Hitchin Band and the French Connection
On Friday 20 October, Hitchin Band travelled to Nuits St Georges, Hitchin's twin town in the wine growing
region of eastern France. The purpose of the long weekend was to help celebrate the Municipal Nuits St Georges band's
190th anniversary as well as 30 years of the twinning of Hitchin and Nuits.
Most of the band flew from Luton to Geneva and then on by coach through the picturesque French countryside
while the instruments went overland by van driven by two of the band members.
Arriving in Nuits St Georges in the late evening, the band members did not delay in going into the town
centre to sample the local French food and drink - although half the band ended up with Pizza!
Saturday morning saw the band visit the Morin Père et Fils wine cellars in Nuits, where after a tour of
the cellars, a wine tasting was undertaken. This proved to be an eye-opening experience to many who learnt about the subtle
differences between wines made in the same area as well as the way the different grapes can be combined together.
The area is best known for its red wines but also makes white wines and a very flavoursome cognac.
Explanations were given about the storage of wine including the humidity and temperature needed for them.
Following a leisurely lunch (French meals are always leisurely!) in various restaurants and cafes around
the town centre, the band met back up for a rehearsal. On the way to the rehearsal we went to see the Hitchin Oak
which was a present to Nuits St Georges from Hitchin on the 20th anniversary of the twinning.
After the rehearsal we were taken by our hosts to visit the world famous Château du Clos Vougeot.
Here, a tour of the premises included seeing wine presses which were set by hand as well as learning about the Brotherhood
of Knights of Wine-Tasting Cups who were set up in 1934 to promote the regions wine and who own the Château.
The Saturday concert took place in the evening at Maison de Nuits Saint Georges.
The concert was a joint one between the Big Band of Nuits St Georges, a jazz group made up of some very talented players
from the Municipal band.
Hitchin Band then took to the stage with a completely different style of music. The
French audience loved it! The band played a wide selection of music including the overture Light Cavalry, Best of Bond,
Let's face the Music & Dance, the cornet trio Buglers Holiday (played by Dinah Prince, David Stevens and Katie Hill)
and the euphonium duet Deep Inside the Sacred Temple (played by Keith Birch and Sarah Henderson).
Having also played My Way (a version written in the style Elvis Presley sang it!), the band finished the evening with a
very upbeat and foot tapping version of Toccata & Fugue in D Minor. The audience would not let the band leave without
an encore - Kalinka.
Following the performance, the band was presented with a selection of local wine from the deputy mayor.
The bands then met back up at the Nuit's band room for a social get together and more food and drink! This
time, the wine was supplied by one of the band members who own's a vineyard (handy that!)
Sunday saw the band up relatively early to play at a local craft fair entertaining the stall holders and
visitors with a mainly different set of music to Saturday including Breezin' Down Broadway, Farandole, Gymnopedie No 1
and finishing off with Pastime with Good Company.
Having been thanked by the Mayor of Nuits St Georges for visiting and providing much entertainment, the
band was taken to lunch by our hosts in a local restaurant. With the weekend's playing over, an excellent meal together
with more wine (again from the French "band" vineyard) was time for everyone to let their hair down a little and enjoy
mixing. The afternoon also included learning why the bands are in fact bands and not choirs with the singing of songs
from each country! The evening moved on to a local hostelry which served an appropriate beer called Brass Band.
Not only was this a visit to cement the relationships between the towns, but also to allow new friendships
to be made between the bands. Although Hitchin Band has visited Nuits some 15 to 20 years ago, the membership has changed
completely in that time. This was an exceptionally worthwhile trip which we hope will be the start of a lasting
relationship between the bands. In addition, we hope that our visit will encourage others from Hitchin and beyond to visit
this very enjoyable and friendly part of France.
We hope that the Nuits band will be able to come across to Hitchin in 2007 and that these exchanges will
now become regular ones. Now all we have to do is find someone who owns a brewery so we can treat them to beer in the same
way they treated us to wine!
Photo's of our trip can be found in the photo gallery (opens in new window)