Tempo!

Check out this showstopper performance by one of the world’s greatest brass bands, Wales’s The Cory Band.

wow

I tried but failed to get Argonotes to play every single piece at this speed, mostly because if it didn’t sound great, at least it would be over sooner.

In this performance please note

  • The tempo, which seems to be about a blistering ♩ = 180, or as P.D.Q. Bach called it, Come un pipistrello fuori dall’ inferno [Like a bat out of hell.]
  • The delighted reactions of the choristers in the back
  • The pure joy of the conductor Philip Harper. We should all aspire to enjoy our jobs this much.

my favourite movie conductor

Naturally this reminds me of the finale of one of my favourite films, Brassed Off, in which the (fictional) Grimley Colliery Band performs this piece at the national championship. They’re not going quite as fast though.

Things you might note from this film –

  • They’re not going quite as fast, only about ♩ = 150
  • Also an outstanding cornet solo
  • The conductor in this clip is the actor Jim Carter, later to find much success as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey. (In the film, he’s a tuba player temporarily filling in for bandleader Pete Postlethwaite, whose character is too ill to conduct the final scene, but he gave one of the all time great acting-conducting performances. Carter isn’t conducting quite up to that standard.)
  • On tenor horn, Ewan McGregor, later to find much success as Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • the band in this film is actually the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, posing as a different coal-mining-community brass band in a film that I think you absolutely should watch.

In Argonotes we used to joke that our slogan was Faster + Louder = Better.

The Cory Band is proving it to be true.

Fond memories of Joe Badali’s Restaurant

Joe Badali’s restaurant – sadly, now closed – was a great friend of Argonotes. It was the closest thing to a sponsor we ever had.

Badali's web site screenshot. Now closed.

Nick and I went to the Jays home opener yesterday, which I think was the first time I’d been back to Skydome since the Argo era there ended. This triggered lots of fond Argonotes memories of course. Especially the old tradition of emptying the spit valves on the statue of Ted Rogers.

The Final Emptying of the Spit Valves

But I was sad after the game as we walked back to Union Station to see that Joe Badali’s Restaurant (at Front and Simcoe) has closed, and the building it’s in is being gutted, and the adjacent parking lot is now fenced off. Yet another office tower is going up.

Badali’s holds a special spot in Argonotes history. Before our very first game in 1995, we barged in there to play “Argos Rule the CFL” – to a reaction of befuddlement and confusion. But it got better.

For over 20 years, it was where we started and ended every performance. “Meet at Front and Simcoe 90 minutes before kickoff” was the usual rule. We’d gather in the adjacent parking lot for a warmup – where we’d make sure nobody had tuned their instruments, ever – and play for the crowd there, and then head over to Skydome, crashing other restaurants along the way. And we’d always wind up at Badali’s after the game too, for drinks and conversation.

Warming up in the Badali's parking lot

For a few years, it was the official post game Argo bash spot, and everybody would gather there – players, dance team, fans, band – and former manager Mike O’Connor always made sure there was a reserved table for the band. And free beer and appetizers too. I couldn’t believe it. What had we ever done to deserve this grand treatment? A packed restaurant full of people celebrating an Argo victory – and there’s a reserved table for 30 people for the band? This is great, but why? IMG 0327

(Well, I always thought it was part of an unspoken arrangement: we’ll buy you a beer so long as you don’t ever barge in here and play “Argos Rule the CFL” ever again. go crash the Lone Star and Boston Pizza and East Side Mario’s all you want though.)

Doug Flutie came and sat at the band table once. Doug Flutie! The greatest quarterback in CFL history! And he came and sat at OUR table! I can’t imagine that happening in the NFL. Players mingling with ordinary people. (Naturally we asked him if his Flutie Brothers Band needed another 40 members, and he pointed out “I already have horns in the band.” Well OK then.)

Even after it was no longer the official spot – for one awkward year, the official post game restaurant was Frank D’Angelo’s “Forget About It” Supper Club – fans and players continued to celebrate or commiserate after the games at Badali’s.

Badali’s was also the gathering spot for several CFL Pep Band Summits – wonderful Grey Cup get-togethers with Argonotes and our great friends, the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep band.
This is the 2012 Summit, possibly history’s largest gathering of CFL Musicians. And there’s Bob Mossing, Member of the Order of Canada, Founder of the Roughrider Pep Band –

CFL Band Summit 2012

(Note, former BC Lions band leader Dal Richards is also a member of the Order of Canada. I presume they eventually give this to all CFL band leaders. I will keep an eye on my email.)

Hanging out with the Rider band provided some of my greatest Argonotes memories – and we kicked off the 2007 “Not The Grey Cup Parade” from the Badali’s parking lot!

I celebrated both my 40th and 50th birthday parties at Badali’s, surrounded by all my band friends and family. I was looking forward to celebrating the next big birthday there too … But the Argos moved to BMO Field, the band got ignored to death, and I hadn’t been back to Front and Simcoe until yesterday.

Thank you to Mike, who’s moved on, and all the wonderful staff at Badali’s over the years who treated us so well. We miss you.