In 1975, the fanfare ensemble ‘Union de Buizingen’ was amongst the first Belgian groups to convert to a traditional British-style Brass Band instrumentation. Since that time, the band has played a remarkable role in the world of the Belgian ‘HaFaBra’ (Harmonie, Fanfare and Brass Bands), both at home and abroad. Amongst the most striking moments of its history are included remarkable concert presentations and contest performances, numerous CD releases and, in 1997 the singular honour of being designated ‘Cultural Ambassador of Flanders’. A musical ensemble wishing to remain in the front rank of quality and to ensure its own longevity must be constantly looking forward, striving to achieve an organisation, a musicality and a disciplined team-spirit leading to the highest standards possible.
The origins of Brass Band Buizingen (BBU) go back to 1879 when workers in a local porcelain factory founded a ‘fanfare’ band. The brass band really came of age in 1975 when it was one of the first ensembles in Belgium to convert the instrumentation to that of the traditional British brass band, popular in Britain for more than a century but almost unknown in Belgium at the time.
Since that time, BBU has established itself a place in the artistic world, not only of the amateur musician in Belgium but also in the heritage of Flanders. Directed succesdievly by William Blockmans, David Henderson, André Philippe and Guido Segers, BBU from 1992 placed itself under the direction of Luc Vertommen. BBU has since then developed a great reputation based on successful contest participation and concert presentations both within and outside of Belgium. The enthusiasm and application of the group never fails to leave a positive impression with the media ad the public.
Competitions play a major role
Since 1987, Brass Band Buizingen has taken part in the Bekgian National Championship – initially organised by the Flemish Federation of Brass Bands (VBBF) and then by Vlamo, and has obtained no fwewer than nine gold medals from the contests of the Province of Brabant Flamand. BBU was twice crowned champion in the B division (1993 et 1994), national champion of Fedekam three times (1993, 1994 et 1998) and three times obtained the Gold Medal of the Antwerp Music Contest (1992, 1993 et 1996).
Brass Band Buizingen regularly participates in international contests, for example in Utrecht, Kerkrade and Drachten (Netherlands), Hemsby et Cambridge (GB), Amboise (France), Lucerne (Switzerland), Stavanger (Norway) and Linz (Austria). In 1993, the title ‘World Champion’ was won at the world championships in Kerkrade and in 1997 again received a first prize with distinction. In 1995, the band was vistorious at the ‘Open Internationaal Brassband Festival d’Utrecht (Netherlands) and in 1998 et 1999, came second at the ‘Concours international de brass bands’ in Amboise (France).
The band has given many concerts in foreign countries, noteably in Brighton (GB), Blois, Villars-les-Dombes, Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille, Aulnoye-Aimeries, Clermont-Ferrand (France), Brixen/Bressanone (Italy).
In 2008 Brass Band Buizingen won the Vlaaams Open Brassbandkampioenschap at Mechelen, and in 2009, won the Euro Brass contest, Drachten (Netherlands) and the supreme achievement of being crowned National Champion Brass Band of Belgium. The same year, third place was gained at the World Music Contest Kerkrade (Netherlands). In 2010, Buizingen was placed fifth in the EBBA European Championship held in Linz (Austria).
In the Concert Hall
The highlight of the band's yearly concert programme is the Valentines Concert, to which great soloists from the musical world are invited to perform ; : Simone Rebello (percussion), Don Lusher (trombone), Martin Winter (trumpet, cornet), James Watson (trumpet), Stef Pillaert (euphonium), Roger Webster (cornet), Steven Mead (euphonium), James Gourlay (tuba ), Robert and David Childs (euphonium), François Glorieux (piano), Peter Roberts (cornet soprano), David Daws (cornet), Katrina Marzella (baritone), Mark Godfroid (trombone), Björn Verschoore (saxophone), Richard Marshall (cornet) and Les Neish (tuba).
The band has also worked extensively with noteable figures from the brass band world, including Trevor Groom (euphonium), Ivan Meylemans (trombone), Maurice André (trumpet), Gabriel Cassone (trumpet), Fred Mills (trumpet), Pasi Pirinnen (trumpet), Dominique Bodart (trumpet), Geert Devos (trombone bass), Gaëtan La Mela (percussion) and Guy Touvron (trumpet).
BBU has given exchange and joint concerts with Dutch bands Brassband Schoonhoven, Amsterdam Brass, Delta Brass Zeeland, with the Fanfare de Bocholtz, the Fanfare DSS d’Aarlanderveen,the English Band E.Y.M.S. Band,the Krohnengen Brass Band of Norway, the ensembles ofe Peer, Hombeek and Zuun/Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, with Brassband Campine and the Noviomagnum Wind Orchestra (Netherlands).
Recordings, Commissions and other creations
Brass Band Buizingen manages its efforts to improve artistic values, noteably in collaborations with renowned band directors such as Richard Evans, Roy Newsome, Major Peter Parkes, Philip Sparke, Tom Brevik, Jan Van der Roost and Howard Snell.
Another objective is the promotion of original works for Brass Band by Flemish composers. BBU has played a major part in the creation of a number of major works by outstanding Flemish composers, amogst these, Jan Segers (Fragments), Karel De Wolf (Patchwork), Werner Van Cleemput (Royal Memorial), Johan Evenepoel, Gaston Nuyts, Jan Van der Roost, Peter Savenberg, Roger Derongé, Piet Swerts, Paul Gilson, Marcel Poot, François Glorieux, Tom De Haes (The Golden Gryphon), André Laporte (Alla variaties op het loze vissertje and Exultation and Hymn) and Jeroen d’Hoe (Festival Tune).
In complementary issues to the CD series ‘Anthology of Flemish Band Music’, Brass Band Buizingen has recorded the CDs ‘Portrait of Johan Evenepoel’ and ‘Portrait of Roger Derongé’and has created a Brass Opera entitled Frankenstein, with music by Glenn Desmedt, for solo voices, choir, piano and brass band.
Foreign composers have also seen their works premiered by BBU : Vivian Domenjoz and Pascal Gendre (Switzerland), Simon Dobson, Ian Rayner (GB), Idar Torskangerpoll and Jan Magne Forde (Norway), Pete Meechan (GB) with Crazy Diamonds Shining, Rob Goorhuis (Netherlands), Peter Graham (GB) with Cats Tales, Nigel Clarke (GB), Jérôme Naulais (France) with Évasion.
At the beginning of 2010, Nigel Clarke was designated ‘Associate Composer’ of the band.
The band regularly commissions works, for example to Johan Evenepoel (Tubaconcerto, 1996 ; M.I.H.R.A.L., 1998 ; Ouverture Halle 2000 ; Choral of Hope, 2001 ; Choral Serenade, 2002 ; Ginnungagap, Concerto for Cornet and Band), to Vivian Domenjoz (Dialogue, 2000), Roger Derongé (Ceremonial Festival, 2002, et Musica Flandria), Pete Meechan (B of the Bang), Rob Goorhuis (Chameleon), Nigel Clarke (Swift Severn’s Flood and Earthrise).
The band’s concert repertoire comprises both music from the great masters such as Edward Elgar, Herbert Howells and George Gershwin, and works from composers specialised in brass band writing ; Eric Ball, Derek Bourgeois, Peter Graham, Edward Gregson, Philip Wilby and Philip Sparke. Chorales, marches, light music, pop, jazz, musicals, film music and others are also included, as well as the choices of the band’s own talented soloists.
The musical direction taken by Brass Band Buizingen led to the production, in 1996, of a first CD ‘ Paragon ‘ (Miragram 88123-2), comprising music from Flemish composers. In September 1997, a second CD saw the light, The Dawning (Miragram 88159-2), with an extremely aried programme and exceptionalsolo performances from within the band. About this CD, American composer represented on the recording wrote the comment ; « The transparency and definition of the performance coupled with the overall musicality of your marvelous interpretation, obviously demonstrates the care that you have taken with all aspects of the music… »
In 1999 the third CD was issued, ’ Brass Friends ‘ (Miragram 88253-2) and in September of the following year, ‘ Portrait of Paul Gilson ‘, for the label World Wind Music, in collaboration with the Musique royale des Guides. In 2003, the second volume of the series ‘ Anthology of Flemish Band Music ‘ appeared in the form of a ‘ Portrait of Marcel Poot ‘. Coming next in 2005 and 2006, volumes 3 and 4 of this series honored respectively August De Boeck and ‘the Synthétistes. This series,’ Anthology of Flemish Band Music ‘, comprising the entire works for wind orchestra of composers such as Paul Gilson, August de Boeck, Marcel Poot, Pieter Leemans and the Synthétistes, has been recognised in the international arena as being the reference for Bekgian wind music. Brass Band Buizigen has also recorded the complete œuvre of Paul Gilson for the Fanfare wagnérienne, and the music of Jules Demersseman (to be issued in 2011).
The CDs ‘ Ad Optimum ‘ (with Peter Roberts, soprano cornet) and ‘ Cats Tales ‘ (with Roger Webster, cornet) have been very favourably welcomed into the international market. The CD ‘ Euphonium Virtuoso ‘, with Steven Mead as soloist, has been awarded with major British recording awards, and received in the USA the Leonard Falcone Award for the best CD with featured soloist.
Finally, BBU can also be heard next to the bands of Musique de la Marine Belge and the Ensemble de Cuivres Valaisan, on the CDs ‘ Portrait of Johan Evenepoel ‘ and ‘ Portrait of Luc Vertommen ‘. The CDs and DVDs showing the highlights of the WMC, the world championships of Kerkrade (Netherlands),also give recorded access to the playing of BBU.
Thanks to the artistic dynamic and the quality of its numerous presentations and initiatives, the Brass Band Buizingen was awarded by the Flemish Government the prestigious title of Cultural Ambassador of Flanders in 1997. The judging panel declared in its report that « many recent contest participations and intense concert activity, it is clear that the Brass Band Buizingen occupies an eminent position in amateur musical life, both locally and internationally. The title which is awarded to this ensemble should also highlight the dynamics and quality of their performances […] ».
During the 1999 - 2000 concert season, Brass Band Buizingen was chosen by the organisation Jeugd en Muziek Vlaanderen as a ‘model’ group. In 2001-2002, the band received regular invitations from festivals abroad. Thus, BBU performed in France ( Blois, Aulnoye-Aimeries, at the Festival des Cuivres in Dombes, at the Festival de la musique des Cuivres in Douvaine), in Switzerland (Lucerne) and in the Netherlands (Leeuwarden and Prinsenbeek).
Brass Band Buizingen has been heard not only in concert and on recordings, but also over the airwaves of Belgian radio ; VRT (Radio 1, Radio 2 and Klara), Netherlands radio (Radio 4), and on the BBC (Radio 2). The TV channel Ring-TV has also lent its attention to the band’s presentations.