The Last Postcard: Paddington Station, London
Calling all clarinetists . . .
Nothing cheers me like the Friday night concerts of the Paddington Band in London’s Paddington Station. The Great Western Railway Paddington Station Military Band, to be exact. It’s not the Philharmonic; in many ways it’s so much better.
According to its website, the conductor is Peter Legge; according to Martin—the gentleman in gray, to the left of the conductor in the photo, above, who’s been passing out the evening’s program for the past 19 years—Mr. Legge is 92 years old. In addition to conducting, he sometimes plays the euphonium. Martin supplied me with a few other tidbits: the drummer used to play for Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, the clarinetist in a jazz band in New Orleans. The band has been in existence for over 166 years and is London’s last remaining railway band. (Click on underlined text to learn more.) They never rehearse, just show up and sight-read. Most of the band members are older. The trombone player, with a degree in music, is 23.
The music is nicely played, but the entire scene is what you’re there for. Travelers smile, and some begin to step to the music, dragging their luggage with them across the concrete as though their bags were dance partners. Listeners come and go, many taking selfies with the band as backdrop. Kids stand wide-eyed and screw up their courage to scurry forward to drop a donation in the box. This particular evening was St. Patrick’s Day. “Wouldn’t it be great if they played Danny Boy?” I asked my husband. And after a selection of show tunes from Carousel, they did. I did not cry, not exactly.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.