2019 New Band Challenge Recap (January to April)

This year, my aim is to visit one new band every week. Partly born out of a lack of consistent band rehearsals whilst I’m house sitting, and a desire to meet more people in the areas we’re in, I’ve also had a number of bands play a piece of mine, which is brilliant to hear different versions of it, and get some feedback on what they liked about my music.

So far, we’re about a third of the way into the year and I’ve managed to find a vast array of bands who kindly invited me along. I’ve been really enjoying the variety of ensembles, venues and people, as well as vast differences in atmosphere, skill level and banter. I’m finding that each rehearsal inspires me in different ways, and my desire to connect with more bands is growing exponentially.

What I would like to do for the rest of the year is to continue connecting with local bands, but also to expand how I’m promoting this challenge by producing better video, and adding a few different features to the posts.

Stay tuned for more and check out all of the bands so far below.

Supertonics Big Band – Jan 2 (Week 1)

First one this year is The Supertonics Big Band, based in Bracknell. A lovely community group that does regular concerts, with a repertoire from Mission Impossible to Begin the Beguine. They were so welcoming that they even pulled out an Aussie number for me – Waltzing Matilda! I actually really like this arrangement, not too hard to play and just the right amount of cheese. I took a rehearsal recording so you can experience their sound yourself. #mindthesplits #holidaychops



Godalming Band – Jan 9 (Week 2)

As part of my 2019 new band tour, I visited Godalming Band, just up the road from my current house sit near Haslemere. A lovely welcoming band led by James Haigh who is also a talented arranger. Amazing to see a full rehearsal after the Christmas break, although I think some people’s chops were a little under done – pretty standard at this time of year. Here’s a small recording of the rehearsal.

Godalming Band – Holst First Suite in Eb

As part of my 2019 new band tour, I visited Godalming Band, just up the road from my current house sit near Haslemere. A lovely welcoming band led by James Haigh who is also a talented arranger. Amazing to see a full rehearsal after the Christmas break, although I think some people’s chops were a little under done – pretty standard at this time of year. Here’s a small recording of the rehearsal.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Cathays Brass – Jan 14 (Week 3)

As part of my 2019 new band tour, on Monday Jan 14 I visited Cathays Brass in Cardiff. A fantastic little community band, led by Martyn, who has had a very interesting career playing and writing for some very famous people. I really enjoyed their humour, approach to creating music and general banter. This is an arrangement I did for 10 piece brass, featuring a tricky little eupho/cornet line, plenty of clapping and grunting, and has been a favourite number of all the bands who played it.

Cathays Brass – Happy, arr. Michael Pilley, conducted by Martyn Ford

As part of my 2019 new band tour, on Monday Jan 14 I visited Cathays Brass in Cardiff. A fantastic little community band, led by Martyn, who has had a very interesting career playing and writing for some very famous people. I really enjoyed their humour, approach to creating music and general banter. This is an arrangement I did for 10 piece brass, featuring a tricky little eupho/cornet line, plenty of clapping and grunting, and has been a favourite number of all the bands who played it.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Monday, 21 January 2019

Crosskeys Silver Band – Jan 15 (Week 3)

Week 3 (2nd band of the week!) of my 2019 New Band Challenge, Cross Keys Silver Band conducted by an old friend, Siôn Rhys Jones. Lovely band room with a good acoustic, and a keen bunch of players – pretty full band for this time of year. I loved that they start and end on a hymn, great for tone, so that’s what this video is. Thanks again guys for the invite, really enjoyed this one.

Crosskeys Silver Band – Guess the hymn!

Week 3 (2nd band of the week!) of my 2019 New Band Challenge, Cross Keys Silver Band conducted by an old friend, Siôn Rhys Jones. Lovely band room with a good acoustic, and a keen bunch of players – pretty full band for this time of year. I loved that they start and end on a hymn, great for tone, so that’s what this video is. Thanks again guys for the invite, really enjoyed this one. As always, comment below if you’d like me to come to your rehearsal. Wind, brass and big band, anything goes! I’m finding it hard to do everyone’s band though, so please don’t get upset if I don’t make it. February in Wye, Kent March in Carrick on Shannon, Ireland and then who knows! April – new house sit – in Burwash, Sussex

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Marshfield Brass Band  – Jan 23 (Week 4)

Week 5 of my 2019 new band challenge – Marshfield Brass Band. On one of the coldest nights I’ve had so far ❄️ with a rehearsal in a football club room, this was a really welcoming bunch of community musicians. Once again, some light banter and a good dose of hard work led to an enjoyable rehearsal. The 96 year old 2nd trombone unfortunately didn’t make rehearsal due to the cold, but I managed to meet him later in the pub 😂 🍻.

Check out their version of a classic march (unleash the basses! 😜🔥🔥)

Week 5 of my 2019 new band challenge – Marshfield Brass Band. On one of the coldest nights I’ve had so far ❄️ with a rehearsal in a football club room, this was a really welcoming bunch of community musicians. Once again, some light banter and a good dose of hard work led to an enjoyable rehearsal. The 96 year old 2nd trombone unfortunately didn’t make rehearsal due to the cold, but I managed to meet him later in the pub 😂 🍻. Check out their version of a classic march (unleash the basses! 😜🔥🔥)

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Sunday, 27 January 2019

Phoenix Wind Band – Jan 28 (Week 5)

Week 6 of my 2019 new band challenge – Phoenix Wind Band. Based in Bristol, and rehearsing in a local library with lovely acoustics, this is a very well balanced band with good musicians all round. Items on the menu were Lion King, Heroic Fanfare, Concerto D’Amore and Prelude to Hampstead Heath. I even attempted sight reading the Eupho part to the Prelude, but I’d rather not show you that video, so here’s the Lion King! Get your tissues out.

Week 6 2019 New Band Challenge – Phoenix Wind Band

Week 6 of my 2019 new band challenge – Phoenix Wind Band. Based in Bristol, and rehearsing in a local library with lovely acoustics, this is a very well balanced band with good musicians all round. Items on the menu were Lion King, Heroic Fanfare, Concerto D’Amore and Prelude to Hampstead Heath. I even attempted sight reading the Eupho part to the Prelude, but I’d rather not show you that video, so here’s the Lion King! Get your tissues out. I’m currently in Wye, Kent for the whole of February. At the moment I have one brass band, three big bands and no wind bands – enough for the month, but if you want me to pop by, leave your details in the comments.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Friday, 1 February 2019

Kent Police Band – Feb 6 (Week 6)

Week 7 of my 2019 new band challenge – Kent Police Band. For those who haven’t seen these posts before, I’m an Aussie trombonist/composer/conductor trying to visit one new band every week for the whole year.

Great atmosphere in rehearsal with this lot, in probably the most secure band room ever! Really enjoyed the light hearted approach from conductor John Groves, with plenty of banter back and forth from the band. A good selection of music to play, see if you can guess their upcoming concert theme: Ben Hur, I’ll Walk With God, Mamma Mia, Wicked and Greatest Showman. Haven’t played I’ll Walk With God in years, so especially enjoyed that cracking arrangement by Goff Richards.

Week 7 of my 2019 new band challenge – Kent Police Band. For those who haven’t seen these posts before, I’m an Aussie trombonist/composer/conductor trying to visit one new band every week for the whole year. Great atmosphere in rehearsal with this lot, in probably the most secure band room ever! Really enjoyed the light hearted approach from conductor John Groves, with plenty of banter back and forth from the band. A good selection of music to play, see if you can guess their upcoming concert theme: Ben Hur, I’ll Walk With God, Mamma Mia, Wicked and Greatest Showman. Haven’t played I’ll Walk With God in years, so especially enjoyed that cracking arrangement by Goff Richards. As always, let me know in the comments if you want me to come to your rehearsal. Brass, wind, jazz and kazoo bands all welcome. I usually bring an arrangement of mine you can play through if you want to try some new music as well, and always keen for a chat and a pint after.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Friday, 8 February 2019

Contra Swing Band – Feb 13 (Week 7)

Week 8 of my 2019 new band challenge – Contra Swing Band, based in Bexhill-On-Sea, East Sussex.

This was a little bit of a drive, but due to Valentines Day, the only band I could make it to this week. A tight sounding band with top players on each line, a good variety of ages and an enjoyable rehearsal. I also gave out more business cards at this rehearsal than usual, which means that either plenty of bands need trombone players in this area, or there’s too many bands!

Thanks guys for making me feel welcome – especially pulling out all the solo features for me. This video is one of those, although I can’t quite remember the name of the tune. See if you can pick it.

Week 8 of 2019 new band challenge – Contra Swing Band

Week 8 of my 2019 new band challenge – Contra Swing Band, based in Bexhill-On-Sea, East Sussex. This was a little bit of a drive, but due to Valentines Day, the only band I could make it to this week. A tight sounding band with top players on each line, a good variety of ages and an enjoyable rehearsal. I also gave out more business cards at this rehearsal than usual, which means that either plenty of bands need trombone players in this area, or there’s too many bands! Thanks guys for making me feel welcome – especially pulling out all the solo features for me. This video is one of those, although I can’t quite remember the name of the tune. See if you can pick it. I’m in Kent until the end of Feb, then in Ireland for two weeks, back to Cranbrook, Kent for the last two weeks of March. April is in Burwash, East Sussex and May is Bletchingley, Surrey. As always, let me know if you would like me to come to your bands rehearsal.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Lisa Davies Big Band – Feb 19 (Week 8)

Week 9 of my New Band Challenge 2019 – The Lisa Davies Big Band. This week, a horn only sectional for a very good band, playing mainly funk and contemp tunes. Thanks Steve Nathan for the invite.

This is A Few Good Men – Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, brilliant chart, but pretty hard to get everything together, and play it up to tempo. Have a listen to the bone player next to me on the unison lines, super clean! I need to do more work on my articulation (practice time!)

Planning on going back next week so they can play through some of my arrangements, maybe Pilbot’s Revenge will get a run through 🙂

Funnily enough, they don’t gig much. I think they should, as this stuff needs to be heard.

Week 9 New Band Challenge 2019 – Lisa Davies Big Band

Week 9 of my New Band Challenge 2019 – The Lisa Davies Big Band. This week, a horn only sectional for a very good band, playing mainly funk and contemp tunes. Thanks Steve Nathan for the invite. This is A Few Good Men – Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, brilliant chart, but pretty hard to get everything together, and play it up to tempo. Have a listen to the bone player next to me on the unison lines, super clean! I need to do more work on my articulation (practice time!) Planning on going back next week so they can play through some of my arrangements, maybe Pilbot’s Revenge will get a run through 🙂 Funnily enough, they don’t gig much. I think they should, as this stuff needs to be heard. One more week in Kent, then Ireland (where my bands at?) Cranbrook, Kent from March 19-20 Burwash, East Sussex for April Bletchingley, Surrey for May Fingers crossed for a 3 month sit in Southampton after that (South west Bands hit me up) Please follow my facebook page, and feel free to share this with everyone.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Thursday, 21 February 2019

West Kent Big Band – Feb 24 (Week 9)

Week 9 of my 2019 New Band Challenge (I think I skipped week 4!) – West Kent Big Band.

I was asked by a trombonist I’d met at the Contra Swing Band to dep at a pub gig in Tonbridge for this band, so it was a good opportunity to see a new band in action. It was a good sized audience for the venue and the band played a selection of older big band classics like In The Mood, through to crowd favourites Copacobana and Pink Panther.

This video is a short excerpt of the Rocky theme, Gonna Fly Now. Featuring some excellent lead trumpet playing and a energetic sound. It’s only short because when I turned the camera I didn’t check if you could see anything, and who wants to look at a ceiling for a whole minute! (Might be slightly better than my trombone faces lol)

Really enjoyed the gig, so thanks to Sarah Kent-Davies for the invite and the band for welcoming me 🙂

Week 9 2019 New Band Challenge – West Kent Big Band

Week 9 of my 2019 New Band Challenge (I think I skipped week 4!) – West Kent Big Band. I was asked by a trombonist I’d met at the Contra Swing Band to dep at a pub gig in Tonbridge for this band, so it was a good opportunity to see a new band in action. It was a good sized audience for the venue and the band played a selection of older big band classics like In The Mood, through to crowd favourites Copacobana and Pink Panther. This video is a short excerpt of the Rocky theme, Gonna Fly Now. Featuring some excellent lead trumpet playing and a energetic sound. It’s only short because when I turned the camera I didn’t check if you could see anything, and who wants to look at a ceiling for a whole minute! (Might be slightly better than my trombone faces lol) Really enjoyed the gig, so thanks to Sarah Kent-Davies for the invite and the band for welcoming me 🙂 One more week in Kent, then Ireland (where my bands at?) Cranbrook, Kent from March 19-20 Burwash, East Sussex for April Bletchingley, Surrey for May A 3 month sit in Southampton after that (South west Bands hit me up) Please follow my facebook page, and feel free to share this with everyone.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Monday, 25 February 2019

Murley Silver Band – March 4 (Week 10)

Week 10 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – Murley Silver Band. Based in Northern Ireland, this was a bit of a trek from where I was staying in Carrick on Shannon, but well worth the drive through some terrible weather on ordinary roads.

A championship band fresh off the local competition, I enjoyed playing at the higher level after a few lower section bands lately. They were also the most inquisitive band I’ve come across, which was nice to be able to really explain why the hell I was at their rehearsal 😂

I’m lucky that I’ve been over to Ireland a few times to visit my girlfriends family and friends, because the conductor had a wicked drawl and certainly kept my ears on their toes.

Pick the classic piece. One of my favourite endings of any piece I’ve ever played.

Week 10 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – Murley Silver Band. Based in Northern Ireland, this was a bit of a trek from where I was staying in Carrick on Shannon, but well worth the drive through some terrible weather on ordinary roads. A championship band fresh off the local competition, I enjoyed playing at the higher level after a few lower section bands lately. They were also the most inquisitive band I’ve come across, which was nice to be able to really explain why the hell I was at their rehearsal 😂 I’m lucky that I’ve been over to Ireland a few times to visit my girlfriends family and friends, because the conductor had a wicked drawl and certainly kept my ears on their toes. Pick the classic piece. One of my favourite endings of any piece I’ve ever played. Going to be in Cardiff later on this week, any bands practicing on the Thursday or Friday?

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Matt Lush Big Band – March 15 (Week 11)

Week 11 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – a new, as yet unnamed big band in Cardiff!

I was lucky enough to bump into a friend at the Tiny Rebel Jazz: Duski event on Thursday night, who invited me to the very first rehearsal of a brand new ensemble. Full of young talented musicians, I was really happy to see the level of musicianship so high, with a bit of a lull in new big bands in the area.

This is a short excerpt from a Roy Hargrove tune. No bass player for the rehearsal, which was a shame. I enjoyed doubling up 3rd and Bass Bone, with some phat notes and bitey edge.

Week 11 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – a new, as yet unnamed big band in Cardiff! I was lucky enough to bump into a friend at the Tiny Rebel Jazz: Duski event on Thursday night, who invited me to the very first rehearsal of a brand new ensemble. Full of young talented musicians, I was really happy to see the level of musicianship so high, with a bit of a lull in new big bands in the area. This is a short excerpt from a Roy Hargrove tune. No bass player for the rehearsal, which was a shame. I enjoyed doubling up 3rd and Bass Bone, with some phat notes and bitey edge. Keep my streak going! Kent for two weeks, East Sussex in April, Surrey in May.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Sunday, 17 March 2019

Cranbrook Town Band / Orbi Playa Big Band – March 21/24 (Week 12)

Week 12 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – Cranbrook Town Band / Orbi Playa Big Band.

This week, we’re in a repeat house sit with two brilliant Vizsla’s and a Mini Poodle in Cranbook, so I had to visit Cranbrook Town Band. But seeing as I’ve actually been to a rehearsal with them before, I planned to also head to the Orbi Playa Big Band in Canterbury, as I had been asked to dep for a rehearsal.

Unfortunately, the numbers at Orbi were a bit light, so I didn’t actually take a video (half a rhythm section and only two saxes). But I was pleased that they played through my new arrangement of Making Whoopee, and happy that it sounded as I imagined. (You can get it here: https://bit.ly/2YpUavi)

So Cranbrook – under the direction of Ian Lanceley, they are a well drilled unit with a full band every week, coming off a full sweep of the regional comps and going from strength to strength. There’s a fervour in this bandroom, with a lot of good people invested in the direction of the band. I’m always impressed with the sound they produce, nice and full.

This recording is my new original hymntune – Hymn For Barney. Dedicated to a plucky little Westie we looked after last year, I’m really glad they were able to play this for me. I put the phone down to play the piece halfway through, so instead of looking at the ceiling, I’ve put a few cute doggy pictures into the video. I hope you enjoy it! P.S. you can buy it here: https://bit.ly/2NuOz1y

Week 12 of 2019 New Band Challenge – Cranbrook Town Band

Week 12 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – Cranbrook Town Band / Orbi Playa Big Band. This week, we’re in a repeat house sit with two brilliant Vizsla’s and a Mini Poodle in Cranbook, so I had to visit Cranbrook Town Band. But seeing as I’ve actually been to a rehearsal with them before, I planned to also head to the Orbi Playa Big Band in Canterbury, as I had been asked to dep for a rehearsal. Unfortunately, the numbers at Orbi were a bit light, so I didn’t actually take a video (half a rhythm section and only two saxes). But I was pleased that they played through my new arrangement of Making Whoopee, and happy that it sounded as I imagined. (You can get it here: https://bit.ly/2YpUavi) So Cranbrook – under the direction of Ian Lanceley, they are a well drilled unit with a full band every week, coming off a full sweep of the regional comps and going from strength to strength. There’s a fervour in this bandroom, with a lot of good people invested in the direction of the band. I’m always impressed with the sound they produce, nice and full. This recording is my new original hymntune – Hymn For Barney. Dedicated to a plucky little Westie we looked after last year, I’m really glad they were able to play this for me. I put the phone down to play the piece halfway through, so instead of looking at the ceiling, I’ve put a few cute doggy pictures into the video. I hope you enjoy it! P.S. you can buy it here: https://bit.ly/2NuOz1y

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Monday, 25 March 2019

Beached Brass – March 28 (Week 13)

Week 13 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – Beached Brass

On a beautiful sunny day, I headed down to Brighton to join a new venture by Gabriel Garrick. Aiming to recreate the New Orleans street band style, this is a relaxed jam-style band that learns tunes on the day by ear, and then uses jazz language to hold a conversation (or something like that).

This was very therapeutic for me, food for my musical soul. The freedom to play what you want, as long as you’re joining in the conversation is brilliant, and definitely opens my mind to new possibilities as a musician.

We’re settled into our new house sit near Burwash, East Sussex. Going to be around this area for the next couple of months, so if you’d like me to come to your rehearsal, to play, watch, conduct or bring a few charts of mine to play, comment below.

Week 13 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – Beached Brass On a beautiful sunny day, I headed down to Brighton to join a new venture by Gabriel Garrick. Aiming to recreate the New Orleans street band style, this is a relaxed jam-style band that learns tunes on the day by ear, and then uses jazz language to hold a conversation (or something like that). This was very therapeutic for me, food for my musical soul. The freedom to play what you want, as long as you’re joining in the conversation is brilliant, and definitely opens my mind to new possibilities as a musician. We’re settled into our new house sit near Burwash, East Sussex. Going to be around this area for the next couple of months, so if you’d like me to come to your rehearsal, to play, watch, conduct or bring a few charts of mine to play, comment below.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Sounds of Swing Big Band – April 2 (Week 14)

As part of my 2019 New Band Challenge, I visited Sounds of Swing, based in a cool looking pub in Herstmonceux. A community big band that does a few gigs a year, mostly playing classic swing charts with their vocalist Gill Berryman.

With nearly a full band (they’re always short on trombonists) their sound was full and swing was cool. I enjoyed playing through a few charts I hadn’t seen, and was invited along for the gig on Sunday lunch at the same venue.

I was pleased that they played through my new arrangement of Makin’ Whoopee (available here: https://bit.ly/2USNOWn) even with a few mistakes, but with a killer solo on tenor sax, try and pick the quote in the last 8. Also features a bit of drum tastiness. I hope you enjoy the video.

Worthing Silver Band – April 10 (Week 15)

Week 15 of my 2019 New Band Challenge – Worthing Silver Band

A non-contesting brass band, they are well known for their Brassbandathon, which raises loads of funds for charity in an all-day brass band extravaganza.

The rehearsals are in a very live church hall, with players of all ages, and led by a strong MD in Laura King. Unusual to see a left handed conductor, but she wields an iron baton to marshall her troops.

I was pleased that rehearsal started with a classic – Vaughan Williams Folk Songs Suite and enjoyed navigating some tricky movie music with the band. The video is of A Klezmer Karnival, by Philip Sparke, which is an exciting piece with lots of fun bits. Nothing much to write home about for trombone, but I managed to have a bit of fun bopping along and yelling the wrong word at the end! Hope you enjoy the video.

Uckfield Concert Brass – April 16 (Week 16)

2019 New Band Challenge (Week 16) – Uckfield Concert Brass

Continuing on my East Sussex tour, this week I encountered Uckfield Concert Brass. A non-contesting community band that rehearses in a pub function room, this band just returned from a tour of Wales and boast a full band with committed members.

Another rehearsal where upon entering the room, I was shown towards the 1st trombone chair by an excited trombone section. This was probably the most amount of blowing I’ve done in a rehearsal in a while, with the majority of tunes played from the Salvation Army publications. From Mozart to Heaton, most of the arrangements heavy and slow, but I really enjoyed reminiscing about my time growing up playing with Salvation Army bands.

The band has a really nice full sound and the conductor Nick Morris has a great rapport with the members, leading to a pleasant and relaxed rehearsal. I’ll definitely look to drop in again to this band in the future.

LGB Brass – April 25 (Week 17)

2019 New Band Challenge – Lewes, Glynde and Beddingham Brass Band – LGB Brass (Week 17)

This week I headed down to historic Lewes to visit another brass band in the area. A solid, capable band with a experienced conductor in Ian Stewart, they are preparing for a entertainment contest in a month time, and already their program is sounding polished. Featuring good soloists, a great ensemble sound and tight timing, I enjoyed playing a little of a few parts from 1st Tbn, 2nd (2nd) Tbn to 1st Baritone next to Chris Yate!

Especially enjoyable this week was the pub session after, with lots of friendly conversations, a great pork pie and ale, and some good banter. This video is the classic piece that every band has probably played, but the only video I managed to take on the night. Have fun listening to me navigate the tricky baritone lines on trombone. It clearly wasn’t written with the slide in mind!

Next stop is Bletchingley, Surrey for four weeks. After that 2 weeks of uncertainty then 3 and a half months in Southampton! I would absolutely love to add some Salvation Army bands to my list, so if you know anyone involved with one, please let me know.

2019 New Band Challenge – Lewes, Glynde and Beddingham Brass Band – LGB Brass (Week 17) This week I headed down to historic Lewes to visit another brass band in the area. A solid, capable band with a experienced conductor in Ian Stewart, they are preparing for a entertainment contest in a month time, and already their program is sounding polished. Featuring good soloists, a great ensemble sound and tight timing, I enjoyed playing a little of a few parts from 1st Tbn, 2nd (2nd) Tbn to 1st Baritone next to Chris Yate! Especially enjoyable this week was the pub session after, with lots of friendly conversations, a great pork pie and ale, and some good banter. This video is the classic piece that every band has probably played, but the only video I managed to take on the night. Have fun listening to me navigate the tricky baritone lines on trombone. It clearly wasn’t written with the slide in mind! Next stop is Bletchingley, Surrey for four weeks. After that 2 weeks of uncertainty then 3 and a half months in Southampton! I would absolutely love to add some Salvation Army bands to my list, so if you know anyone involved with one, please let me know.

Posted by Michael Pilley Music on Monday, 29 April 2019

House Sitting

Since January 2018, my girlfriend Fiona and I have been homeless! Well, not technically true, but we have been house sitting for some lovely couples around the UK. This consists of looking after animals (dogs mainly) and making sure their house and property is well looked after.

The house sitting is a good way for us to continue working on our own businesses, whilst not having to worry about rent or bills. In the process, we’ve fallen in love with many dogs, cats and even some chickens, plus stayed in some wonderful houses in brilliant locations.

There was the keepers cottage on the grounds of a National Trust estate, with 400 head of deer; the 3 storey farmhouse in Surrey with a large property and rogue gypsy horses; the apartment block in Bristol with a roof terrace; the list goes on.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing: Fiona’s Fiesta finally fortook its final furlong (ten points for alliteration!), we attempted a week without animals in a hotel (so boring!) and we’ve had other unexpected challenges along the way. All in all it’s been a success – we are taking it as another adventure in our crazy lives and we’ve seen so many amazing places on our travels

Work-wise it has been great to get to stay in so many different places around the UK. I’ve met so many new musicians and bands and it was definitely the catalyst for my 2019 New Band Challenge (more on this in a future post). It has been interesting to see what is happening in the music scenes I visit, and each place has had a slightly different focus for me. Up in Manchester I enjoyed playing with the Salford University Brass Band for most of February 2018, and in Brighton and Bristol I found myself at plenty of jazz gigs and jams. That’s just a small sample of the wide variety of music I’ve played since beginning the house sitting.

I’m aiming to post a little about each house sit as we finish – apologies for not doing this a year ago! So follow us on our house sitting adventure, who knows where we’ll end up next??

Yearly Review

This year has been one of growth, change and exploration. I finally got my website up and running (tadaa!), worked for new clients in new genres and lived in some lovely houses in new places. Here’s the review you’ve all been waiting for!

New clients

Late last year, I started doing some arrangements for a new startup music publisher, NiceChart. Their new system of publishing involves a complicated program that takes standard arrangements and makes them customisable to your ensemble. Any instrumentation and difficulty can be delivered instantly to your inbox. You can find three of my arrangements up on their website – After You’ve Gone, All By Myself and Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Another exciting new client was Helena May. She was putting together a vocal quartet performing pop tunes in different style for professional functions. I really enjoyed working with her to create some weird and wonderful versions of those tunes, and hope to see their success in the future.

House Sitting

On a personal front, I’ve been lucky to find a way to continue to work as a musician and not have to take jobs that I don’t really want to do, just to pay bills. And that way is house sitting! With my partner Fiona, we’ve been looking after a number of different houses through a website called  Trusted Housesitters. The whole premise is that we look after someone’s house, pets, etc. whilst they go on holiday. They don’t have to find a kennel for their pets, their house is secure and we don’t have to pay rent or bills. Perfect for the self employed digital nomad. The only downside is the uncertainty of knowing where we will be, the constant moving and the fact we don’t have a place of our own. But these houses have been beautiful, the pets amazing and I’ve really enjoyed seeing different parts of the country and meeting the locals. Here’s just a sample of what that’s looked like.

New Music

If you’ve got this far, congratulations! You get to find out the most exciting part of this year for me – new music.

Probably the highlight of the year was the performance by Maidstone Wind Symphony of Six Songs from “A Shropshire Lad”. Commissioned for their remembrance concert “A Time For Peace”, I really enjoyed taking a beautiful work and orchestrating it for a chamber wind ensemble. The delicacy involved really took me on a journey to explore how sensitive wind ensembles can be with this style of music.

I continued writing charts for Jenene Caramielo – a classical crossover artist with a beautiful voice. She is a cruise ship entertainer, very busy, and also very easy to work with.

One more avenue of writing I found was for Sheet Music Press. Their ArrangeMe program is perfect for artists like me who have a large collection of charts written over years that are arrangements, which cannot be sold without paying lots in copyright permission fees. I’ve had a few titles sell really well on their site, without not much promotion from myself. You can check out the full range of what I sell here: Michael Pilley Music. I’m also able to link to these titles through my shop.

There were many other single jobs, plus writing music for ensembles I play with such as Swing Punks, High & Mighty (function band) and SuperBone.

Performing

With the constant moving around due to house sitting, it has been a struggle to find a consistent band to play with. I also have far too many interests in different genres, so I haven’t settled on any one so far. Highlights have been:

  • Playing 1st trombone for a Black Dyke rehearsal
  • Performing with Salford University Brass Band
  • Playing with Cardiff M1 Band at the Blackpool contest
  • Playing with Swing Punks
  • 1 Month contract on the Queen Vic in the Queen’s Room
  • Function gigs with High & Mighty
  • Joining my first ska band, Filthy Militia
  • Conducting the Merton Concert Band (first conducting gig in years!)
  • Playing with King Brasstards, street brass band

There has been some real highlights this year, some struggles, and definitely lots of potential going forward into 2019. Here’s to a fine year, and stay tuned for exciting new prospects in the new year.