The Band travelled to Valkenburg in Holland and Aachen in Germany for this year’s tour as part of our celebration of the new millennium. We once again travelled over the May Bank Holiday weekend and performed two concerts over the 3 day visit.
Valkenburg lies in the southernmost tip of the Netherlands, closely bordered by Germany and Belgium to east and west. The earliest inhabitants were the Romans, who extensively mined the local marlstone for building and sculpture. Consequently, under the town lies a comprehensive series of grottos, caves and 70km of corridors which can be explored on foot or, in some cases , by mountain bike! There are replicas of Roman catacombs and a coal mine, a monster cave with life size dinosaur models, cave wall drawings and sculptures. The many tunnels and passages were used as hiding places during the French revolution and World War II. Above ground there is a great choice of swimming pools, features include slides and even underwater music, although the band stuck to playing above water for the concerts they performed.
Tour Report by M Hayman
Day 1. 4:00AM
All the fund raising events were complete, the sponsored walk, quiz evenings and Bonus Ball lottery had all helped to reduce the cost of the tour, music had been rehearsed, everyone was eager to go, there was just one problem. It was 4:00am and dark. Weary members of the band and their families were waiting patiently at the pickup point but there was no coach. Chairman David Newsom who had arranged the tour and the pickup at this ungodly hour never lost his sense of humour as one by one the members of the band began to ask him “where is the coach David”, “Are you sure you got the right day” and “David, have you messed up again!”. After 45 minutes of frantic telephoning to the Coach Operator (who incidentally was surprisingly good spirited about being woken up at 4:00 in the morning) we learnt that the Coach driver has missed the pickup point and could not turn the coach round because he could not reverse with the trailer he was pulling.
Day 1. An Hour Later.
The coach finally arrived and a not so good spirited coach driver did his best to ignore suggestions from the band about reversing techniques. The band pack the instruments and luggage and set-off. David informed the band that the ferry had been delayed so we are now on time and not late in the slightest, he had allowed extra time to be safe as he knew something like this was bound to happen (David you should have been in PR.)
Day 1. Another hour later.
Things are finally going right, the coach had made good time to Maidstone, the motorway beckons and a quick 40 mile trip should see us at the Dover ferry port. Those of us fortunate to be looking his way, will never forget the sheer look of panic and utter despair that came over the face of ex-chairman and solo cornet player, Chris Cannings who took this moment (20 miles into the journey) to discover that he had left his passport at home. The coach driver was asked to pull over next to the taxi rank by the railway station. Chris departs hoping to find a taxi to get home and then drive down to Dover himself in a seemingly impossible time frame. The coach departs again.
Day 1. 2 minutes later.
The coach screeches to a halt, Chairman David (to use his proper title, he gets angry when we call him by his other nicknames) jumps out of the coach with the key to the pickup car park, where the forgetful Chris has left his car. Luckily Chris spots David just as he is about to jump into one of the only cabs to be out and about at 5:00 am on a Saturday morning.
The coach, minus one player makes it to Dover on time, bets were taken on whether the errant Chris will make it time. If any law enforcement officers are reading this, I can assure you that Chris never broke the speed limit during his journey from Cranbrook to Dover, the fact that his speedometer touched 120MPH at one point was due to mechanical malfunctions in his Renault (What do you expect with a French car). Suffice to say Chris made it in time – just, but while that is not quite the end of the Chris Cannings sojourn into despair, you will have to wait to the end of this expose to find out the last details of Chris’s nightmare.
Day 1. France.
I have said quite a bit about David and Chris, two of the more prominent and outspoken members of the band. My next piece is on one of the more quiet and apparently refined members of the band. Our Flugel player Amanda Lloyds, a primary School teacher of some fair ability, dedication and respectability, (the last person you would expect to exhibit any untoward behavior), decided when it came time to depart the ferry that the band were not good enough to travel with any more and so boarded a coach full of drunken rugby players. One could have understood this, perhaps a last minute pre-wedding fling or three, but she took her fiancé with her! Amanda and Andy decide after 5 minutes with the rugby team that the band are note quite so bad, they quickly get back on board with us, somewhat redder in the face than usual.
Day 1. Getting to know one another.
Its amazing isn’t it, the number of people you really don’t know until you spend a lot of time with them on a coach. At least that must have been Laura’s intention as she spent most of the time during the journey getting to know most of her male colleagues and aggravating the ones who would not respond to her ever increasing litany of abuse. The number of insults she threw at me that day was staggering and all to hide here true feelings. Ah well, if I were 10 years younger perhaps I could have offered young Nick a bit of competition. (Said you should not have got on my nerves Laura, didn’t I)
Day 1. Finally, we are there.
We arrive at Valkenburg just after 2:00pm, it was raining and we all wanted to go to sleep, instead we had to put on a concert in just under an hours time. We checked in and I discovered that my room mate and I are sharing a double bed. After 10 minutes of protracted negotiations with the receptionist a second mattress is arranged. One of us will be sleeping on the floor.
Day 1. Valkenburg Concert.
Within 30 minutes the rain stopped and we found our way down to the concert venue and despite evicting the stall holders who were selling children’s toys from the band stand, we gave a great concert to a surprised and appreciative audience. If anyone noticed the extra wrong notes from the front row cornets or the intonation of the trombones in the second half, they did not say, it had been a long day after all and a pint or two at the half time break was acceptable wasn’t it ? I believe even the normally “tea total” MD had a tipple at half time. (Anyone that knows Ian will know he’s never even heard of the phrase “tea total” let alone ever been accused of it, but I owe him some money so maybe he will let me off if I don’t mention how plastered he got on tour. – maybe not)
Day 1. The End
The End it nearly was for Mark Atherton. To look at him he looks like any other bass trombone player (say no more). You would never know that 10 years ago Mark had major surgery to implant a chain saw in his nasal passage. I certainly did not know until Mark came home from the various bars he had frequented that night. After 10 minutes trying to open the door, he stumbled across the room and took the next 20 minutes trying to get his trousers off without first taking off his shoes, had it not been 2 o’clock in the morning I would have found this hilarious and invited the rest of the band to come and watch, as it was I grateful when he finally got his head down and I managed to drift back to a wonderful dream about something I saw on the Dutch TV (we will say no more about that here), when all of a sudden I was wide awake and convinced I had been transported to a scene from some “chainsaw wielding maniac slashes all” horror film. To put it bluntly Mark has a snoring problem. After my pulse rate had come back down to the low hundreds, I tried various methods of stopping this infernal racket. None of which worked so in case you are stuck in the same situation you need not bother with them:-
- No 1. Ask politely though loudly for the offending person to shut-up.
- No 2. Shout very loudly in his ear to shut-up.
- No 3. Throw various items increasing in density at offending person.
- No 4. Roll him over – OK it works for about a second before he rolls back.
- No 5. Stuffing your socks in your ears. This is also rather smelly.
I moved to the bath, at least I could shut the door but after 2 hours of lying in the cold, wet and extremely cramped bath, I started to contemplate my next option – smothering him. Luckily for Mark he woke up and staggered to the door in his underpants. When questioned about the journey he was about to undertake he simply uttered “Toilet”. It was about 4 O’clock in the morning now and I should not be worried about this at all, but being a conscientious soul that I am, I decide that I better stop the still paralytic Mark from going to the loo in the corridor and direct him to the toilet in our room. At the same time we decide (well it was me, Mark could not string a coherent sentence together) to move his mattress into the space next to the bath, I did have to fold it in two but he wasn’t going to notice. I informed Mark that his new bed is now conveniently next to the toilet and shut the door on him. While his snoring was still audible, it was now only a distant rumble. I slept for 2 hours. Marks Mattress was left in the bathroom for the next night.
Day 2. Breakfast
Many of the band’s younger members decided that it was time to get more practiced in the secondary abilities of Brass Band players, that is consuming vast amounts of alcohol, playing silly drinking games while totally inebriated and falling over in the gutter while staggering back to the hotel. While they could not quite reach the dizzying quantities some of the more experienced players reached, there were one or two who looked decidedly green in the morning. Had any of us been able to read the newspapers I am sure we would have seen reports of massive shortage of beer after the previous nights session.
Day 2. Aachen
We left mid-morning for Aachen, a pleasant town just over the Dutch/German border where we were giving a concert in the afternoon at the Aachen Wine Festival (Yes, everything we do has to have an alcohol theme to it). The rest of the morning was spent wandering around the town and sobering up. Did you know you could assist the sobering up effect by consuming even more quantities of alcohol, so they told me and so they did. Despite their best efforts most of the band were stone cold sober for the afternoon and we gave another good performance to one of the biggest audiences we have ever had. The German people seemed genuinely amazed at the sound we produced and gave us a truly amazing reception. It always helps when you have an audience as appreciative as this and I think it helped the band maintain a superb quality of sound for the whole concert.No photos
Day 2. Groupies
Needless to say, you can’t go to a Wine Festival and not experience some of the local products. Brass band players are not just beer swilling drunks, many of us like and prefer to get just as out of it on wine. Unfortunately Cranbrook Town Band suffers from the same plague of desperate women that assail many of today’s top musical groups and once they have had too much to drink they can become pretty difficult to control. Its just a shame that many of these groupies got it round the wrong way, you are supposed to marry the musicians after you become a groupie not before. I would just like to clarify for the sake of the chairman that the topless photo call these women took part in did not prevent the organisers of the Aachen festival from inviting us back another year when funds permitted.
Day 3. The Final Nail
Despite the miserable weather on day 1 and inebriated condition of some of the players, the band had a wonderful time. The food was excellent, the sheer number of restaurants, cafes and bars in Valkenburg was staggering. People went out of their way to be friendly and they certainly enjoyed the concerts we gave. If you are a brass band looking for a venue to tour, Valkenburg and Aachen should be at the top of your list. When ever you want to give a great performance just make sure half your players are either drunk, hung-over, half asleep or all three. Well, that about wraps up the diary of the Cranbrook Town Band 2000 Tour. Please visit the picture links and have a look at the rest of the site if you have not done so already. I would just mention the “Final Nail in Chris’s Coffin” was the fact that poor old Chris got home several hours after and a lot poorer than the rest of us. You remember he had to drive to Dover in his own car, well not only did he have to pay an extortionate parking fee, he also had to pay for breakdown services and a new alternator (I did mention French cars before Chris).
Click on the picture to visit our Gallery of this tour on Flickr.
The band for the 2000 Tour :-
— Sharon Pond (Principal Cornet) — Mat Jacobs (Solo Cornet)— Rosemary Chatfield (Solo Cornet)— Chris Cannings (Solo Cornet) —
— Fred Smithers (Soprano) — Nick Wright (Repiano) — Dave Pettifer (2nd Cornet) — Emma Pettifer (2nd Cornet) — Tony Smith (3rd Cornet) — Peter Evans (Third Cornet) — Holly Lovewell (Third Cornet) — Ben Hatcher (Third Cornet) —
— Alan Smithers (Solo Horn) — Adele Proctor (First Horn) — Rebecca Dartnell (First Horn) — Mark Hayman (Second Horn) — Liz Hatcher (Second Horn) — Amanda Lloyds (Flugel Horn) —
Euphoniums and Baritones
— David Newsom (Principal Euphonium) — Viv Lovewell (Euphonium) — Robin Traves (First Baritone) — Laura Proctor (Second Baritone) —
— Hazel Hemsley (Solo Trombone) — Steve Walkley (Second Trombone) — Colin Batt (Second Trombone) — Mark Atherton (Bass Trombone) —
— Mike Vickers (Eb Bass) — Jo Handley (Eb Bass) — Jerry Pond (BBb Bass) — John Hunt (BBb Bass) —
— Peter Steer (Kit) — Darryl Oliver (Timpani) —