Published on Monday, 11 August 2014 19:11
Written by Bruce Gale
The major event for BBJ in 2014 was the first ever music camp organised by the Salvation Army's North Sumatra division.
The camp, which was held from July 29 to August 3, took place at a Catholic Retreat Centre not far from Berastagi. A highland area located just two and a half hours drive from the sprawling urban chaos of Medan, Berastagi's cool weather was the ideal location for band members to hone their musical skills.
Berastagi is also well-known for its two active volcanoes - Gunung Sibayak and Gunung Sindbung. But neither of them bothered us while we were there.
Thanks to financial support from the Salvation Army's Adelaide Congress Hall band in Australia, about 60 BBJ members from the senior, junior and beginners bands were able to attend, with ages ranging from 13 to 32. Other financial support came from myself and local fund raising efforts.
Also present were BBJ members who had easlier been sent to other parts of the archipelago to help establish Salvation Army brass bands. BBJ tuba player Lasnointer Marbun (Noin), who is studying music at the Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI) while establishing at band at a corps in Jogya, was there. So too were trombone player Seki and tuba player Nando, who are currently training a band in Surabaya, and cornet player Ganda Sinaga, who is helping to form a band in Bekasi, a satellite city of Jakarta.
School band instructor Sarah Butler came from Adelaide, Australia, to help train band members, while Arbie Dale Castro, came from Manila to share his knowledge about choirs and learn more about our brass band instruction methods.
Here is Sarah taking a class:
It was, of course, a music camp rather than an exclusively band camp. Apart from the brass players, there were also about 20 choir members and about 10 others learning to play the timbrel. Fortunately, there were enough practice rooms for everyone to use!
After registration and lunch on Tuesday July 29, all band members sat for a specially prepared theory test, Based on the results, they were divided into three groups for theory lessons. Here is a picture of me watching over things:
There was also a practical test to allocate players to different bands. Initially, we had three bands, but after the first practice it became obvious that we would have to merge the two less accomplished groups of players in order to ensure that they could play something interesting for the concert on the Saturday evening.
Here is a photo of some of the members of the combined beginners band:
That night we held a social gathering to get everyone relaxed and give the teachers time to mark the exam papers.
After that, it was down to business. A total of four hours of practical lessons each morning (with a half-hour break in between) were followed in the afternoon by 90 minutes of music theory. Then there was a period allocated to "other activities". Some camp members prepared special items (guitar, keyboard, vocal solos, etc) for the Saturday concert, while others just took time off.
We also used this period to rehearse three BBJ quintets for their brass examinations with the London-based Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) in early September. Many got individual instruction:
Then, in the evenings, we focussed once again on practical instruction. I was particularly proud of the senior band. After just three days of solid practice they were able to play Barrie Gott's "light Walk". This is an upbeat, swing-style piece that places great demands on the cornet and trombone sections. There are also unexpected musical traps for the tuba and percussion sections.
Here is a BBJ Senior "selfie", with Arbie controlling the camera:
Saturday morning was given over to last minute rehearsals for the concert. In the afternoon, band members also sat for another specially prepared theory exam based on what they had been taught. During the concert that night, the top performing students in each of the three theory classes were given special awards.