Guernsey Friends of Biberach

Making beautiful music in Biberach

Guernsey’s links with the southern German town of Biberach were further strengthened during a visit this summer of student musicians from the Guernsey Music Centre during Biberach’s annual showpiece festival, the Schützenfest.

In fact, Guernsey’s young musical ambassadors found themselves at the very centre of the town’s celebrations, an occasion covered eloquently in the newspaper article from the Schwäbische Zeitung (read on).

The visit was a wonderful success, as summed up by one of the students, Archie Purdue, ‘It was magical — the ability to travel somewhere extraordinary with friends and to perform in a beautiful location. St Martin’s Church was an incredible venue, with a huge and enthusiastic audience. We simply weren’t expecting this size of audience — they were brilliant. In fact, everyone we met in Biberach was very kind and welcoming. It really was a trip to remember!’

The inspiration behind the trip came from the Head of Guernsey Music Service, Tim Wright, and his wife, Rachel, who is Head of Vocal Studies for the Music Service.

One of the obstacles facing most visitors to Biberach from Guernsey (and vice versa) was the long trip. However, this problem was thankfully overcome for the 70 young musicians and their 9 accompanying teachers by the inspired idea to charter a Blue Islands flight and fly direct from Guernsey to the neighbouring town of Memmingen. The idea was further enhanced by Helga Reiser and the Biberach Friends of Guernsey, who arranged for 40+ passengers from Biberach to also enjoy the benefits of direct travel on the return flight, to spend their own week in Guernsey.

A fantastic idea.

Highlights of the weeklong stay included a trip to Ulm, where the Concert Wind Band played in the Market Square, seeing a performance of Verdi’s ‘Ernani’ at the Bregenz Opera Festival, a trip to Meersburg on the beautiful Lake Constance, a concert with the Music School in Biberach and a moving visit to the former camp where so many deportees from Guernsey and Sark had been interned during WW2.

The main highlight, though, was participating in the Schützenfest Youth Parade, where thousands of people lined the route around the town, and then performing at the evening Schützenfest concert in St Martin’s Church, in front of a capacity audience of 800 — a concert which was reviewed in the following article by Günther Luderer for the Schwäbische Zeitung Biberach and translated by another well-known name in Guernsey, Rotraud Rebmann;

‘This was a highlight of this year’s Schützenfest: three ensembles of the Guernsey Music Centre have presented a rousing concert in the full Town Church of St Martin’s. After the first encore, i.e. all three verses of “Rund um mich her….,” performed by choir, orchestra and audience, enthusiasm broke down all the barriers. During the planning stage of their visit to the Biberach Schützenfest this year, the friends from Guernsey had a brilliant idea worth copying: instead of the wearing travel by coach and ferry, the 70 young musicians and their 9 teachers chartered a direct flight from Guernsey to Memmingen. The Biberach Friends of Guernsey within the Biberach Twinning Society led by Helga Reiser, organised 46 interested people who used the plane from there to escape the ‘temptations’ of the Schützenfest and get to the partner island. At the end of the week, the trips will be the other way round. All the instruments were transported by road.

After their participation in the church service on the Schützen-Sunday and in the mixed parade on Monday, a remarkably big audience expected the young musicians, and the atmosphere was tense and full of emotions. Dean Stefan Ruf welcomed guests and audience warmly, Rotraud Rebmann, a fixed figure in the Twinning Association for a long time, translated, fluently as usual, and with a winking eye.

The well sorted Youth Orchestra; all in black, gave a brilliant start with an arrangement of Brian Tyler’s ‘Formula One’. On signals by the conductor, the audience was asked to amplify the instruments with vocal roar of an engine sound. Shostakovich’s famous ‘Waltz No 2 c-minor’ offered various registers, but also various soloists an opportunity to show their abilities. They were all well-prepared and playing with zest. Finally, John Powell’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ offered a beautiful oboe solo and grand finale at the end. Great cheers by the audience.

The Youth Choir with about 50 members, conducted by Rachel Wright, was inspiring right from the start with the traditional English nursery rhyme ‘Sing a song of Sixpence’ with all the characteristics that typify a good vocal ensemble: clear pronunciation, blameless intonation, excellent and well- conducted voices and — due to singing by heart — permanent contact with the conductor. The second piece, ‘Sleep’ by Eric Whitacre´, was the absolute favourite of choir member Archie, as Rachel Wright pointed out. Consequently, he was allowed to take over the conducting, which he did with sensitive movements. At the end he was frenetically cheered. The next two pieces kept the high standard and prove the top quality of Rachel Wright’s work with the choir.

Music School Director Tim Wright with his Concert Wind Band took over the last three pieces on the programme. With a sense of humour he presented the military march ‘Wings’ from 1870 in which an English and — in the trio — a German melody are incorporated. ‘Dallas’, one of the greatest soap operas of the eighties became revived again with its fanfare theme. Brilliant brass and precisely playing percussionists made this piece a real smash hit. The final piece on the programme was an arrangement of John Barry’s music for the film ‘Born free’ from 1966. Here again, as in previous works, the young solo trumpeter and the horn register were especially convincing. Enthusiastic storms of applause by the audience led to the encore of ‘Round about me is joy unbounded” — the catching enthusiasm has been mentioned at the beginning. An amusing observation: After the choir had sung everything by heart all through the programme, now the mobile phones had come out to follow the long text.

Various words of thanks and presents were exchanged to travel from the Riss to the Channel and back. Great cheering led to a second encore, before people slowly left St Martin’s’.

Student musicians from the Guernsey Music School in Biberach, July 2023
A capacity audience of 800 enthusiastic Biberachers in St Martin’s Church
Taking part in the Schützenfest parade
A special Schützenfest performance in St Martin’s Church
Learning about Camp Lindele, home to deportees from Guernsey and Sark in WW2

This article was prepared for The Townie magazine.


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