“People on the river are happy to give” – Term Three

You knew it was coming. We’ve had Term One, we’ve had Term Two, now it’s time for Term Three, the final chapter in what I’m calling my Proud Mary Trilogy (mostly because I think that’s a cooler title than The Three Part Story of Devon’s First Year in Rev).

First though, we need to go back a little, into my first term. Rev has many unique customs, but I think paper plate awards are one of the strangest. They take a little explaining. When the end-of-term celebration known as Cabaret was described to me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I was first told that people were going to be given paper plates for the wonderful things they had done, I was confused. Why paper plates? I thought I might be given an award – Rev struck me as the kind of place where they would make sure everyone won something – but I wasn’t expecting it to be anything special. I was gradually starting to recognise other members of the choir, but there were still only three people (the Environment Co-ordinator who was my first proper Rev friend, the woman who I had given up on ignoring because she was going to keep talking at me anyway* and the person I generally stood next to in rehearsals) who I was actively interacting with as opposed to just staring at awkwardly.

Cabaret was, of course, more exciting than I anticipated. When I heard the Environment Co call, “Devon – For awesome Revviness and being dependable! For knowing everything about Rev despite it being your first term – I can’t help but smile when I see you singing!” I couldn’t help smiling too. It wasn’t just a generic award to make sure everyone was included. It was obviously personal. I told you before how I’d always been taught that missing a rehearsal is an unforgivable crime. I’m also one of those people who studies every page of the website (including the small print) and reads every e-mail two or three times because I’m detail-obsessed. I knew that about myself already. What was surprising was that somebody else had noticed and decided it was worth mentioning. A lot of thought went into giving me that paper plate.

If you remember, my second term ended with me playing the saxophone in public for the first time and it not being a complete disaster. Apart from my not being in tune. What I didn’t mention before was my end of term paper plate and the “being so enthusiastic and brave by playing sax in the band” nomination that followed it. It made me feel more involved in the choir than I ever had before. I had a paper plate complimenting my playing, just like all those musicians who were more talented than me.

(Some of you who know me may be amused to know that another nomination on that plate was “for laughing at me when I throw myself at you for hugs.” See, there are exceptions to every rule, even the “no hugging” one I like to enforce. Just don’t go getting ideas.)

Things couldn’t have been much better. Changes were coming though. We had elections for the Executive Committee just before Easter, which meant a new president, new music co-ordinators and new environment co-ordinators (amongst other positions) in the the third term. Whilst the old exec were still coming to rehearsals, it was adjustment for someone who didn’t (and still doesn’t) like change. Worse than that, it was going to be my last term at Rev for a while – I was going on a university exchange to Nashville in my second year and Vanderbilt University didn’t have a Rev. It meant the tone of things was slightly different for me. There was still lots of joy and silliness, but at the back of my mind lurked the knowledge that a lot of these people would be gone by the time I returned from America. My talkative friend was only at Warwick for a year to do a Masters, so she’d be leaving. My Environment Co-ordinator friend would be graduating next year, just as I returned. My third year in Rev would be almost like starting from the beginning again.

Well, it wouldn’t, because people don’t so much leave Rev as lurk round the edges and pop in at unexpected moments, but I wasn’t really thinking like that. I just knew I had to make the most of the third term while I had it. I couldn’t have stood in exec elections because I wasn’t going to be there next year (and I would miss the set of elections for my third year). I wouldn’t be at Coventry WiM, even though the travel concerns I had about Cambridge WiM would be gone. I couldn’t play the saxophone in December’s concert and hope it’d be an improvement on June. I’d be in Nashville, which was exciting and nerve-wracking and pretty life-changing in its own right, but was an entirely different world. This was it.

Term three is a busy term and not just because of concert related things. There are exams all over the place and students finally start doing the studying they probably should have started months ago. There’s less time for rehearsing. I was still making it every week, but my regular trips to the music practice rooms had died down. It wasn’t entirely my fault – every time I thought “this evening is when I shall practice the saxophone” it immediately started raining. I didn’t want to get soaked walking to the music centre. Unlike my first term, I now knew more than eight notes and didn’t need to scramble to learn more. Unlike my second term, I wasn’t desperate to master my song. I had already played it in concert once and knew how it should generally sound. I actually felt quite confident. Lots of practice didn’t seem necessary.

I didn’t feel quite as confident in week six (the concert was at the end of week nine) when I played with the rest of the band and choir for the first time that term and forgot how to read music in the middle of it. Now, I may have been learning saxophone for less than a year, but I’d been learning to read music since I was four. There really wasn’t any excuse for that.

Back to the practice room I went.

Three weeks later, it was time for the concert.

For long and complicated reasons that I won’t go into, the Piazza concert that was supposed to be part of Warwick Student Arts Festival was not going to be on the Piazza (or even at the university) and would have no involvement from Warwick Student Arts Festival. It would, however, finish less than an hour before my other university choir did their summer concert. I was going to have to do some running.

If you ask most people to remember that concert, they’ll probably tell you about the ridiculous heat as we all crammed into the fairly small church. No one wanted to move much, let alone sing. They might tell you about how we were nearly an hour behind and the audience were already sitting expectantly when we finally did our sound check. They may remember that the sound check song was new to most of us and had to be taught about five minutes before we started; stood outside the church full of pre-concert nerves and trying not to melt. I don’t think anyone knew why that song was the one chosen.

I didn’t mind too much. It wasn’t the sound check for the choir that had been worrying me. Before we’d all been hustled outside, I’d been doing my “lurk round the other saxophone player and hope she noticed that I need some help tuning my saxophone” routine that had failed so miserably in term two. However, when she saw me there and pointed out that I needed to tune my saxophone, this time I did actually manage to speak.

“I haven’t actually tuned it before,” I managed before falling silent and looking at her hopefully.

“Do you want me to tune it for you?” she asked.

I nodded.

She took my sax, “This is tiny!” she said with a grin, “tiny saxophone!” (for reference, she plays tenor and I play alto). It took her a moment to adjust her fingers to the smaller keys and remember what musical key she was now in. What I was expecting her to do next was move the mouthpiece up or down the neck – according to the book that I’d taught myself from, that was the tuning technique. I just didn’t have a lot of faith in my musical ear, or my ability to transpose, if I tried it myself. What she actually appeared to do was to unscrew every part of the instrument that could be unscrewed and rearrange it completely. Then she proceeded to blow it in such a way that it made noises I didn’t know it was capable of. I stared for a bit, but we were running late and apparently we had to be taught a new song for the sound check, so I had to run outside.

For better or worse, I was playing in the first song of the concert. When I blew my saxophone, I almost dropped it in shock. I hadn’t expected it to sound like that when I played it. I certainly haven’t made it sound like that since. There was still a bit in the middle of the song where I forgot to read music again, but I don’t think anyone noticed. I was flying high on actually having sounded reasonable. Even better, I knew the tech people were recording and I would be able to listen to it again.

Well…

It turned out that because of how late we’d been running and having to sort out the rest of the tech, the camera hadn’t been on for the whole concert. It had most of it, but it was missing the first couple of songs. Like the one I had played in. Therefore, I take a small break from the article to ask if anyone happens to have a recording of Piazza 2011 that includes This Little Light of Mine. If so, I’d be eternally grateful. We now return to our article.

I rushed off when the concert had finished without meeting any of the national revvers who’d come to watch us (I’d make up for that eventually) or helping take stuff down. I had another concert to go to. Luckily, that wasn’t the end of Rev for the year. There was still one Cabaret to come.

Cabaret is meant to be a big, joyful celebration of all the talents and friendships that Rev contains. Some things, like Ghost Ship, are ridiculously funny. Others, like this little piece of Big Book lore can be quite sentimental (and also funny. That’s the way it goes). In Term three, however, there’s also a bittersweet flavour to everything. There were people who teared up because either it was their last Rev, or the last Rev of their friends. There were lots of hugs and photographs and plans for the future. There was also the promise I made to my now graduated, over-talkative friend and my now ex-environment co-ordinator friend to see both of them at Piazza next year. Just because you’re leaving university (even temporarily) doesn’t mean you have to be done with Rev.

Due to shenanigans from the new environment co-ordinators, I actually received two plates in that last Cabaret. The first was a more personal one – people saying they’d miss me next year, congratulations for growing in confidence etc. It was all full of warm, squishy stuff that made me blush. I was sat back down, perfectly content, when “Devon – for doing so well at playing” (they didn’t specify what I had played, so we’ll assume saxophone) “and for epic mad sax skills” were announced. That made me stop for a moment. I had to be sure I hadn’t misheard. The phrase “epic mad sax skills” had been used in relation to my saxophone playing. It was absurd and someone obviously didn’t know what they were talking about, but I couldn’t help grinning.

A week later, when I travelled home, I blue-tacked all four paper plates from my first year on my wardrobe door. They were still there when I came back from America, wondering if anyone in Rev would remember me (of course they did). They’re still there now, though it’s a different wardrobe and the number of paper plates has grown until they won’t all fit. The ones from my first year are still the ones that feel the most important to me and take pride of place. I just hope your first year at Rev can be or was as special as mine.

 

 

*I’ve had a couple of people commenting on this, so I will say that the annoying person who forced me to be friends with her has invited me to both her hen weekend and her wedding this year despite having read these articles, and I’m travelling many hours and several degrees out of my comfort zone to get to them. I think that means our friendship has turned out OK.