Spam, Spam, Spam… Michael Talks Brass and Singing

It’s funny you can know someone for years but really have absolutely no idea about what makes them tick. Michael and I went to school together but it wasn’t until recently that I was aware of his passion for music. Not being one to blow his own trumpet (insert groan here) Michael was a little reluctant to be interviewed he viewed himself as not that interesting. But with some extremely light persuasion he has agreed to be interviewed about music, performing and the finer points of being hit in the face with a shovel.

What are you talking DIY Itchy Kitschy about today? Being a musician.

What instrument(s) do you play? Trumpet and voice.

courtesy of aljoy photo photography

courtesy of aljoy photo photography

When did you first take an interest in music?

Very early on, maybe from about 5 years old or so. My mother was the keen sort who enrolled me in piano lessons – I still remember that teacher, the archetype of the strict old lady who’d rap me on the knuckles if I didn’t hold my hands properly. I lost interest in that eventually, and when asked if I’d like to try something else, I said ‘the trumpet!’
My mother (stupidly, I’d say) agreed. I’ve been playing it on and off ever since. I also had a brief dalliance playing drums, but just couldn’t get the hang of it.
Singing wasn’t something I got into in any serious way (as in, other than in the shower!) until my first theatre production, “Monty Python’s Spamalot” with Livid Theatre Company. I sort of fell into a singing role in the show and ended up enjoying it immensely.

Who if anyone inspired you?

Oddly enough, I don’t think there was anyone in particular I was (or am) trying to emulate

courtesy of Wodonga Brass

courtesy of Wodonga Brass

with the trumpet. I just enjoyed playing. And it came fairly naturally. It helped that my mother and brother were both playing as well, so music was just part of the house.
As for singing/theatre, I’d have to say Neil Patrick Harris. He has an amazing stage presence and is immensely talented at singing, dancing and acting (triple threat!). And he’s an all-round good guy, by most accounts. What’s not to like?

What projects are you involved in at the moment?

I play cornet (which is the same length/tuning as a trumpet, but squished up a bit for ease of marching and a slightly mellower sound) for Wodonga Brass, a brass band that’s been part of the Wodonga community for getting on to 70 years. They have about 40 people playing now, and have a beginner’s band for those wanting to try it out. I’d thoroughly recommend them!
And I play trumpet and backup sing for The Northern Folk, a nine-piece folk band full of hugely talented guys and gals (next to whom I feel quite out of place!)
Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to do any theatre productions for quite a while, as I’ve been too busy – they’re a huge time commitment. Itching to get back on stage eventually, though.

Do you have any performances coming up?

swaggerWodonga Brass have a Sunday in the Gardens concert teaming up with Albury City Band at the Botanical Gardens in the afternoon of the 12th of October, and will be part of the Relay For Life in Wodonga on the 25th of October.
Northern Folk will be performing at the Relay For Life concert at SS&A Albury during the evening of the 26th of September, and at the SWAgGER Music Festival in Wandiligong on the 25th of October.

What has been the biggest challenge?

For a while, it was finding a group to play with regularly, because I really don’t pick up the trumpet unless there’s something there each week or two to keep me honest. Other than that, finding time to practice, which is the cry of every musician!

What has been the highlight?

I really enjoy performing in general, but it’s difficult to pick a concert or gig in particular that really stands out for me. If anything, it would be that first show on stage for “Spamalot”. Nothing beats the thrill of that very first curtain rising and the show kicking off. I remember watching the DVD afterwards and thinking “Hey wait, that’s me singing and dancing! Look at me go! And I’m rather good at being hit with a shovel, eh?”

What is the most exciting thing you have learnt?

As to trumpet – that there is such a strong community for music in Albury/Wodonga! As a kid, I was the (somewhat) lonely nerd who played a boring instrument – not guitar, like all the cool kids. Then I grew up, and suddenly found out that there were plenty of folks who were just as excited about all kinds of music, just like I was! As to singing, it would be that I could naturally pick out and sing harmonies, and how wonderful they can sound.

If you could recommend one piece of music for readers to listen to what would it be?

If you’re interested in listening to the very best of brass bands, I’d recommend any recordings of The Black Dyke band (Symphonic Brass) – a British brass band that are simply amazing to listen to. There’s a video of them playing ‘Immortal’ on Youtube that really shows off how insanely good they are.
If that’s not your flavor (and I do understand that brass bands don’t tickle everyone’s fancy), then try Pentatonix – they’re an a capella quintet who have plenty of videos on Youtube as well, and are just extraordinarily good in a goosebumps-when-you-listen kind of way. I’d recommend listening to their cover of Little Drummer Boy, or any of their ‘Evolution of” videos.

Want to be interviewed as part of this project? Fill out the form below.

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