As I get older I find that I am not so easily impressed by new musical experiences, but a few days ago a rare and genuine awe crept over me.

It happened when hearing the Marine Band of the Royal Dutch Navy under the direction of Major Harmen Cnossen. I had made the journey to the small village of St Geertruid near Maastricht in the province of Limburg on the Belgium, Dutch border to hear them perform my wind orchestra work `Gagarin’.

There are a few occasions in the past that I recall having the same feeling: one would be when I first heard the Black Dyke Mills Band play live under the exceptional direction of James Watson in Bradford Town Hall in 1992.  A second would be when I heard the `President’s Own’ US Marine Band play my `Samurai’ in Fairfax Virginia near Washington DC back in 1997. The Marine Band of Royal Dutch Navy or to give them their correct title, the “Marinierskapel der Koninklijke Marine”, is based in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Everything about them from their technical and musical ability to their concert presentation is first class. Without doubt they are one of the best wind orchestras that I have ever heard.

Harmen Cnossen in rehearsal with the Marinierskapel

I watched their inspirational conductor Harmen Cnossen with fascination as he put these extraordinary musicians through their paces. He is a man of few words, but his conducting does the talking as he shapes every second of the music to his will. He is a real pedigree musician who has held down conducting jobs with top orchestras and opera houses around the world.  It was worth every kilometre of  the journey I made to Rotterdam  and then St Geertruid to experience this level of music making.

Eric Vloeimans performing with the Marinierskapel

The presentation and programming showed careful planning and reflection, something that is dear to me and which I wrote about in my website post on the 9th May  2011. (`To The Stars’). The first half of the concert featured my `Gagarin’ and Ottorino Respighi’s Feste Romane (Festival of Rome) arranged around a performance by guest artist Eric Vloeimans (Jazz trumpeter).


Eric Vloeimans proved to be a unique and creative artist with every note from his trumpet full of interesting colours and timbres. I would encourage anyone interested to check out his many albums available on ITunes.

Big Band set in St Geertruid, Netherlands

The second half of the evening showed how versatile the band is by playing big band sets full of vitality with many of the members taking on soloist roles as well as some further jazz from Eric Vloeimans.

My experience working with the musicians of the Marinierskapel was everything I could have hoped for – they were friendly, attentive at all times and very curious to find out about what was happening in the UK.

I urge anyone who has the chance to see this extraordinary ensemble in concert to do so. I very much hope this will not be my last experience with my new found friends in Rotterdam!

Nigel Clarke