Brassband Willebroek gained second place in the championship division scoring 96% during a well-filled 38th European Brassband Championship in the German city of Freiburg. In a competition that is becoming more and more attractive on an international level, they came in second only by 1% difference from the semi-professional Black Dyke Band, who also won the soloist prize.
On Wednesday 29 April we left for the German village of Lenzkirch. We left in the morning, but not too early, taking our night owls into account. One hour before arrival we passed through Freiburg and by the Konzerthaus, the place where the EBBC 2015 took place from the 1st to the 3rd of May.
BBW seemed to be in quarantine in an idyllic hotel on one of the winding roads somewhere in the Black Forest. On Wednesday evening we arrived without any delay. We had the opportunity to taste some of the local specialties and we started rehearsal at 8a.m., just as we did the weeks before. We had found locals with a very big heart who permitted us to use the school (percussion included). The German acoustics took a bit of getting used to, but it didn’t take long before we felt at home in the rehearsal location, which was very well equipped. After rehearsal we went to bed, as our caring Jaak advised, so that we’d be fit and ready again to dot our i's and cross our t's the next day.
On Thursday there was some time to relax in the lobby, to take a little walk, to play a litte board game, … before section and tutti rehearsals. When it was time to eat we relocated to the local Italian restaurant, not only for the amazing cooking, but also (and mostly) for the free WiFi. After lunch Guido Segers took the liberty of honouring us with his company and expert advise. He was a huge help in unravelling and finetuning the last details. The set piece ‘The God Particle’ by Rudolf Rudin was no joke. If possible, it was even harder and more complicated than the set piece of last year. But as always, Frans and his band put themselves to it, for more than 100%.
Friday morning Jaak fixed the perfect draw for us: we had to perform 11th in 12 bands. In the afternoon we left for the Konzerthaus in Freiburg. It soon became clear that there was some delay in the timing of the performances, which lead to us getting on stage at a little past 11p.m. on Friday night. The acoustics of the big concert hall appeared to be no help in performing the very rythmic and delicate opening of the set piece, but we did played our best performance of the piece. Despite of the late hour there were a lot of brave listeners who treated us with an extremely enthusiastic applause. Afterwards BBW almost immediately got on the bus for the hotel to focus on our own choice, ‘ The journey of the Lone Wolf’ by Simon Dobson.
Saturday after breakfast Jaak again managed to get us a perfect draw: this time we had to perform as number 10 of 12 bands. Our bus trip to Freiburg was preceded by a short rehearsal, since the work was still fresh in our memories. Meanwhile we knew the acoustics of the concert hall, so we entered the stage with a lot of faith and ambition. After the set piece BBW was ranked among the 3 best according to the audience and Internet forums and the band was praised for its unique and warm sound. We were still in the running to end up high in the rankings and – who knows – if we were able to give a great performance of our own choice, maybe we could win one of the top prizes. The band played at its best and the atmosphere on stage was amazing. Our musicians experienced something unique that moment, something that newcomers as well as long time band members described with all known superlatives. The climax of the experience was that the audience jumped up during our last chords an applauded minutes on end during a standing ovation.
We had done all we could; the rest was in the hands of the jury. During the announcement of the results BBW, together with the world-famous Black Dycke Band, appeared to have performed on a constant level during the weekend. Both on the set piece as on the own choice we got 96%; Black Dyke was slightly better, getting 97% on both pieces. Brassband Willebroek got a silver medal on the most prestigious contest in the brassband world. This really felt rewarding after a period of hard work and this gives us hope for the future. Afterwards there was a little time for a quick visit to the brass party, (since our bus had to return to the hotel on time) and a visit to a local pub in Lenzkirch, where the smoking band members enjoyed the opportunity to smoke inside.
On Sunday morning some of us rose and shone better than others. However we all went to cheer for our youth band, Young Brassband Willebroek that competed in the European Youth Brassband Championships, which has 2 divisions. 4 bands participated in the highest division (premier section). Young Brassband Willebroek, also conducted by Frans Violet, won the title with a stunning 98% and principal cornet player Lode Violet also won the soloist prize.
With this title the European Brassband Championship was a successful journey for Frans Violet and his disciples, bringing back 3 top prizes to Belgium. This is something unique in the history of the Flemish music world and the brassband world.