Merry (early) Christmas!
I swear, the Wellington Santa Parade gets earlier every year! This year we weren’t even halfway through November before it was time to don the pohutukawa headgear and get out on the streets in support of the bearded guy in red.
Only a couple of weeks before, we’d been marching through Wellington as part of the All Blacks World Cup victory celebrations, and here we were again – a similar route but in the opposite direction. It was a lovely sunny day and everyone seemed to having a pretty good time, although it was definitely a bit quieter than the total mayhem we’d experienced a couple of weeks earlier.
I think the trickiest thing about parades is timing. Not timing as in keeping in time with each other (although that’s always fun when you’re concentrating on moving forward in a choreographed fashion as well as playing) – I mean keeping in time with the other floats and performers in the parade.
Let me explain.
Wellington Batucada has a number of different patterns that we play, each of which has its own set of pattern variations, breaks and stepping choreography. Once in a while we’ll do a pattern or a break that requires a bit of tricky stepping – like 6/8 where we all turn right round every four bars of pattern 1, or the wave and rock breaks in samba where we lean back and forth in time with the music (and, in the case of the wave break, where we’re all facing sideways instead of forwards). It’s not easy to do any of these elements while on the move, so we generally slow down or even stop moving while we concentrate on the rhythm for that part of the piece.
It’s generally for less than a minute each time, but whenever that happens, the gap between us and the float in front of us gets a bit bigger, and the marshals who are controlling our bit of the parade start to get antsy. They don’t like big gaps between floats because it means the crowd has to wait…
At one point in the parade, when the gap had gotten particularly wide, our marshal signalled urgently for us to “hurry up!!!!”. Tim signalled for us to march instead of stepping in time with each other (marching being faster than stepping), but we weren’t catching up quickly enough. Another frantic signal from the marshal, and all of a sudden we were virtually galloping along the parade route, playing makulele (our fastest piece) while desperately trying to narrow the gap between us and the float in front.
I don’t imagine the crowd on that particular part of the parade route experienced very much of Wellington Batucada at all. Blink and you missed us, pretty much – and all you’d have heard was the Doppler effect of the sound of our drumming passing by at high speed – neeeeeeoooowwwwwwwww. Apologies to those of you in the crowd at that point – we’d have loved to have played properly for you but when a marshal growls at you during the Santa Parade, you have no choice but to obey orders 🙂