied the parish choir, doing both old English anthems and new contemporary choruses. People loved it. “That was the editor,” they’d say.

The happiest part of my musical upbringing was playing in the Mennonite Community Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Ben Horch, my friend and mentor for life. I was in high school then. In the orchestra were classmates who played the trumpet, the clarinet and the drums. Mr. Horch taught us how to play together and love music.

On tour while taking passengers around the world, I took my French horn and played with local musicians. One time we were in a sugar shack in the Beauce region of Quebec.

The French horn is a round-tubed instrument with the sound coming out of a bell under your right arm. You have your hand in the bell to play in tune. Your embouchure is delicate, blowing into a slim mouthpiece.

This time in Quebec, the music group’s leader, a beautiful French-Canadian woman, took a shine to me and wanted to amplify the sound of my horn with her mike. She put it to my mouth, not realizing that the sound was coming from under my right arm. She moved the mike down there, but to no avail. I laughed so hard I could not play.

The mainstay of my music has always been in church. Everywhere I attended I joined the worship team. When I knew the music off by heart I played the best, getting lost in thought about the Almighty I was serenading. That’s when people came to me later and said I played really well that morning.

I learned how to play the banjo and ukulele when Sister Alice and I were making music with kids at WestEnd Commons, but that never amounted to much. I had an autoharp that I taught a young lad to play. He was very smart and picked it up right away. It sounded good.

I am grateful for Mr. Horch and my sister Helen, who both taught me how to love music. Helen’s influence was strongest one winter when I had rheumatic fever and stayed home from school. She was still in voice training, so I listened to her ming-ming-mings before she practised Mozart’s Allelujia.

Music is my passion. It spurs me on, brings lumps to my throat and enriches my life.

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