Monday 18th January 2021

Viva EspaƱa (Post Trip)

The International Festival of Bands 2019 is an experience that Bruce Hicks, Chris Tratt and Helen Goldsmith from the Archbishop Beck Catholic College's Music Department will not forget in a hurry.

The trio flew out to Pamplona, Spain on the 11th June for a five day festival of conferences, masterclasses and performances from world class professionals in wind band music. La Pamplonesa Music Band is a Cultural Association which was founded in 1919 and has been developing throughout the city of Pamplona for 100 years.

Staff from the college were given such a warm and friendly welcome by the Secretary of Protocol at the city’s town hall and a history was given about the city and the importance of wind band music being at the heart of Pamplona. They were assured that this was going to be a memorable week of celebrating different musical cultures, education in music and the sharing of music through a mixture of different performances.

Despite most of the conferences being in Spanish, the sense of welcome and community at the conference centre, Balurate, made everybody feel included and inspired to learn. The music and presentations delivered really did provide a sense of unity amongst the delegates and the language barrier became no issue at all. Bruce Hicks remarked “Music really is a universal language.”

The five day festival provided a mixture of different musical activities for all those who attended. Helen Goldsmith, the college’s woodwind tutor explained “For me, I took this opportunity to fully immerse myself into the masterclasses on offer at the festival. My area of specialism is performance and it was important for me to gain new practise and performance techniques to feed back to my students in school. It was very inspiring.”

Bruce Hicks, Emeritus Director of Music at the college attended the educational conferences attending lectures on Musical Intelligence and Musical Education in Public Schools. These conferences provided statistics on how beneficial music is into a young persons social, emotional and academic development. Chris Tratt, Music Teacher at the college attended as many of the wind band performances as he could. Chris will be the colleges new band director next year and was particularly interested in the way the instrumental families were grouped and the repertoire they performed. “The band layout is different to ours that we have at the college” Chris observed. “It may be an idea to explore the bands layout and see if this impacts on balance.” It was great to gain insight and ideas in different repertoire and also rehearsal techniques, especially those demonstrated by the Iwakura Wind Orchestra of Japan in their open rehearsal.

As well as attending conferences, the festival provided people with an opportunity to make new friends and share stories of musical upbringings. After attending a concert by The Maritime Wind Band, percussionist Jacqueline Cleland shared her musical story with Helen about her ensemble Second Chance Band in Canada.

The Second chance band gives musicians an opportunity to learn music later on in life and be part of a community. Jacqueline said: “Music is a lifelong passion that allows us to connect through instant communities. It’s a way to feel and speak to each other without words. It is a way to be part of something greater and to create art that transcends age and other factors used to divide. I adore it and I am so happy to have met someone who does this professionally!”

The standard of playing from all ensembles was remarkable. With over 40 years as a music educator, Bruce Hicks commented “I have never never never heard performances of the like as that concert last night, truly awesome” when describing the concert performed by La Pamplosa.

Our time at The International Festival of Bands reinforced how powerful music is and how it really can shape lives an impact the well-being of people. Music is universal and can be enjoyed and experienced by everyone from all walks of life.

As music professionals, this festival was a humble reminder that we are always learning and music can make us feel and experience so many different things and still surprise us. Music education is essential in our schools and for our children and young people. Thanks to this Festival, we can now come back to school revitalized and recharged with new creative juices flowing and shape the next generation of fantastic young musicians.

Helen Goldsmith
Woodwind Tutor


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