I was reminded last week via my 'Facebook Memories' that it's been five years since I performed 'The Reform of Rank Bajin' by John Maxwell Geddes at the Royal Academy of Music and Beccles Music Festival.
It was at the beginning of my second year at RAM that this piece was included in our orchestral audition pack. The first thing I noticed when I opened the music was a request by the composer for the performer to dress up in a cowboy-style cape, mask and hat to look like Rank Bajin, the resident villain from a comic strip by Scottish cartoonist Bud Neill:
I was never a fan of drama lessons at school but, for some reason, wearing a mask and playing a character from behind my trumpet didn't seem so daunting... I decided that this was a challenge I wanted to take on. I turned up to my audition at the Academy in September and, much to the astonishment and amusement of the panel, entered the room fully dressed up and in character! I then went on to perform the piece from memory and, since the actual performance was only a week away, this gave me the edge.
In 'The Reform of Rank Bajin', Geddes asks for a whole array of unusual requests from the performer: shouting "Yee-Ha!" like a cowboy; erupting into evil laughter; whinnying like a horse through the trumpet; gazing longingly into people's eyes as you walk through the audience at the end... the list goes on. After receiving some coaching on these elements from Elgar (Gary) Howarth and Mark David (Head of Brass), I realised that the more I just went for it, the less embarrassed I was going to feel! Come the first performance I was a fully fledged cowgirl, complete with black sparkly hen-party hat... and I absolutely loved it.
I haven't yet recorded my own version of this piece, but there is a fantastic recording on iTunes/Spotify by Mark O'Keeffe which I'd highly recommend. There is also another great performance on YouTube by Nick Walkley where you can see/hear his playing accompanied by some of Bud Neill's original cartoon strips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkG2VbOIlvE