It was standing room only on the bandstand at Windsor Alexandra Gardens on the afternoon of Sunday 9th June, as Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Band and German exchange partners Musikverein Friesheim (MVF) came together for the final set of their joint concert. This was the musical high point of the visit by MVF, who arrived in Waltham late afternoon on Saturday 8th June and left on the morning of Tuesday 11th.
The German concert band and Waltham band have had a regular biannual exchange of visits within the framework of Wokingham's twinning agreement with Erfstadt, near Cologne, since 1996. Waltham band last visited Germany for a long weekend in June 2017, playing at a local brass music festival.
Saturday's arrival was delayed due to engine problems with the channel ferry, but there was time for a brief greeting session, drinks and snacks at the Neville Hall before the visitors were whisked away to their host families to eat and rest a while before the evening events. At 8.00 p.m. the bands gathered to rehearse joint pieces for the concert, then the first social event started: a buffet and quiz with international teams, which were challenged to play tunes on kazoo and swannee whistles between rounds, with a grand chorus of Ode to Joy as a finale. There were also some traditional games involving balloons, knees, tennis balls and chins that led to the collapse of several stout parties.
On day two of the visit, the bands gathered at Alexandra Gardens to play a public concert, with a collection in aid of the Thames Hospice. Waltham band played the first half-hour set, followed by MVF's individual programme. Waltham players then fitted in with MVF, or stood at the edges of the bandstand where necessary, for a joint performance of six pieces, three each conducted by musical directors Steve Block and Martin Kirschharz. There were an estimated 50 musicians on the bandstand, but the standard of playing was very high despite the crowded conditions.
Sunday evening was given over to the second social event, a barn dance at Loddon Hall in Twyford, with music and caller provided by Saxon Drain, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
On Monday the German visitors went on an outing to Oxford, visiting the Bodleian library and Oxford Castle on what turned out to be a very rainy day. Everyone got together again at the Hollywood Bowl in Bracknell for the final social, where a broad range of bowling skills was displayed.
The big red bus departed from Waltham on Tuesday morning bearing a tired but happy crew home. We look forward to Waltham band's next visit to Friesheim, due in 2021. Auf Wiedersehen!