The regular exchange of visits between Musikverein Friesheim (MVF), the German concert band from Friesheim, a village near Cologne, and Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Band (WSL) continues. This year it was WSL's turn to host MVF over the bank holiday weekend, from 23rd to 26th May. This is also a holiday (Pfingsten) in Germany. A party of 38 visitors, including a number of players' family members, arrived at the Shurlock Inn in Shurlock Row on their coach on the Saturday afternoon after a very early start and some delays on the M4 motorway.
The visitors were put up both by WSL band members and by local residents, to whom the band is very grateful.
The key feature of the weekend was a joint concert at the high tea for local pensioners on the Sunday. For over 50 years, the band has invited village seniors to a roast dinner at the Neville Hall on a date in April, funded by collections made while carolling round the village the previous Christmas. This year, it was decided to inaugurate a late spring high tea as a replacement for the dinner. When the date of the German visitors' arrival had to be moved from July to May, it was decided the two bands would provide the entertainment at the afternoon tea.
The events of the weekend were all held in a large marquee erected in the car park of the Shurlock Inn, which went up on the Friday and was taken down on the Tuesday morning. The marquee, supplied by Tops Marquees, proved to be up to the job of housing over 100 people. Though the weather was pretty good, there was the occasional shower, and the evening events would have been chilly in the open air. The pub's management ensured that adequate main power was available, and lent the use of some of the garden picnic benches. A bottle bar was also set up in the garden. The visitors once again lived up to their reputation as avid beer drinkers.
The first joint event was Saturday evening's barbecue and dance band concert in the marquee, with music provided by the MillsTones Dance Band, for which tickets had been sold out. Burgers and much besides were to be had from a buffet (served on proper plates) in the garden, with ample tables and chairs in the marquee. As well as excellent music and dancing, there was a raffle with some 20 prizes. First prize (a holiday in Croatia) was won by a delighted member of MVF.
On Sunday morning the two bands joined for a rehearsal of the pieces to be played together later in the day, followed by lunch with host families.
The afternoon tea started at 2.00, with WSL on stage first, playing an hour's concert of light music including Entry of the Gladiators; cornet solo Zelda; Musket, Fife and Drum (theme from the TV series 'Soldier, Soldier'); Vaughan Williams's English Folk Song Suite; MacArthur Park; and a medley of Disney tunes. A high tea with sandwiches, cakes and scones was served on several dozen three-tier cake stands, most of them built by Ben Midgley and Jane Lynn, during the WSL concert.
We are indebted to Barbara, Ruth, Isabelle, Sandra, Frances, Debbie and others who unexpectedly found themselves arranging and serving the food and drink due to a misunderstanding about who would be doing what. Organization will be improved for next year's tea!
The MVF set, compered by percussionist Gregor Happ, included their local folk tune Dat Wasser vun Kölle and Hermann Dostal's Fliegermarsch, in the course of which the MVF showed they can sing as well as play, standing for a chorus of this popular march.
The afternoon concert rounded off with a joint performance, conducted by WSL MD Derek Holland, deputy conductors Tom Torley and Keith Penton, and MVF MD Martin Kirchharz, consisting of Eric Osterling's Thundercrest march; Jacob de Haan's tone poem Oregon; Bandology (another Osterling march!); Instant Concert, by Harold Walters; Roever and Korb's Highland Cathedral; and finishing with another H. Walters piece, his "folk festival for band" Hootenanny.
The bands sounded fine both individually and together, and one of the 30 pensioners who came to tea spontaneously stood to voice their appreciation of the afternoon's food and entertainment.
The last full day of the visit featured a visit to the Milestones Living History Museum near Basingstoke and a bilingual quiz. Time was also allowed for the German visitors to have an unhurried breakfast and evening meal with their hosts, in order to get better acquainted, which was a particular request for this year's exchange.
The Monday evening quiz was devised and presented by WSL's Steve Bourne and Ludger from the MVF. Teams of up to eight, which had to consist of a mix from WSL and MVF, attempted six rounds of questions (printed in English and German) on themes including the British and German versions of Monopoly, European geography and identification of British and German composers for their portraits. Both bands showed their ignorance of French trivia concerning baguette consumption, paint required to cover the Eiffel Tower etc. The winning team, called Blooming Marvellous, received a small trophy.
Visitors and hosts gathered at the Shurlock Inn by 8.00 a.m. on Tuesday 26th for the homeward departure. Motorway problems struck again on this journey, but the coach just made it to Dover in time to be the last onto the ferry for Dunkirk. Meanwhile, a crew from WSL band cleared the marquee ready for dismantling and transported tables and chairs back to the Neville Hall.
The weekend visit was greatly enjoyed by everyone. Enormous thanks are due to Jane Lynn and Ben Midgley, who, apart from working like Trojans shortly before and during the events themselves, also put in many months of organizational effort to bring it all together. The band is also very grateful to the Waltham residents who hosted visitors, provided the beautiful floral table decorations and generally joined in to make the exchange such a success. We look forward to the next exchange in Friesheim in 2017!