On 21st July 2012, 36 members of Harmonie Concert Band plus a few family members set sail bound for France and Harmonie’s first concert tour abroad.
The band were celebrating their Musical Director, Roy Dignum’s 10 years of conducting the band before he stepped down at the end of the tour.
As the band left Dover on a sunny Saturday morning they hoped that including ‘Titanic’ in the programme for the tour would not prove an omen. After a long but uneventful journey, the band arrived at their hotel in Rouen late Saturday afternoon, and, much to the bemusement of other hotel guests, commandeered the hotel dining room for a rehearsal before venturing out into the town for an evening meal.
On Sunday, following a morning visit to a nearby calvados distillery, and lunch at the very pleasant harbour town of Honfleur, the band played its first concert Le Havre Jardins Suspendus as part of the Festival de Musiques des Mondes MoZ’aÔque.
An early start on Monday morning allowed time for a visit to the picturesque gardens at Giverny made famous by the paintings of artist Claude Monet before returning to Rouen for a concert at Les Jardins Des Plantes Bandstand.
Although anxious about how the French crowd would react and how large the audiences would be, both concerts proved to be hugely popular, helped in part by the non stop sunshine. Concerns about how the band would suit the world music concert at Le Harve soon melted away as Harmonie played to their largest ever outdoor audience in a wonderfully festive and appreciative atmosphere. Some onlookers joined in by singing, dancing and clapping along to the music. Demands for encores on both days were met with enthusiasm from the band with ‘Candyman’ and ‘I Will Follow Him’ proving particular favourites.
Although there was an air of sadness as Roy’s baton fell for the last time in Rouen, Harmonie gave Roy a good send off and proved that the last 10 years of his commitment were not wasted.
On return to the UK Harmonie were excited to see press reports from local French newspapers. One commented that we had “br˚le les planches” which literally means burning the planks but is meant in the sense of playing with passion and being in the spotlight. Harmonie certainly did that!
“Two concerts at the bandstand in the Botanic Gardens”.
Today, Monday (23rd July), the bandstand in the Botanic Gardens will
resume its original purpose and welcome two bands from 15H30. The first to”burn the planks” come form Belgium; they are the Southern Brussels
Concert Band. The second, the Harmony Concert Band, are arriving from the UK, more specifically from Raleigh, Essex, in the south of the country.
In the programme, varied works taken from various repertoires including rock, pop, jazz and even classical music. In all, there are approximately one hundred musicians who will be sharing their passion for music with the people of Rouen. Concerts at 15H30 with the Southern Brussles Concert
Band, and at 17H30 with the Harmonie Concert Band. Entrance is free.