… Based on our shared love of Music and Beer…
In 2014 Cathays Brass received an enticing message from the musicians of Musikverein Stuttgart Hofen Their youth ensemble would soon be visiting Cardiff to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Cardiff – Stuttgart twinning relationship and wished to meet up with a local band. Being newly formed at the time, we were delighted to have the opportunity to welcome their members to Cardiff and show them some true Welsh hospitality.
After a great joint concert in Victoria Park (plus several hours socialising with the elder members in the pubs of Cardiff), Musikverein Hofen invited us to join them at their Sommerfest event the following year.
Sommerfest is small beer festival held every year in the village of Hofen, just outside Stuttgart, celebrating the Corpus Christi bank holiday. It starts at 4am(!!) with the ‘Awakening’ where the band plays on village street corners to welcome in the festival. This is a gruelling feat as players stop after each performance for the obligatory shot of Schnapps, kindly provided by the villagers who seemed all too accustomed to be being woken up at 4 am by a drunken brass band playing music outside their front door. After a few hours of crawling (some literally) though the streets, most members make it to the final destination near the church and were treated to a well-earned breakfast of Maultaschen and yes, more beer and Schnapps (or coffee.)
The official ceremony would then start with a service at the church of St Barbara which stands on a hill proudly overlooking the river Neckar. Standing next to the castle ruins, the church built in the Baroque style is a well-known landmark in the area and part of the Catholic pilgrimage route. After the service the band would then lead the parade through the village to the beer tent in an idyllic setting on the shore of the lake for the ‘Breaking of the Barrel’ ceremony. This kicks off the 4 day festival where a packed beer tent is entertained with a mix of modern and traditional music from local Wind bands, Alpine horns and more recently, Cathays Brass.
We had a great time meeting the locals and were overwhelmed by the warm welcome we received from everyone. This was a fantastic occasion which involved indulging in lots of ‘socialising,’ singing and in true Beer Festival style, lots of table top dancing. The trip was a tremendous success and we were delighted to get a return invite for the following year for more of the same.
In 2018 it was our turn to return the favour as we had the honour of welcoming them back to Cardiff. The tour kicked off with a joint concert in Stuttgart Gardens in Bute Park where the band were formally welcomed by the Honorary Consul for Germany in Wales – Helga Rother Simmons. After an entertaining concert basking in the heat of an unusually sunny Welsh summer afternoon, it was time for some re-hydration and BBQ at the home of band member Chris Murray who kindly opened his home up to 40 thirsty Germans. Once we had all squeezed into the back garden we (along with half of Riverside) were entertained by members of both bands who took turns to play some traditional German folk music long into the evening. Not to be out done it was then time for a ‘Sing-off’ and a chance to explain how singing sad Welsh songs in a minor key is how the Welsh traditionally like to enjoy themselves…
The next day it was the Germans chance to shine as they took to the stage in Roald Dahl Plas to entertain the crowds of the National Eisteddfod. During their week long stay, the Germans also performed at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, a formal reception for the Deputy Lord Mayor and also a stint on Barry Island.
If Barry Island wasn’t enough to ensure that they had the full Welsh experience, we also held a traditional Welsh Twmpath with the Uisge Contra Band . This was a fantastic evening with everyone joining in with great enthusiasm… possibly in part, due to their earlier visit to the Penderyn Distillery!
A Twmpath for those who have never been to one, is a traditional Welsh folk dance where the caller will call out moves and the dancers will effortlessly weave in and out of each other in time to the music with all the grace and precision of a well-honed machine. Unfortunately however, left and right are not arbitrary concepts, so on this occasion it was not a classic display of Teutonic Vorchsprung Durch Technik.
There were many highlights to their tour; the Eisteddod, the Twmpath, the BBQ and not least their first introduction to Pimms, but it was clearly evident that they left the city with a very positive impression and that we had further cemented the strong bonds between the two bands and the two cities.
2019 sees the 5th anniversary of our relationship and we are very excited to be returning to meet all our friends in Hofen. Our relationship with Musikverein Hofen Stuttgart is something we are all very proud to be a part of and are grateful to able to do our bit to promote the longstanding relationship between Wales and Germany. In these turbulent political times it is really important to remember that despite our differences, real or imagined, there is still more that unites us than what divides us. Through our twining relationship we have all built strong friendships which are sure to continue long into the future. We hope that the Cardiff-Stuttgart relationship continues to go from strength to strength so that future generations will be able to enjoy the same opportunities we have had.