Harmonie’s First Trip Abroad

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.

2012 Cultural Olympiad

Harmonie were privileged to have been selected to take part in the Music Nation event as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Joined by 4 local groups to present a celebration of the Olympics, the music was connected with the Games. Some of it was composed specifically as theme tunes from particular years while other pieces embraced the spirit of the Games.

We were particularly proud and excited to be premiering “Olympic Hero”, a piece written specially for this event by a member of the band , Chris Holley, which proved to be a rousing success on the night and was greatly appreciated by the audience.

Harmonie have been part of Making Music’s “Adopt a Composer” scheme and our composer Aaron Parker wrote “Dancing Rings” for us. This was also successfully premiered on the night.

The fabulous dancing of the Julie Noble School of Dance provided great accompaniment to many of the pieces. The St. Joseph’s School Choir and St. Bernard’s Chamber Choir provided superb vocals as well as excellent virtuoso performances which the audience loved. Added to all this was the unique and entertaining performance by The Arthur Bugler School African Drum Group.

All in all it was a fantastic success for the band with a full house of around 450 people showing their appreciation with a standing ovation at the Grays Civic Hall at the conclusion.

We are delighted to announce that the concert raised £1200 for the charity Phab (physically handicapped and able bodied) whose aim is to promote and encourage people of all abilities to come together on equal terms, to achieve complete inclusion within the wider community.

Please follow this link to the Making Music video of the event. If you don’t have time to watch the whole video then skip to 3 minutes 16 seconds to see the band and an interview with our MD (we are then featured until the end).

Adopt a Composer

In 2010 Harmonie Concert Band successfully applied for a place in the Making Music Adopt a Composer programme which gives amateur music groups the opportunity to collaborate with an emerging composer over a 12 month period to produce a new piece of music, culminating in a premiere performance recorded by the BBC. To find out more visit the website

Applicants face stiff competition from across the country, and Harmonie was delighted to come through the selection process and win one of only 6 places on the programme, as well as being the only Wind Band taking part that year.

Harmonie Concert Band were paired with Aaron Parker, who at the time was in the second year of his studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. To find out more about Aaron visit his website

November 2010 saw Aaron’s first rehearsal with the band, for which Aaron had adapted one of his previous compositions, originally for a saxophone quartet, into a piece for a 50-strong wind band. This was subsequently premiered the BASBWE London Festival in March 2011.

This was a precursor to the main collaboration on a major original work based on the theme of the Olympic Games, with the goal of integrating this into Harmonie?s participation in the prestigious Music Nation project, part of the Cultural Olympiad project for London 2012.

The project proved to be both exciting and challenging, with Aaron visiting the band several times over the subsequent months, producing an evolving series of drafts of his piece, responding to feedback from the band, and developing his knowledge and skills in relation to wind band music.

The result was a major work entitled Dancing Rings, consisting of five movements which drew on inspiration from a sculpture designed for the Bejing Olympics.

Three of the movements were showcased at a concert in July 2011 which was recorded by the BBC, with excerpts subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 1st March 2012.  The full five movement piece was premiered at Harmonie’s gala concert on 3rd March 2012, which was officially sanctioned as part of the Cultural Olympiad Making Music weekend.

BASBWE London Festival 2011

On 27th March 2011 Harmonie Concert Band crossed the River Thames heading for Bromley and the first London Festival hosted by BASBWE (the British Association of Symphonic and Wind Ensembles) in nearly two decades. We were honoured to be invited by BASBWE to play at such a prestigious event.

The day began with a massed band event, with 150+ players from all the bands represented on the day rehearsing two pieces: ‘Towards the Western Horizon’ conducted by its composer, Philip Sparke, ‘Sentinel’ composed by Peter Meechan conducted on this occasion by Guy Woolfenden. This was followed by a full performance of these two works (which were their UK and World Premieres, respectively) marking the formal opening of the Festival. Harmonie have in the past had the privilege of spending a day with both Philip and Guy (see here).

The opening massed bands performance was followed by concert presentations by each of the bands who had been invited to the Festival. Harmonie was first on stage presenting three pieces.
‘Tatarian Dances’ by the Russian pianist-composer Elena Roussanova Lucas, was a four-movement suite incorporating music from Tatar culture. With a slightly unfamiliar musical language and the unusual sound of solo recorder in the slow movement, this accessible work offers a good alternative to the well-worn dance suites bands know so well.

‘Tango’ by Aaron Parker, a student at the Royal Northern College of Music who was working with the band as part of the Making Music’s ‘Adopt a Composer’ scheme, is a short and highly character piece specially composed for Harmonie.

Finally, Harmonie presented another world premiere, ‘Heroes and Villains’, which was specially commissioned for the Festival from composer Rob Davies. The composer describes this as ‘a story of a superhero and his nemesis’, and the piece certainly seems cram a full film score into 10 minutes, eliciting a dynamic performance from the band.

The day continued with performances from the other invited bands, and each benefited from critique and feedback from one of the professional composers and conductors attending the event.

As the band packed up and headed home back across the River Thames we all agreed that it was a wonderful experience and were looking forward to returning in the future.

 

 

Royal Festival Hall 2010

During 2009 Making Music offered its members the opportunity to take part in the Bernstein Project, a nine month long festival at the Royal Festival Hall celebrating the life and works of the great man through concerts, talks and workshops, all produced under the curatorship of Marin Alsop, internationally renowned conductor and student of Leonard Bernstein himself (see here). Both professional and amateur organisations from choirs and string quartets to symphony orchestras were part of the series highlighting his most well known works as well as those which are lesser well known.

Harmonie Concert Band applied to be part of this and were delighted to be invited to present a joint concert with Lewisham Concert Band in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on 10th April 2010. Harmonie kept very much to the repertoire of Bernstein himself with Lewisham Concert Band including music of associated composers such as Don Gillis and Morton Gould.

The concert opened with the two bands of over 100 musicians giving a rousing rendition of Don Gillis’ The January February March. The bands then presented individual pieces, Harmonie’s programme including selections from West Side Story, Slava and Wrong Note Rag. The performance finished with a joint performance of West Side Story Selection.

As Harmonie members boarded the coach to head back to Rayleigh we reflected on the experience of having played at such a prestigious venue as the Royal Festival Hall, and in a festival of such significance.