And this year, when our spirits need lifting the most, Jackfield Brass Band is helping to spread a little joy with its musical advent calendar.
Players have been performing their favourite festive tunes including Little Donkey, O Come All Ye Faithful and We Three Kings of Orient Are in their own homes and sharing one a day online as they count down until the big day.
“The players were looking for a way to motivate themselves because we haven’t been able to rehearse together for nine months and we thought we could spread a bit of joy at the same time,” says band manager Darrin Smith.
The band, which has 30 players aged from 17 to 75, has seen all of its 2020 concerts and events cancelled or postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as its Tuesday and Friday night rehearsals.
The start of the first lockdown came days after members booked a place at the National Brass Band finals in Cheltenham as well as promotion back to the Championship Section in 2021.
“We were over the moon with that, we had our AGM a week later and then lockdown started. After that we were separated and everyone was left to their own devices with their playing up until two weeks ago when a small group of us played at Blists Hill.
"This was the first time any of us had played together since March and it felt good to be making music together again even though it was only in a small group,” says Darrin.
Members have been staying in touch through WhatsApp and taking part in quizzes over Zoom to help keep morale up.
Normally this time of the year would be incredibly busy for the band with the weekends in the run-up to Christmas filled with concerts and carolling.
But social distancing restrictions mean their traditional December activities are not able to go ahead.
So members decided they wanted to find another way to celebrate the festive season which would also encourage them to play at home.
“With Christmas approaching, people were asking for motivation, a reason to practice, so we came up with the idea of creating the Christmas videos,” says Darrin, who plays the tuba.
All of the videos have been recorded by the players in their own homes which means not only making sure they are note perfect but also getting to grips with the technology.
“They’ve been recording the videos at home and then sending them to me so I can edit them together. It’s all new to everybody and I’ve been learning about the software I’m using to put them together. The songs have been the band’s choice, we asked members what their favourite carols were, and they’ve been wearing Christmas jumpers and hats.
“It’s all about spreading a little joy and putting a spring in people’s steps in the run-up to Christmas. The videos have been well-received by everyone and people are appreciating what we are doing. It’s also been motivation for players and given them something to focus on,” explains Darrin.
The band, which can trace its roots back to 1893, has also launched a crowd-funding page so people enjoying the carols can make a donation if they wish to do so. As it relies on proceeds from concerts and events to generate income, the group is at risk of running out of funds.
Some of the money raised will go towards funding items such as cleaning materials, screens and instrument bell covers to ensure there is a Covid-19 safe environment for members when rehearsals are able to resume.
Donations received will also go towards the group’s fixed running costs such as the band room upkeep and insurance fees as well as covering the costs involved in competing in the National Finals.
“We don’t expect too much because we know what this year has been like and the situation everybody is in but we thought we would give it a try. All of the donations will help the band because we’ve lost all of our income.
“We’re just trying to raise the profile of the band, remind people who we are and that we’re still here and do something that people will enjoy,” explains Darrin.
Jackfield Band is part of a national initiative launched by Brass Bands England to save the many UK brass bands who are struggling to survive through the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 30,000 people of all ages and standards taking part in weekly activities from rehearsing to performing and providing entertainment for their community.
Darrin, who has been a member of Jackfield Brass Band since 1983, says along with the rest of the band, he is looking forward to being back in the rehearsal room.
“I enjoy the camaraderie and family atmosphere and seeing young players developing and growing. No matter where they go and what they do in life, they can always find a local brass band to join and have an instant family.
“There’s a friendship in the band from young to old as well as the music making and fun that brings. It’s been an extraordinary year but hopefully we can all be back to making music together again soon and we’ve got lots to look forward to with the National Finals too,” he tells Weekend.
* To watch the carol advent calendar videos go to www.facebook.com/JackfieldBand or to make a donation go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/support-jackfield-brass-band