's-Hertogenbosch, Friday 10th - Sunday 12th September 2004
Five bands sent representatives to the first European Festival of Town Pipers, splendidly organised by the Stadspijpers van 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. From England were The York Waits, Leeds Waits, Doncaster Waits and King's Lynn Waites, and from Germany Die Landshuter Hofkapelle.
Throughout the weekend, the Stadspijpers took every care for the comfort and pleasure of their guests, attending to their every want. The most delicious food and drink were provided at every opportunity, including many local delicacies.
On the Friday, after a welcome and lunch, the bands formed a procession, wearing their liveries, and took turns to play as we passed through the streets of the historic city. We entered the City Hall to be welcomed by the Mayor, Tom Rombouts, who presented us all with authentic copies of pilgrims' badges portraying the statue of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral. After the procession we were given a guided tour of the city.
In the evening we were taken to the Citadel Barracks, part of the historic defences of the city, where after a brief but violent thunder storm, the weather cleared and we had a thoroughly enjoyable barbeque, with hilarious musical entertainment from a talented group of young musicians called "Tuna", from the University of Maastricht, playing and singing Spanish and South American music on guitars and bandolas.
Saturday was "Heritage Day", when all the city's monuments and historic buildings are open to the public for free. After breakfast at our luxurious hotel, the Mövenpick Hotel, we started with coffee, followed by dispersal of the various bands to different historic buildings in the City, where we played for 20 minutes before moving on to the next location.
Each band was provided with a guide, and led and assisted by Jan, the King's Lynn Waites played first at the Zwanenbroedershuis, the elegant headquarters of the society known as the Swan Brothers. We then moved on to the Noordbrabants Museum, the Citadel, the Kruithuis and finally the City Hall, which had a particularly fine accoustic.
As only three of the King's Lynn Waites were able to attend - Anne Husar, percussion; Elizabeth Gutteridge (known as "Bob") soprano shawm; and myself on lysard - we were a little concerned that we might sound a bit thin, compared with the other, full-size bands. However, we soon learnt to win audiences over by including the city's song, "Hertog Jan", in every set!
After an excellent dinner party, we processed to the Church of St Jacob, to attend a concert, "De Bossche Triumph", organised by the Stadspijpers, it being 375 years to the day since Frederik Hendrik besieged the city. Frederik himself was present, with a company of musketeers, and the bands entered the church playing, one at a time, before taking their seats.
The concert opened with a virtuoso bagpipe improvisation in honour of the city's famous painter, Hyronamus Bosch, by Willem Schot, and continued with early music associated with the city's history by the "still" band Camerata Trajectina, playing recorders and strings, with angelic four-part singing; and by the "haut" band, La Caccia, on shawms, cornett and sackbut, with the dancers, Fiori di Folia, performing in Renaissance dress. A thoroughly enjoyable display of fine musicianship.
After a few final drinks at De Stallen, a bar set in old stables, we retired for the night, replete, happy and exhausted.
After a very welcome lie-in, followed by an extensive brunch, we again donned our liveries, and spent the remainder of Sunday taking turns to perform on two stages set up in the streets. Whilst not playing, each band in turn was treated to a fascinating boat trip on the two rivers which wend their way underneath the city through ancient tunnels and bridges. Then it was time for drinks and farewells. It was hoped by all present that this should be the first of many such festivals, and that future festivals would see participation by even more bands from more countries.
Altogether, the weekend was a masterpiece of organisation, giving opportunities for the bands to meet, talk, and listen to each other's performances; and even occasionally join forces for performance. Heartfelt thanks must go to all the Stadspijpers for their unstinting and ever-friendly care, and especially those who put so much hard work into organising the weekend's events. Also, to the generous sponsorship of the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, Cultuurfonds van de Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten and Heineken.
Chris Gutteridge, Chief Waite, King's Lynn Waites.
To visit the websites of the Stadspijpers van 's-Hertogenbosch and the other bands who took part in the festival, see our Extant Bands page.
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