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Gillingham Imperial Silver Band Visit to Hille, Germany - Review

Published in Band News on 2013-09-01 by Empty Chairs

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At the end of August Gillingham Imperial Silver Band embarked on a remarkable tradition – a six day journey to our friends in the Musikzug Viktoria Hille band from Germany. For 30 years Gillingham and Hille have been coming together, every two years the bands take it in turns to either travel to Germany or to welcome Hille to Dorset to join up for some great music making. And this year it was Gillingham’s turn to travel to the beautiful North Rhine-Westphalia region for what turned out to be a brilliant tour.

Around 40 musicians and friends of the band set off in bright spirits on Thursday afternoon from Gillingham high street with a long coach journey and an evening ferry to Holland ahead of them arriving in Hille just over 24 hours later! Band members were then paired off with their German hosts who provided accommodation for the weekend.

Both bands came together to perform in two concerts over the weekend – the first at Hille’s school where Gillingham impressed their local hosts by playing Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s ‘When Thunder Calls’ and ‘You’ve Been Warne'd’, ‘Valero’ and ‘Goldcrest’.  With Solo performances of ‘Over the Rainbow’ played with considerable skill and musicianship by solo trombone Nathan Biss,  and flugel solo ‘Misty’ superbly jazzed up by Nicola Sansom. 

Musikzug Viktoria Hille performed toe tappers such as ‘Putting on the Ritz’ and ‘James Bond’ (featuring our very own conductor guesting on timpani!) and then went on to wow the audience with Robbie Williams' ‘Let me entertain you’, the ‘Hits of Toto’ and a fantastic arrangement of AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’.  After the band's had taken turns individually they came together to form a giant ensemble of nearly 70 musicians.

Gillingham Band publicity officer Rob Stone said “The response we received from the audience on Saturday was amazing, lots of thunderous applause and we were not allowed off the stage without playing two encores!”

Gillingham Band's bass trombonist, and trip co-ordinator Nigel Perrin then made a speech and presented Stefan Kruse from Musikzug Viktoria Hille with a lovely banner commemorating the 30 years of music making between our two bands. Hille’s Deputy Mayor Heinz Grannemann made a reciprocal speech welcoming us and presenting two bottles of the local brew Moorbrand to ease our journey home!

The second of our two concerts was held at the Südhemmern windmill in Hille.  There are five traditional Holland type windmills in the town of Hille, the town is famous for them and even the town crest has a windmill on it. Some are now used as holiday homes but the Südhemmern windmill is owned by the community and regularly opened up to the public during the summer. It has both a boat and a steam train that connect the picturesque windmill and its complex of old buildings with the major towns in the area. With hundreds in the audience enjoying the perfect setting, the sunshine, German beer and fabulous pastries.  Musikzug Viktoria Hille and Gillingham proceeded to entertain the crowds with the outdoor concert. The performance of ‘The Bare Necessities’ with our very own Pete Gatehouse on Eb Bass soloing as Balloo plus our rendition of the James Bond hit ‘Skyfall’ went down very well. 

“I don’t think I have ever performed in a concert in such a glorious setting, performing next to a working old windmill in front of hundreds was a great experience” said Gillingham’s Musical Director Paul Williams.

Aside from the concerts Gillingham Band and Musikzug Viktoria Hille enjoyed a day exploring Hannover, held several parties, a barbecue, a disco and a formal meal together, further cementing links between the two groups of musicians.  Although these links are inter-continental, there are also more local links that were revived for the weekend.  Brass banding is often a very family orientated pastime, and this could be seen throughout the band.  The biggest family group saw long time band member Mary Burfitt reunited with both her brother and sister returning to the band, as well as her partner Peter, and son Michael. Followed closely by the Perrins, Nigel took two of his daughters, Leticia and Melanie on the visit, and then jointly came the Inghams and Stones with Steve Ingham taking son Lawrence, and Robert Stone taking daughter Harley, all of whom played in the band, and did a fantastic job.  Special mention should also go to Melanie Perrin and Harley Stone who performed with the main band in their first formal concerts. 

The band would like to thanks some people for making this trip possible. First our friends from Hille who were the perfect hosts feeding us, watering us and providing accommodation (not to mention lifts to and from parties!). Secondly this trip is mainly organised by two people – Hille’s Stefan Kruse and our very own Nigel Perrin – thank you to both for such a well-run and enjoyable tour. Naturally not all our GISB players could commit to a six day trip for various reasons so a massive thanks to our deps who came along to ensure  we had a full band – thank you Elaine, Brendan, Dennis, Tim, Simon, Greg, Danny, Jon, Francis and Adrian. You all slotted straight into the band so well, were great fun to be around and shared lots of laughs. Finally massive thanks to our coach driver Colin and Grosvenor Travel. Colin not only got us there and back in good time and safely but again he slotted straight into the band, became one of the family and proved to be lots of fun!

Gillingham Imperial have formalised the offer of the return visit in two years time, to see the Musikzug Viktoria Hille band visit Gillingham in 2015.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the trip can check out the band's website at or can see pictures from the visit on the band's facebook page at


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