Old Hobbies Die Hard

Posted on Wednesday 11th April 2007 at 00:00
I clasp my hand around the handle of the case and lift it. It feels light; lighter than I remember it, but that's nothing new. I always remember it through the eyes of a 7 year old, picking it up for the first time and struggling with the weight. I place it carefully on my bed and release the catches, first the right and then the left, as I've done so many thousands of times before.

The trumpet looks much as I remember it; dull brass visible through the scratches in the shiny lacquer and the silver mouth piece, dulled by a decade of heavy usage. My hand closes around the body of the instrument and I lift it from the case, remembering a little too late that a collapsed stand it concealed within the bell. This unbalances the horn and, as the bell dips, slides with gravity and falls to the floor accompanied by a dull thud.

I inspect the mouth piece for dirt briefly and on finding it clean, insert it into its sleeve until it stops. I raise my other hand and the fingers find their place with well rehearsed ease. The trumpet sits between my hands as I press the valves for an experimental wiggle. It feels like an old friend, but is more familiar to me than any friend I can name. Although it has never grown, my ever lengthening fingers fit as snugly as the day I first held it, in that music room on a Thursday morning in September 1993.

Despite all this I am nervous; nervous of what might happen when I press it to my lips and attempt to play a note. It has been nearly a year since I last picked up the instrument I spent 11 years of my youth mastering, and three years since I went to university and stopped playing regularly. Will I still remember what I used to know so well? Will it be like riding a bike or more like trying to remember an obscure French verb that I learnt once at school and have never needed since?

I raise my trumpet to my mouth, purse my lips and blow, all the while hoping that I can still remember where middle C lives. I hit it dead on first time. Good thing to really, since it was the first note I learnt and by far the easiest to play. The sound is not clear at all, yet it is right and it is as familiar as my own voice.

I tighten my lips, press down on the first and third valves without even realising I'm doing so, and play a D. My confidence is growing faster than a mushroom cloud, and before I know where I am, I've jumped an octave and am playing the introduction to a sad sounding Latin jazz piece that I used to play in the school jazz band, and have long since forgotten the title of. I do not however forget the E Flat, thank God, and for the next twenty minutes I happily experiment with scales, arpeggios and motifs not yet forgotten, despite the time past.

As is expected my lips soon tire and I am forced to rest, but only for a few minutes. I work my way through every book of music I can find, wishing I'd had something decent left to play after I returned all my sheet music to the various bands it belonged to. I've had little incentive to play trumpet since I went to university and left the youth bands which had made the hobby fun. Little opportunity as well, what with student accommodation coming without adequate sound proofing.

Despite this though, I do miss the good old days, when I was actually a rather good musician, able to join pit bands for a whole host of amateur productions and so busy with concerts each term that I hardly had time for anything else. I hope I find time to play tomorrow, if only for old times? sake.

I gather up my music and replace it, and the instrument, back into the case, which is then closed and sealed, safe and ready for another day.

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