Strike Up The Band – Episode 32

The band and their families and friends gathered around two coaches in the early morning. They were buzzing with excitement and anticipation despite the long journey ahead of them.

Lacey spotted Mizzy in the crowd.

“Can I go and sit with Mizzy Douglas?” she asked Ken.

He was about to refuse, but Janine nudged him and nodded.

“Off you go, then,” he said and his daughter and Mizzy went off giggling to the furthest coach away from their parents.

The band sat in their usual formation, though closer together with so many supporters on the coach. Bethany closed her eyes, having hardly slept with excitement all the night before, but all she could think of was Ellis.

She wondered how he was feeling. They’d met whenever they could, often returning to the Turnpike Inn where they had first kissed.

They’d tried to keep away from Addersley to avoid the players from both bands, though sometimes they’d met at Grandad’s home, arriving and leaving at different times.

“I wish you every bit of luck tomorrow,” Ellis told her, holding her close as he left Len’s house.

“And you, too. I’ll be thinking of you,” she whispered.

They parted with a tender kiss.

Sitting on the coach, a hum of chatter all around her, she felt right with the world.

Her family were there to support her and Ellis loved her. All she had to do now was play a perfect solo in front of thousands of people!

Jason’s mocking voice disturbed her reverie.

“I expect you’re nervous?” he said.

“A bit,” she admitted.

“Someone said that you were knocking about with Ellis McEvoy. They saw you together at the Turnpike.”

“Fraternising with the enemy,” someone else put in.

“It’s none of your business who I fraternise with,” Bethany defended, smiling calmly, her love for Ellis giving her confidence. She suspected Jason was trying to unnerve her. “Let’s just concentrate on winning this contest, shall we?”

After their long journey there was the usual noise and bustle of players and their supporters trying to find where they should go at the Centaur.

“Best of luck, lass,” Grandad said. “Just remember what I’ve taught you.”

“Kemington are playing after us,” someone else said, consulting a list.

There were several bands playing before Addersley and they all listened carefully to their rivals’ performances.

Then Addersley were called to the stage. They began confidently and together, blending beautifully. Bethany felt strangely calm. She took a deep breath and her solo began pure and unwavering, swelling melodiously as she flowed into the piece.

Behind her the band played harmoniously, not a mistake to be heard.

“That were beautiful,” Grandad said after the last note died away.

“Aren’t you proud of her?” Brian whispered.

Diane nodded happily.

“Your kid’s ace,” Lacey murmured.

“Yeah, she’s not half bad,” Mizzy put in, secretly proud of her sister.

There was a hesitation as Jason began his solo, his first note wavered as if he’d almost missed his cue. He rallied but moments later played a flat note and the band seemed to lose their concentration for a moment.

They all knew they’d dropped points, but carried on, playing with growing confidence to the end. Carefully they listened for mistakes from their rivals, hoping they might still have some chance of winning.

“That was flat,” someone muttered at one point.

“He missed that note,” another agreed.

But when Kemington played, they were note perfect. Bethany’s heart swelled with pride as she listened to Ellis play his solos with perfection and feeling. How she loved him. But with sadness she knew he would not come back to play with Addersley. He’d outgrown them.

There was an expectant silence as the results were announced. No-one was surprised when Kemington came a well-deserved first to loud applause. Their band was destined for the Championship Section.

When second place was announced it wasn’t Addersley. They held their breath for third place, but it wasn’t to be. They hadn’t made it and would not be promoted. A groan of disappointment rumbled through the band. They managed to raise a half-hearted cheer as they were awarded fourth place.

Then came the final announcement.

“Musician of the Year goes to Ellis McEvoy!”

The audience erupted with cheers, none louder than Bethany. She pushed her way forward and threw herself into Ellis’s arms as he left the stage.

“I would say she’s knocking about with Ellis McEvoy,” Norman remarked with a shrug.

They trailed back to the coach, their dreams in tatters.

“Well, lads and lasses, I’m right proud of you all,” Len announced with a beaming smile.

“Proud? But we only came fourth,” Norman countered. “Kemington came first.”

“Yes, but you were ninth last year.”

“We had a bad year,” someone added.

“There’s always next year,” Ken reminded them all. “We’ll just have to try harder.”

“Look, I know we’re not up there with the Grimethorpes and the Fodens,” Len began, “but just think what you’ve achieved. Fourth in our section in the whole of the country. All those bands, hundreds of them, practising and playing, week after week. And so long as we can head up a parade and play in parks and in local churches and shopping precincts, and as long as we can enjoy our music and have others enjoy it, too, that’s what we should be proud of. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love the music and what grand music it is, too.”

“Hear, hear!” Janine cried. “Wonderful music.”

She began to clap and soon the coach was loud with cheers and applause.

Bethany and Ellis paid her grandad a visit the next day. They didn’t care who saw them together now.

He showed them into his living-room and over a cup of tea they chatted about the contest. Before they left, Len lifted up his golden cornet.

“I wonder if you’d like to borrow this, lad,” he asked Ellis. “It needs playing and I haven’t got the puff any more. It says ‘Musician of the Year’ and that’s you, right enough. But I say ‘borrow’ for now, Ellis, because I’ve great hopes for Bethany,” he said, smiling at her. “It says ‘Lilian’ on the side but . . .”

“I’m Bethany Lilian,” his granddaughter reminded him.

“So you are! I’d forgotten. Well, maybe that’s a good sign.”

“If you’re sure, Mr Douglas,” Ellis said.

He lifted the cornet to his lips and played a few bars of music.

“It’s got a grand tone. I promise I’ll look after it.”

“I wouldn’t lend it to you otherwise,” Len said with a chuckle. “You keep it polished for our Bethany,” he added with a wink. Deep down he felt these two would make a go of it. He sincerely hoped so, and as a bonus it would keep the title of Musician of the Year in the family, too.

After they’d left, Len settled in his favourite armchair.

“Well, Lilian,” he addressed the photograph of his dear late wife, “I’ve got great hopes for those two. I think it’s turned out all right.”

Smiling to himself he put on a CD and relaxed back to listen to his favourite brass band music, his heart swelling with love.

The End.


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