From 9-22 August 2016, the Jugendorchester Havixbeck went on a concert tour to Singapore and Malaysia. Introduced by their international name “Havixbeck Youth Symphonic Wind Band”, the 58-piece orchestra gave 7 concerts and took the audiences by storm.
Guest article by Dr Martina Timmermann, DtMG (Deutsch-Malaysische Gesellschaft)
During their tour entitled “Fantasia”, the orchestra which had just recently defended its title as the best Youth Wind Band in the prestigious German national orchestra competition wanted to meet young peers in Singapore and Malaysia, jam together and build sustainable intercultural bridges. The young German musicians (aged 14-25 years) aimed to set significant signs for tolerance and mutual cultural understanding. This, in fact, was almost the same wording used by our DtMG founding fathers and written in the statutes of our society. It was therefore no question for the DtMG e.V. to come on board as mentor and co-sponsor in support of such dedicated and committed young musicians.
The project began months before the actual tour with many fundraising activities and organisational work in Germany, Singapore and in Malaysia.
The Goethe Institute had agreed to co-fund the tour, but according to the rules the rest had to be fundraised by the youth. Their personal efforts were truly impressive, ranging from playing at street concerts to selling at flea markets, gardening via rent-a-musician, convincing companies to contribute some funding, and a final running event with sponsors paying for each lap the students had run.
Briefly before the group’s take-off for Singapore, the Malaysian Embassy in Berlin made a remarkable effort of support by sending Minister Counsellor Shazila bin Osman to Havixbeck to meet the young musicians. Even more, she started the final fundraising run, followed by a visit to the town hall for a meeting with Mayor Klaus Gromoeller and the signing of the Golden Book of Havixbeck.
The musicians started their tour on the 9th of August in Singapore, National Day. With substantial support from the Singaporean Ambassador in Berlin Jai Sohan and his staff, the group was invited the following day to participate in some communal festivities and then give a concert on Sentosa Island. A full day in the sun with no hats demanded its toll, and the following day, already, the tour to and through Malaysia began.
Fantasia in Malaysia started on 12. August with joint workshops and a concert with the Penang Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. During the busy time of the ongoing Georgetown Festival in Penang, a unique venue was found: the Hin Bus Depot. As one of the Havixbeck musicians commented: A cool location. The host of that first day in Malaysia was Chairwoman of the PPO, Datin Irene Yeap, who later on confided how deeply impressed she was by the musical quality but dumbfounded by the astounding self-organization, discipline and mutual support the young German musicians demonstrated. What an opportunity for the Malaysian youth in the PPO to learn from their German peers also in that respect, and another good reason to think of joining a Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra return visit to Germany in 2017.
On the next day, Honorary Consul Dato’ Hans Brenner and Mrs Petra Mueller, Vice President of the Malaysian-German Society (MGS), invited the Havixbeck group for a barbeque at the MGS compound. This offered also an excellent opportunity for the DtMG e.V. and the MGS to strengthen their ties again. The Havixbeck tour for building bridges thus also gave some very positive stimuli along its side lines.
The following day, Fantasia proceeded to the Westlake School in Kampar where the Havixbeck Wind Band received an overwhelming welcome. On the 15th, the German young musicians worked all day in special workshops with many interested music students from all over Perak. Their final concert in the evening of that same day was sold out. According to the organisers in Westlake, 2200 seats had been sold causing the young German musicians to once “feel like a star”.
On the 18th, the band was welcomed at the Deutsche Schule (German School) in Kuala Lumpur. In a workshop-like presentation, music conductor Marc Lange explained the instruments to the students of the German School. The new director of the German School Dr Mayer and his staff, the director of the Goethe Institute KL Rolf Stehle as well as several representatives from the German embassy were impressed by this pedagogical approach and excited about the quality of the performance.
In the evening, the orchestra headed towards the Petronas Hall where the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (MPYO) was waiting for a joint jamming session. This certainly remarkable opportunity had been made possible by Dato’ Seri Ooi Chean See who in her early career had not only been a founder but also a long time conductor of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Petronas Filharmonik Hall with its superb acoustic and outstanding young musicians from Malaysia, as well as the following joint performance, was overwhelming. The widely shared wish to make this collaboration sustainable and jointly work on a return visit of the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra to North Rhine-Westphalia in 2017 found its most visible expression when DtMG member Heidi Braemswig handed the “Beethoven Coin” from Bonn to the head of MPYO Ahmad Muriz Che Rose.
On the following day, the 19th, the hard working musicians were expected at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) by Dato’ Johari Salleh, an iconic figure in the musical landscape of Malaysia. He welcomed the Germans with a Malaysian show that served like an energy infusion. Dato’ Salleh provided them with a piece he had exclusively written for this event. And after an all day workshop, the day finished with a concert in front of 1100 audience.
20th August had the final concert of the Jugendorchester Havixbeck at another unique venue, the Tropicana Golf Resort. The Havixbeck representatives had offered to play one concert in appreciation of their sponsors and their invited guests. The event was generously hosted by the German Ambassador Holger Michael and his wife Hillary, together with the Honorary Consul General in Hamburg, Datuk Edgar E. Nordmann and his wife Datin Zai Ali Nordmann.
The concert and the following dinner reception proved to be a grand finale with style and emotions. The big surprise was the appearance of Dato’ Johari Salleh who got on stage and performed the Malaysian piece he had written and practised only one day before with the German Symphonic Youth Wind Band. The piece was wonderful—causing tears in the eyes of several distinguished Malaysian guests. Once again, the Youth Band from Havixbeck was successfully reaching out and building bridges via music; Germany could not have had any better cultural ambassadors and public diplomats.