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The Essay
Show #142
The Band Instruments Winter Olympics
David Gunn
"Let the games begin!" exulted Reinhold Beezer, honorary podiatrist for the 18th Winter Olympics for Band Instruments in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, as he accepted the flaming clarinet from the bark-encrusted relay runner. The formal announcement was simultaneously translated into Esperant-irish, the official language of the two-week event, by his brother, Robert, a top official with the Department of Defense’s Alien Incursion Response Team. If his inflatable fat pants with whalebone piping attire seemed a bit out of place in the Canadian prairie, it was nothing compared to the lentil cocoon he'd recently spent three hours removing after another failed first contact opportunity with an extraterrestrial race of lighter-than-air beings. Reinhold, meanwhile, was having difficulty lighting the official Olympic Flame, which was contained in a cauldron piled high with sheet music from the band repertoire. The clarinet still glowed red hot and smelled really awful, but it simply didn't put out enough BTUs to kindle the blaze. Finally, after getting a furtive spark from a Bic butane lighter he'd picked up at the Saskatoon Airport's duty-free shop, the flame ignited. As the dozens of looker-oners who'd crowded around the Exhibition Grounds bandstand cheered, a crop duster flew across the sky, dumping its cargo of nitrogen-enhanced guano fertilizer tinged in the Olympic brown and tan colors, and the Games officially commenced amidst celebratory coughing and weasels.

Nearly 50 musical athletes from around Canada and the northern tier of United States had gathered in Saskatoon to vie for Olympic honors in nearly 50 events which had their origins in the often arcane practices of band pedagogy. Fingerless speed scale exercises, holographic reed sharpening, multiple instrument simultaneous playing, hand-to-hand woodwind combat, trombone straightening, sousaphone jousting, silent percussion maneuvers, flute sucking -- the contests were as fun to watch as they were deadly serious to the competitors. Winners might parley their victories into lucrative band concert engagements, while the losers inevitably wind up on the wrong side of a cannon during the 1812 Overture finale. Unlike first, second and third-place finishes for those other athletes who coincidentally are competing for similar honors in Japan this week, the Band Games have two winners, period -- the musician who winds up with the most points, and Riesling Henley, step-nephew of this year's Olympics coordinator and holder of the lucrative concessions contract.

Reinhold Beezer was the corn and bunion consultant for the games. Although most musical contests involved hand, breath and eye coordination, Conn Brass & Bagpipes, a major sponsor, had insisted on having a specialist on hand to treat people who'd had a tuba dropped on their feet, which had occurred with frightening regularity at past events. Robert, mumbling to himself in a dialect almost the opposite of Esperant-irish that had the effect of raising the chitinous hackles of several camouflaged Parolean scouts nearby, was also the chief swabman for the games. He and his crew circulated among the contestants with bags of rags with which to wipe out the legions of spit-caked battle instruments. It was not a pretty job.

And so the games begin, as does this 142nd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. We'll endeavor to keep you informed of significant instrumental upsets and downwinds during the course of the next two weeks, including, we hope, a live broadcast of Oberlin Junior College duking it out against our own Vermont Contemporary Band Ensemble through the first 148 measures of a new work specially penned for these Olympics, Le Flambeau Bandinage.

And without further bad- or goodinage, I give you Kalvos.