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Issue 6119

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German brass camp a beacon of hope

Monday 14 September, 2020

The first summer brass band camp in Jena, Germany, has been met with an extremely positive response from everyone involved.

Devised at short notice following the cancellation of the international brass band camp which had been due to take place until the emergence of COVID-19, the recent event welcomed guest conductors, Chris Houlding and Philippe Bach, to keep participants active and entertained.

Reflecting on the experience, Philippe said: “It's hard to believe but my last collaboration with a brass band was actually in December 2019; I haven't been able to pursue this passion for over half a year. For someone like me, who has been infected with the brass band ‘virus’ since childhood – the only really good virus, by the way – it is therefore a real blessing to finally be able to enjoy this again.”

The camp was organised by the brass music association Carl Zeiss Jena eV, which as a non-profit organisation is home to four brass bands (Brass Band BlechKLANG, Jugend Brass Band BlechKLANG, Show Brass Band VielKLANG, Junior Brass Band KLANGwelt), the association's own orchestra school KLANGwelt and the Competence Centre for Brass Band. Alexander Richter, the musical director of the entire structure, was responsible for the project. Together with the director of the orchestra school, Katrin Weber, and an international team of teachers and supervisors, the idea was developed in a short space of time, which made it possible to make music together even under the current conditions. Around 60 people took part, experiencing four days of rehearsals and various lecture activities, all designed to comply with strict rules regarding hygiene and distancing.

Musicians from the Junior Brass Band, Jugend Brass Band, Show Brass Band and Brass Band BlechKLANG played in two bands, depending on their ages, and worked on new, demanding repertoire. Pieces included Starburst by Dan Price and A Tallis Anthem by the Dutch composer, Geert-Jan Kroon.

In addition to the team of lecturers from the KLANGwelt orchestra school, two international brass band luminaries, Philippe Bach (CH) and Chris Houlding (UK), were on hand for rehearsals. Chris commented: “When I received the invitation from Alexander Richter, I was immediately enthusiastic, not only because I knew from experience that a perfectly organised event awaited me, but also because I was extremely aware of the importance of such a workshop. Where else is the essence of brass band culture more present than when making music together? As a result, it was a great pleasure to feel the energy of all participants, to observe the great progress in a very short time and to experience the fun of music.”

Alexander Richter added: “I am very happy that we were able to realise a summer camp in this very special year. The atmosphere during the whole course was incredibly positive. Our special thanks go to all supporters and partners – such as Besson, Denis Wick, the foundation of the Sparkasse Jena and the MAXX-Hotel Jena – which made this workshop possible. Thank you very much.”