WMC Kerkrade

One of our very eventful expeditions into central Europe came in 1993, but it almost didn't happen. In late 1992 the organisers of WMC (*) sent their invitations to various harmony, concert, wind, and brass bands across the whole of Europe. The Sun Life Band's invitation had been misdirected to a past-secretary of the band [now no longer playing] who fortunately brought it along to a rehearsal just prior to that year's RAH National Finals.

The present secretary was a player in the band and whose mind was on the immediate problems of preparing for the competition. The invitation was passed to him and he immediately slipped it into his music folder for action later.

Unfortunately, or expectedly, he forgot about this small envelope that had been passed to him until 3 months later when a second letter was sent from WMC asking if the invitation was going to be accepted or not. Again, for obvious reasons, it was misdirected, but, again, it found its way into the hands of a very embarrassed playing secretary - in the vernacular, he needed to pull his finger out.

The band didn't accept the invitation straight away - they were really unfamiliar with this event: what it stood for, what its statue was. Some investigations and telephone calls reassured everyone that this was something that was worth getting involved in. The invitation at the 11th hour was accepted.

Sun Life had been invited along with Desford Colliery to take part in the top brass band division. The whole KMC event consists of lots of variety of performance, in-doors & out, with a vast array of ensemble types.

Both Desford & Sun Life also were asked to perform in an evening concert.

For the competition side of this event, against 6 other brass bands from around Europe, Sun Life were asked to put together a 25 minute programme which was to include the set work of "Stonehenge" - a brand new piece written by a little-known Dutch composer [to us, that is]. This was to be our opener. For those who do not know this piece, its central slow movement contains a mysterious section with muted brass, where other players whisper chants through their instruments. The final part of "Stonehenge" mixes a Gaelic jig with an organ-like choral. This may sound daft, but it had many admirers within the band as we began to rehearse it more & more. Interestingly, we met up with the composer a few months after WMC. He told us that he had hoped that it could be used as UK Area or Finals piece - a pretty good test it would be!

The next work chosen was "Dance Sequence", a trombone solo, performed by Steve Walkley. Steve had worked incredibly hard on capturing the dance (pseudo jazz) outer sections and the inner section with its more sweeping melodic lines - and he did it marvellously.

The band then chose an except from "Royal Parks". The slow movement, "in memoriam", was ideal for showing off the band's sonorous hymn-like playing qualities.

Finally, the band finished with a memorable performance of Wilby's "Pagannini Variations". After the final note of this piece - a long, loud, and thickly scored chord - the 4,000 people in the audience went berserk. People were standing, cheering, and applauding for what seemed like a life time. The applause was so long that both conductors, Roy Newsome & Bryan Hurdley, could take centre stage, go off, and return several times before we were all permitted to exit. The whole performance had been recorded. Players and public could obtain a cassette of our performance, for a nominal charge, within an hour of the performance itself - what a great idea!

The band had expected that the other 6 bands would have played before and after Sun Life, but this event intermingles performances of differing ensembles so that the listener is not sure what's coming next. Desford had played the night before and had had some problems with their conductor, whose flight had been delayed so much so that a member of the band had to take up the baton.

The results of the top brass band division were given out a few hours after Sun Life had played. The presenter only spoke Dutch and just read the points out to warm applause of the audience. Few of the band could understand what on earth was happening until Roy Newsome appeared to receive the winners acclaim. The 3 adjudicators had awarded almost perfect marks and praise for the band's performance.

In the bar afterwards, the band secretary was being interviewed on live Dutch national TV, where he tried, with little success, to compose himself as a conger-line of singing Sun Life players wound in and out of the bar stools & tables and in front of the TV camera. It must be said that Desford were great comrades. They joined in with our celebrations that went on into the wee hours of the night.

The following day was about preparation for that evening's concert and time for bodies and heads to recover from the excesses of the day before. The concert went well and we all returned safely home to England.

The Sun Life Band's experiences of this massive & extremely well run event is very positive. No, it isn't a 'Nationals' or 'Open', but why do we need another one? This event is more relaxed but is still very challenging. The audiences are knowledgeable and supportive. Any band should leap at an invitation to play here.

From a mercenary point of view, this happened to be the largest pay day in the band's history by 2 or 3 fold - which helps, doesn't it?.

The highlights of this festival were later released on a double CD featuring the band's majestic performance of "Stonehenge"


(*) WMC translates into English something like, "World Music Festival" - an event held every 4 years attended by bands from all over the world.