history of the bbsa western cape branch until 2001

Two score and ten years ago the delegates from the Eastern Cape laid the Psalm 150 verse 3 foundation of the Broederkerk Blaserbond at a Clarkson meeting on 22 July 1951. The Western Cape representatives confirmed the groundwork at Lansdowne on 6 August 1951. Since those historic gatherings our musically-minded members have blown enormous happiness and hope into the hearts of both South African and European listeners.

Old habits die hard

After the inaugural brass festivals held at Salem and Lansdowne respectively everybody thought that the establishment of the Union would be spared the initial growing pains. In fact, during the first fifteen years the existing bands went back to the old helter-skelter routine which was in fashion before 1951. The slow progress was largely due to a number of glaring factors:

Our bands consisted primarily of grown-up, male persons utilizing instruments which needed urgent repair. For example, besides the stained and tarnished cornets, flugelhorns, baritones, euphoniums and trombones packed disorderly in inadequate cupboards within the church buildings, the average player was not concerned about the dented shanks, slides and bells or some of the parts being permanently stuck. Missing fingerpads on the valves, worn-out springs, ill-functioning water keys or unsuitable mouthpieces were not that important.

Band leaders received no training or guidance regarding the finer element of warming up, breathing, sound production, instrument maintenance and ensemble playing.

There were no music books available for our church bands. The existing ones were the chorale books and church choir pieces which had to be transposed because we still used the military fingering. Some bands had sheet music from the Liverpool as well as the Boosey and Hawkes Brass Band journals and also booklets compiled by Wright and Rounds.

The annual contributions by members were negligible and totally insufficient.
For every brass festival or performance the poor secretary had to prepare music sheets for the different instrument voices. The continental fingering was still a mystery.

We had two distinct branches but no viable regions and therefore brass bands operated halfheartedly in isolation.

On looking back it would appear that the chief executive officer preferred to go it alone when planning. In addition there was that constant battle against an undercurrent of envy and prejudice.

Getting out of the rut

Breaking away from isolation, hesitation, opposition to change and stagnation needed some doing. The distress call came from the church authorities during a Synod at Goedverwacht in 1966 to the chairperson regarding transformation and exposure to trends n the European continent.

Rev. R.I. Balie then approached br. C. Owen Marshall of the Athlone Brass Band, br. Cornelius Liedeman of the Cape Peninsula Brass Band, brs. Matthys van der Heyden, F. Lionel Abrahams and Josias Joemath to assist him in resolving the wind instrument dilemma. These gentlemen were chosen particularly for their hands-on experience in organizing brass competitions and performances whether in church or public halls or just entertaining music lovers in the parks and gardens as well as at the swimming baths and beach fronts in the Cape Town municipal surroundings.

In the two oceans neighbourhood we had bands like Maitland, Moravian Hill, Matroosfontein (formerly CPBB) and Steenberg. Some were situated beyond Sir Lowry’s Pass in the Overberg namely, Elim, Genadendal, Groenland and Karwyderskraal. The others could be reached down the N7 to the Swartland, namely, Mamre, Modderrivier and Pella. Moving further down the west coast Wittewater, Gendendberg, Moutonsvallei and Goedverwacht were putting their hands to the plough. All these bands rallied as best as they could trying hard to follow the guidelines laid down by the inspired executive committee.

A new lease of life

The arrival of Rev. Karl Schiefer at Genadendal unintentionally failing to observe a traditional barrier by training young boys in 1970, the terrible wind at our very first joint Gelvandale festival in 1971 and the maiden voyage of the Dettingern Brass Band in 1974 bringing along the Posaunenklänge books and new instruments contributed to a significant change in the BBSA corridors. At the soggy City Park brass festival in 1974 the incessant rain and the conductor’s pain were not in vain because we carried on with our refrain until we removed the stumbling-blocks in 1975 was another year of excitement ending with a leadership seminar attended by Stellenbosch Prof. Reino Ottermann, the CT organist Ulrich Sachse and the Salvation Army trumpeter Ranie Strydom amongst others at Oak Valley followed by a successful brass festival at the same venue in 1977. Back in 1976 the dynamic Werner Benz and his professional team of instrumentalists from Biedefeld brought a breath of fresh air into our dusty attics.

Then in 1981 Horst Wilm from the Gnadauer Brass Union not only visited our shores but also composed our BBSA march. When Hans-Jürgen Lange from Hannover set foot on our doorstep in 1986 we did not realize that his short visit would be the start of a productive partnership relationship. In April 1987 our Union took a calculated risk by organizing a missionary tour to Germany to attend the 90th anniversary celebrations of the YMCA-Dettingen Brass Band.

All these exceptional highlights, singled out from a host of heart-warming events, coupled with the emergence of Atlantis, Belhar, Bellville, Bonteheuwel, Clanwilliam, Elsies River, Hanover Park, Herrnhut, Kraaifontein, Lansdowne, Manenberg, Bellville-Middle Street, Mitchells Plain, Wupperthal and Wynberg, together with their broad-minded bandmasters and upbeat bandmistresses, have driven our Union into an organizational force to be reckoned with. We are tenderly hoping that Bridgetown will reconsider their discords, their lost chords and their minor chords and return harmoniously to the BBSA clipboards and well-organized wards.

We have reason to rejoice

Today we are indeed proud and overjoyed to be associated with brass band movements in Bamberg, Bielefeld, Botswana, Dettingen-Erms, Gauteng, Hannover, Kurhessen-Waldeck, KwaZulu-Natal, Thüringen and Zeist. We dare not exclude our constantly-concerned co-workers namely, BRIMRASA, MBUSA, MJUSA, MKUSA, MSUSA and MVUSA. In addition we are decidedly linked to the music departments at UCT, US and PE as well as the Cape Philharmonic orchestra.

Quite a few members have proved themselves in the Navy, the Defence Force and SAPS bands. Unquestionably, we are affectionately affiliated to our church authorities, our ministers, our congregations and especially our forward-looking parents who respond to our need for beginners. Naturally, there is a noticeable, working relationship with our home-grown and overseas composers. Obviously, we must not forget our instrument manufacturers, suppliers and our service providers.

In celebrating our fiftieth anniversary and showcasting our artistic talent we all have but one important duty and that is, as Bishop George Heinrich Loskiel proclaimed in Laudate 710 verse 4, to magnify only the glory of the holy, meek, unspotted LAMB.


Annual Brass Festival Programmes
Annual WP Secretarial Reports
Brochures w.r.t 25th and 40th anniversaries
Krüger B. & Schaberg P.W.: The Pear Tree Bears Fruit
Letters to the WP secretary, Br. Tys v/d Heyden
Minutes of meetings (WP and GE)
Reports on interviews with chairpersons/brass custodians of other brass band movements

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history of the bbsa western cape branch until 2001