This weekend I have had the privilege of staying and working in the small town/village called `Riemst’ in the Limburg province of Belgium, a stone’s throw from the Dutch border and the old medieval city of Maastricht. There are 13 orchestras(!) in and surrounding `Riemst’ which only has a population of around 16,000 – I think this is truly amazing and an incredible achievement, something we can all learn from and something that Belgium should be very proud of indeed. I might add the standard is extremely high and is comparable to the best any country can offer around the world!
I was a guest of the ‘Koninklyke Fanfare De Werkmanszonen’ with their conductor Yves Wuyts who are preparing my `Earthrise’ for the World Music Contest in one month’s time. The band had a great rehearsal on the Friday evening and then took part in a `WMC Try-Out Concerten’ event with other Reist based orchestras. Manu Mellaerts (Principal Trumpet at La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra) and I listened to 5 great orchestras and (I hope) gave useful feedback to their conductors and musicians after each presentation.
One unusual experience for me was hearing a new version of `Earthrise’ transcribed brilliantly by Luc Vertommen, a real labour of love! – His transcription, I believe loses nothing in this fanfare orchestra setup. For those that do not know what a Fanfare Orchestra consists of, it has all the instruments of the Saxophone family, Trumpets, (multiple, multiple!) Flugel Horns, French Horns, Trombones and Tubas and of course a battery of percussion. These instruments have a wonderful tone quality when played together, but can also have the punch of a brass band or wind orchestra. I believe its origins date back to the 19th century.
As for ‘Koninklyke Fanfare De Werkmanszonen’, yet again I have made more new lifelong friends and look forward to supporting them in the World Music Contest in Kerkrade. They gave a spell binding performance of `Earthrise’ full of music and colour. I was very taken by a new composition that they played by a young composer Nick Van Elsen – a talent to look out for in the future with his own musical voice. The band were perfect, perfect hosts and gave me a great afternoon out in Maastricht before the try-out concert. Thank you to one and all!