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Tour tales
Travel, music, workshops and the Alps

Jonathan Sproule, Principal Euphonium of The Band of the Welsh Guards recalls a memorable tour trip to Germany.

Sproule

Back in December I embarked on a 10 day solo tour of Germany through my association with the LefreQue Company - working my way from the north to the south of the country. 

I travelled by ferry from Harwich to Holland as having seen the way fragile items are handled by commercial aircraft carriers I didn’t want to entrust my euphonium to the possible the same treatment. So despite the extra hours, this way I ensured that it wouldn’t be returned to me as scrap metal. 

Great company

I was met on dry land by Frank from LefreQue - an ex-Army man himself after serving as a Grenadier in the Dutch Army. He was great company as we travelled together to meet up with Hans Kuijt, the inventor and creative genius of LefreQue and another member of the team, Thomas Viojt. 

We arrived to be met by a very traditional German buffet - a treat for any hungry visitor, and spent the evening talking about music and the tour ahead.

The next day we started work - and at the wonderful setting of the very grand church in Wuppertal – one that was also about the warmest I’ve ever played in!  

The next day we started work - and at the wonderful setting of the very grand church in Wuppertal – one that was also about the warmest I’ve ever played in!  

Super enthusiasts

It was also good that the local clergy weren’t too bothered about the name of the excellent ensemble I was to play with either - ‘Sax for Fun’ - an orchestra of super enthusiastic saxophonists that produced a quite amazing sound. It was truly inspiring to hear the group in action and see how much fun they had. 

Sproule

We performed two concerts on consecutive nights with great audiences. I had no less than nine solos to perform each night, but it was such a joy that I could have played more.  

Thomas Viojt is also the Musical Director of the ensemble and it has to be said, is perhaps the best ‘front-man’ you could wish to work with as a guest soloist.

He had the audience in the palm of his hand from the word go – and German comedy as far as I could tell was hilarious. He was brilliant – and as a result the concerts were full of fun and enjoyment.

He had the audience in the palm of his hand from the word go – and German comedy as far as I could tell was hilarious. He was brilliant – and as a result the concerts were full of fun and enjoyment.

Fan club

Halfway through Thomas sprung a surprise interview on me – acting as translator! I’m very sure he embellished everything I said as laughter, applause, mumours of approval and knowing glances seem to come at the end of every sentence!  

I certainly managed to start a fledgling fan club, and it was good to be able to play items such as ‘Facedown’, ‘Andante & Scherzo’, ‘Concerto pour une Voix’, ‘Conradiana’, ‘La Novia’, ‘The First Noel’, ‘Une Apres-Midi’, ‘You Raise Me’ and ‘Carrickfergus’ – the latter a piece that means a great deal as my fiancee’s home where I spend lots of time flying to when I get a chance. 

Sproule

The friendly welcome was replicated over the following days through a series of presentation days and workshops with local musicians, to visits to some of the largest music stores in Germany - which are more like supermarkets. 

Fantastic workshop

In the city of Mainz, Thomas set everything up and a great day ended with a fantastic workshop with local players. That was a great experience, rounded off with a night in a hunting lodge hotel set along the banks of the River Rhine.

After a free day enjoying the wonderful town of Rothenburg we headed to one of the busiest commercial music hubs in Germany and to a music store called MusicBeck.

Matthias Beck a very fine musician and had pulled so many favours in for the concert featuring an orchestra of some of the finest musicians in the region. It was a real honour to play alongside players of such quality.

Matthias Beck a very fine musician and had pulled so many favours in for the concert featuring an orchestra of some of the finest musicians in the region. It was a real honour to play alongside players of such quality. 

Thrilled

The following day saw another Church concert with the members of the Musikverein Sulzbach orchestra, where I was thrilled to perform some of the other items I featured such as ‘Tico Tico’, ‘Rhapsody for Euphonium’, ‘The Green Hill’ and ‘Paraphrase on an Irish Song’ -  which is 'Danny Boy' with bells on!

Sproule

A personal highlight though was being given the opportunity to sit back and hear such passionate musicians perform – and in particular hear Matthias himself.

The next morning we made our way to Lange Music, one of the largest music companies in Germany - an absolute musical labyrinth and a thrill to get lost in for a player like me. I started to think I should have brought some bread crumbs to find my way back to the entrance!  

Splendid

Here Lefreque hosted a presentation day which attracted musicians from throughout the region, rounded off with a splendid rehearsal for the final Sunday night concert, where I was to be featured playing ‘Eiretime’ by Andrea Price.

After the rehearsal the owner Erich Lange took our group to a hotel with perhaps the most staggering morning view you could imagine – the majestic Austrian Alps right on your doorstep. 

After the rehearsal the owner Erich Lange took our group to a hotel with perhaps the most staggering morning view you could imagine – the majestic Austrian Alps right on your doorstep. 

The previous night was equally memorable for the warmth of friendship given to me, as well as the amount of celebratory drinks that were enjoyed too!

Sproule

Thankfully the sight of those magnificent Alps blew away any hangover cobwebs and reminded me of just how fortunate I had been to have performed with so many superb musicians and meet so many wonderful people on the tour. 

The final concert was stunning and summed it all up again – the response from the audience one that I will not forget for a very long time.

Time to reflect

On my return home it was time to reflect - and thank Lt Col Roberts and the Band of The Welsh Guards for letting me have the time to undertake the trip.

My thanks also go to all the musicians who took time out to come along to work and perform with me - it was a real honour and privilege.

And finally, to the friends I’ve made - especially Thomas Viojt who was phenomenal.

I am a very lucky musician in my professional life, and this was certainly an example of why.



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Morgan Griffiths

Dip. Performance
Conductor, Peripatetic Music Teacher, Lower brass specialist


               

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