A lot of people ask us how often we rehearse. In the early days we had a rolling, three week cycle with new tunes appearing one week and then making it onto the stage 9 weeks later. Because we have built up a fairly large repertoire that we cycle through regularly, and also because the band is a little more scattered, we rehearse a bit less these days. We generally get together a few times a year to try out a new tune or a new arrangement.
This year (2018) is a little different as we have a tour of French festivals and villages. We know from earlier visits that it is sometimes difficult to get people up dancing, so we are changing our set somewhat to include songs and some new arrangements that will work more as concert pieces. We also have a slightly different line-up for the tour with the addition of a flute, so that calls for something different.
Putting together a 2 hour set requires some thought and planning. Through various email exchanges we all agreed on a lively song to start each half, with a sprinkling of dances and re-arranged tunes to feature both the flute and the hurdy-gurdy - a popular instrument in France. But we'll add electric guitar, drums and keyboard to the mix to liven things up a bit.
Software and iPads are fantastic tools these days. We use an app called Set List Maker to plan all our gigs. We have hundreds of dances, tunes, dance instructions and scores included in our database. On stage this app keeps track of which song is next and how long we have to play. If other band members have an iPad the display is shown to them so that everyone can see what is going on.
In between rehearsals we use Sibelius for the score. This allows for multiple parts which can be turned into a wav file with the appropriate sounds to give everyone an idea of what we are aiming at. For finishing off the arrangement and the full sequence we use Cubase. Cubase is also occasionally used to record a live, multi-track version so that we can listen afterwards and criticise ourselves.