The 2015 International tour was a great success – with the junior band taking Poland by storm.
The band played to crowds of hundreds, forged friendships with a youth folk group, appeared on Polish TV and enjoyed sampling Polish cuisine – including copious amounts of dumplings!
The concerts performed in Krakow's wonderful main square were enjoyed by crowds of several hundred, with many people paying compliments - and asking how on earth the band had managed to travel so far.
One of the highlights of the week-long tour was the chance to team up with the Klimco dancers and musicians in the town of Zakopane in the Tatra mountains. The band played first, then were treated to a display of traditional Highland dancing and music by the Polish youngsters.
This was a rare and wonderful opportunity for the two youth groups to get together and for band members to experience some real Polish culture - even arriving for the concert by horse and carriage.
And the band must have impressed – possibly something to do with their dancing at the after-concert social! - as the group hopes to visit Hebden Bridge in the future, something we would love to see happen.
An international tour once every two years is one of the highlights in the band's calendar and this July 43 players, siblings and parents spent a week in both Zakopane and the beautiful city of Krakow.
The band gave several performances in both places - even appearing on Polish TV with cameras filming in Krakow's main market square due to the Pope's forthcoming visit there exactly a year to the day.
Other highlights included visits to the Auschwitz concentration camp - a sobering excursion but one most band members chose to make - as well as to Krakow's Jewish quarter, the beautiful Wawel castle, and the historic Wieliczka Salt Mine, stretching for a total of 300 kilometers underground and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There were days out to the Tatralandia Aquapark, across the border in Slovakia, and rafting down the spectacular Dunajec Gorge.
Possibly the most surreal, but memorable concerts of all was one in the rural village of Sidzina - birthplace of the late grandmother of trombonist Jack Holmes. Elderly relatives still living in the village were amazed but also very touched to find a whole brass band in their farmyard giving a concert for just three people ..... and a cow!
But members saw the real Poland and they heard about the day the Nazis invaded the village, and took away many people into forced labour and all in all, the tour was not only great fun but also very educational.
The tour was subsidised thanks to various fund-raising efforts by band members themselves and also by grants from Hebden Bridge Town Council, Hebden Bridge Rotary Club and the Bearder Foundation to whom we say a big ‘thank you’.
Thanks also to Zakopane tour guide Barbara Gasienica-Jozkowy from Altius travel for her invaluable help in making the tour such fun and ensuring we all want to return to Zakopane!