4th International Town Pipers Festival 2010
‘s-Hertogenbosch, North Brabant, Netherlands

Report by Susan Burns, The Charlotte Waites

The bags have all been unpacked, the photos and video uploaded, costumes hung up, and for some of us, jet lag successfully vanquished. The 4th Festival was a great success and we can all (especially the Stadspijpers von ‘s-Hertogenbosch!) heave a sigh of relief.

The Festival started off in the hotel bar with Eugene Ploegmakers welcoming us and letting us know what was happening. Three cheers for Eugene – if he ever wants a career in herding cats, he now knows that he is quite capable of performing the job. Thus briefed, we were off to get ready for Part One of the festivities.

To tell the truth, one Charlotte Waite got started the day before, when our cornettist/planchettist Don came wandering into town on Thursday, a day early. Very luckily for Don, Henk and his wife took him in for the night and treated him to a wonderful dinner, too. We have decided to make them both honorary “Tarheels”, the nickname for people from our state of North Carolina.

September 3rd – Friday Night – Mayor’s Reception in ‘s-Hertogenbosch Town Hall

Each band processed at intervals across the beautiful Market of Den Bosch to the Town Hall. It was a great way to hear a small sound bite of each band. The Town Hall is a beautiful building and the main room was gorgeous. We were honored to hear the Mayor speak, as well as the Chairman of the Historical Society and Alan Radford, representing the IGTP. Eugene then handed out delightful medals made for the Festival, which we all happily affixed onto our costumes.

Then the fun began – we drank wine, listened to many bands play, and burst into song on occasion. At some point Eugene and the other Stadspijpers herded us back to the hotel to get our beauty sleep in preparation for the exertions of the next day. (Naturally, most of us had a drink or two at the bar first.)

Saturday – The Festival at the Citadel

All Waites were assembled at the Citadel, ready for action, at exactly the time Eugene had indicated. Well… except for some American Waites… But, we finally arrived and made the most of our dramatic entrance. (Sorry again, Eugene!)

The organizers had done a stellar job of setting up tents, the stage, and displays, as well as organizing meals for all concerned. Each band played two sets and it was delightful to hear everyone’s repertoire and arrangements. The visitors to the Citadel had a great treat and really seemed to enjoy the spectacle. (How many times did you have to explain “what on earth were those instruments???”) Hourly cannonades punctuated the event, along with the metallic ting of a metalsmith working away. The weather was gorgeous – while all the Europeans wilted under the heat of the sun, we North Carolinians put on woolly sweaters. (Not really.) My personal favorite moment was hearing the York Waits perform “All Voll”, a really entertaining German drinking song about men “all full” of alcohol. We were also delighted to share a set with the very talented Gloucester Waites. Wish we could have had more time to play together!

After all the bands had performed, we held a rehearsal for the Big Blow, where Maestro Norbert learned that he too may have a knack for cat-herding. It was exciting to have so many shawms, dulcians, rauschpfeifes, cornetti, etc. all playing at the same time. One hopes that anyone representing Korg or other worthy tuners was not present, but we were all very enthusiastic and excited to play as one big happy band.

Saturday Evening Barbecue

The courtyard at Moyses’ Bosch was a most alluring place – what a great setting for a party. The food was great (thanks for the veggie burger!) and the company better. The great surprise was the Maastricht Tuna Orchestra, who sounded like they were straight from old España. They certainly enlivened the proceedings! Later the rest of us added our own music as we sang old (bawdy) songs. It was a great evening to get to know each other and help out the hosts by drinking all the alcohol so they wouldn’t have to deal with it later.

The Charlotte planchettes (dancing puppets) report that Den Bosch is their kind of town. After the barbeque, they slipped out to party in the town’s medieval streets. They did not, contrary to reports, stop at a smoke café – they were too short. However, they did split a Bosch ball which affected their dancing for the next two weeks.

Sunday – The Big Blow

After a lovely breakfast and a fascinating trip to the Hieronymus Bosch Museum, we all assembled for the Big Blow Briefing. First we had to wave goodbye to the Doncaster Waites who had to leave early. We missed you, guys! The Briefing was very helpfully illustrated and I couldn’t help feeling as if I were about to play in a football game (the American kind, where they draw lines to indicate everybody running around). Then we straggled along to wait on the street (to some very surprised looks) where we shoe-shopped until it was time to process towards the stage. We Charlotteans were lucky enough to be grouped with The Fabulous Sackbuts of Dresden and the very Worthy Lone Cornettist of Sweden, who single-handedly memorized “Belle Qui Tiens” in about 5 seconds. Way to go, Carina!

When we were all in place, we played the famous Dutch tune “Oh, I can’t remember which part of the song I am supposed to play.” The Pavane went quite well (see YouTube video) and Pastime With Good Company went without a hitch except for some disagreement about the words (we were all “gruch” by the end so it was OK), and we came to our coup de grace, Pavane La Bataille. It was very exhilarating to have the brave trumpeters on stage showing the way while waiting for gunfire. Watch the video, it was great! Then the unsuspecting crowd began chanting “We want more!” (all in English, oh how I lamented the American school system at that point), and so we played it again. It was a great experience that we wouldn’t trade for the world.

After The Big Blow, being musicians, of course it was time to eat. We had a very good lunch and then began to say our goodbyes. Again, many thanks to the Stadspijpers von ‘s-Hertogenbosch and all the organizers and sponsors for their hard work, hospitality, and generosity. We know what an immense amount of preparation and groundwork that must have taken! We enjoyed every minute of it and deeply appreciate everyone’s efforts.

Until next time! See y’all in England in 2012!   (Could it be sooner, please?)

Susan Burns
September 2010