2011 Field Band Foundation National Championships Report

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The Field Band Foundations (SA) organized it’s national championships on Friday October 7th and Saturday 8th. Two Vlamo (Vlaamse Amateurmuziekorganisatie www.vlamo.be) representatives were part of the judging team (Best Show Design and Creative Excellence). By their presence at this great event, Vlamo has reinforced their believe into international cohesion between musicians in foreign countries. The championships were held in the Wanderers cricket Stadium in Johannesburg. During the event, contacts with representatives of the Norwegian Music Federation (NMF), the Fredkorpset (FK), the European Brass Band Association (EBBA), the Blue Devils drum and bugle corps (US) and the Flemish delegation in South Africa were established.

What is a Field Band?

The Field Band Foundation was founded in 1997 at the impulse of several South African entrepreneurs. Since the end of apartheid the countries has faced upon increased criminality and high unemployment rates. Four to six million people are living in townships where there is a huge lack of education. Moreover youth organizations are quasi non-existing in these areas and young people are daily exposed to criminality. Additionally, the high rate of HIV+ invades in the lives of many people. To conquer these, among other aspects, the Field Band Foundation offers youth development programs that use music and dance as catalyst. Field Bands have marching band formats but they add a typical flavor of African culture and identity, which is unique in the world.

Plett Pioneers Field Band, Photo By Geert Vanmaeckelberghe

The Field Band Foundation today

The FBF has evolved to a mature and well structured organization that currently reaches 4500 youngsters in 106 townships around South Africa. There is a huge demand for setting up new Field Bands and this year three bands were founded in unexplored regions: Emalahleni Dordrecht, Danielskuil Noordkaap and Thabazimbi Limpopo. More than 2800 rehearsals are organized and 65 HIV and life skill programs are set up each year. The huge expansion of the organization cannot survive on a long term if the project is not supported and carried by its own members. In 2010 the FBF has taken therefore taken a strategic decision to found the Field Band Academy. The institute offers a two-year accredited program for (future) tutors of the Field Bands and focuses on life skills, leadership, music and artistic choreography (show design). During the past years Vlamo has contributed to this unique ‘teach the teacher’ project by the provision of facilitators for show design, color guard and marching percussion courses. The ‘teach the teacher’ concept is of prior importance to enhance the knowledge to all youngster in the Field Bands. This exchange program was made possible by a substantial subsidiary of the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Black Like Me Soweto Fieldband, Photo By Geert Vanmaeckelberghe

National Championships

Nine Field Bands have performed in First Division on Friday. This division is the introduction class for starting or young bands. The Thabazimbi Field Band had the honor to start this competition day. This band did only received the instruments two months ago(!) but they immediately set the tone by bringing an impressive show at high level (Can you imagine a European band doing this?). Emalahleni Field Band from Dordrecht (Indwe, SA!), dressed out in black and orange, brought a unique production called ‘Heaven’. Also for this Field Band, it is clear that the marching percussion sections have made big improvements. While loud and continuous playing was the standard in the past, most bands play dynamically and in balance with the brass. The drum solo’s now show also more variation and control. Did the specific marching percussion course at the Field Band Academy contributed to this? The Black Like Me Soweto Field Band was the clear winner of this First Division competition.

At the Premier Division on Saturday, the Cape Whaler Field Band from Stellenbosh showed an original staging and their performance came up to our expectations: nice choreography, fluent transitions, good staging and balance. Again, this first band set the high stand of the day. Generally, a good progression was heard from the music quality in all bands. Multiple bands projected nice pieces of music, well in balance and well supported from the percussion. The repertoires and arrangements were well-considered and varied: well done arrangers! Some bands also put a lot of efforts to focus on the typical African-style front ensembles with wood marimbas, steel drums and djembees and this turns a field band into an unique African show band. It is remarkable that some Field Bands also choose to use colorful flags. And, honestly they show up very well since it increases the visual impact of the show. Moreover a flag is integrated in the logo of the Field Band Foundation. It seems that the previous input from a Vlamo expert on the use of flags pays off. The Beers PCC Kimberley Field Band received the color guard award and ended up second in this Premier Division. The show of the Black Like Me Mdantsane Field Band simply can be summarized as follows: high musical level, uniform marching, good time and fluent transitions, commitment, entertainment and showmanship, or in short: a 2011 winners’ show!

De Beers Musina Fieldband, Photo By Geert Vanmaeckelberghe

Wine on oak barrels

Last year the Field Band Foundation was actively involved in the opening and closing ceremony of the FIFA World Championships and no National FBF Championships were organized, so we did not know what to expect from the qualities of the shows. Would the lack of competition negatively affect these? On the contrary! Supported by the intense courses at the Field Band Academy, the Field Bands have gone through a two-year’s ripening process (like grape juice does not turn into a real wine if it has not gone through a ripening process).

This is a first proof that the Field Band Academy is of utmost importance for the expansion and consolidation of the FBF (five regions are currently awaiting the founding of new Field Bands).

On the occasion of the FBF National Championships, the 10-year’s exchange program between the Norwegian FK (Fredskorpset), Norwegian Music Federation (NMF) and Field Band Foundation was celebrated. This Norwegian partnership focuses on musical exchange and enrichment of life experiences in general. The FBF would never have been evolved in the mature organization it is nowadays without this support. Both parties profit from the exchange program since South African musicians and bands also live and visit Norway. During our visit in South Africa, both board members and FBA students strongly requested on a continuation of our support/exchange program because the courses on show design and marching percussion are a complementary and necessary part of the education program in the FBA. The Field Band Foundation is an open and well structure organization that works towards specified targets and an exchange programs offers multiple advantages for both parties. Our tutors come back with an wider vision and are inspired by the African experience and culture and this reflects in their teaching in the Flemish corps and bands. The FBF National Field Band in 2008 performed in several Flemish cities during their tour in 2008 and the local communities involved were highly affected by the spirit of the FBF members (Cape whine is also highly appreciated in our regions..). It is evident that by this cooperation and exchange we are ‘enriched’ as musicians and as human beings. Let us raise the glass and toast to continuation of our collaboration with the Field Band Foundation.

Posted by on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011. Filed under Current News, FrontPage Feature, S.A. Field Band Foundation.