Personal Development

Martlets in Belgium

It’s been a while since my last post! Not through lack of effort I can assure you!

My band had been busy practicing and preparing their continental programme which consisted of a vast heterogenous of pieces from folk, soundtracks, jazz and blessings through to Celtic River dance + many more!

We started the Thursday at 07:00 where the coach departed from our practice room in Wadhurst. It was from there we would drive to Dover catch a ferry to Calais and continue through to beautiful Bruges. The sun was gleaming as it reflected off of the stunning but imposing architecture of Bruges’ industrial era. We had time for a quick Belgian beverage and a settle down before a very demanding but successful rehearsal in the hotel function room. This then left the evening free for the band to explore the area.

On the Friday morning the band ate its breakfast before continuing to explore this magnificent town. We had to meet at the coach for early afternoon. We all met at the coach and made our way to the coastal town of “Ostend” where we played in a Bandstand in a square surrounded by a variety of cafes and eateries. Even though half the band were a little “worse for wear” following the previous evenings endeavours we did not let this stop us giving our best. Even when the Mercury struck 34 C the band played on. We played our programme through – before one of our percussionists must have summoned the Lord of Thunder in the form of a very dramatic cymbal roll. There was a complete deluge! You could hazard a guess as to what piece it was. It was Pirates of the Carribbean, how delightfully apt!

The majority of our audience were passers by but there was one piece, our encore. Which captivated a few people to stop for a brief second in their busy lives to appreciate the hard work of the band. This is where I big that amazing group of musicians up:

The rain had stopped, the patio was bone dry in minutes. The band had played extremely well for an hour and a half. They were hot, bothered and probably had their chops falling off of their faces. However, this stunning piece of music “The Irish Blessing” boasts a stunning crescendo building over 12 bars from nothing to everything. And so the band grew, every beat increased the drama and tension and sincerity. The band kept giving and giving and then when I thought they had built up to their best, suddenly, the drastic sound of a tam tam pushed through and called the band to reach new heights I had never heard before from them.

Then the release. It was just two tenuto crochets to start the end of the phrase but articulated so delicately but brilliantly. The sound was rousing, chills shot up my spine as the band completely diminuendo into the silent beautiful last Blessing of the piece: “and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand”

Wadhurst Brass Band fly the flag of Sussex from the Bandstand in Oostend Market Sq.

I hope to upload a video shortly so we can re-live that moment in every detail! The trip continued, we spent a few hours at the beach before all heading back to Bruges.

Our next concert was on Saturday. The coach left after breakfast for the town of Brussels. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about this one, given the current political relationships of our two nations. What would they think of us? Would any audience even bother turning up for a British Brass Band? . It didn’t look promising at first, until we started playing. Slowly they filtered towards the bandstand, intrigued by what they were hearing. Before we knew it all the benches in front of the Bandstand where full. The programme was the same as the day before and the people of Belgium loved it. I even saw a group of young lads 17 or 18 years old who said they enjoyed the performance very much. The band then had some time to explore Brussels Grand Plaatz before all having a meal in the main square and heading back to Bruges.

Tours are so important for team cohesion, you all become a family and everyone gets a little bit closer – until we go back to our busy working lives. I fear that if music is removed from the curriculum. Experiences like this may fizzle out and become unattainable to future generations. Teamwork teaches skills like compassion, acceptance working with each others strengths and weaknesses. Banding is team work at its most fundamental level and is such a good way in to learning the skills needed. Please think about this when you hear about music being struck off music is good for the soul it can and may carry you through some of your hardest days as I know it has mine.


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