an overview of the moravian brass band movement in south africa
Apart from the church choir and the congregational hymn singing the brass band forms an integral part of our church music. This old Moravian tradition which started in Herrnhut Germany way back in 1734 was introduced to South African congregations with the dedication of the Genadendal Training School on 12th September 1838. Bishop Hallbeck and especially Rev. B. Marx played a great part in fostering the music talents of the newcomers. They had to perform in public primarily at the consecration of churches and schools where their brass sounds made a distinctive impression upon the listeners. On completion of their training they moved to other institutions where brass bands were duly established.

Accordingly Rev. R.D. Rasmus founded the Maitland Moravian brass band when he was called to Maitland as a minister in 1907. At church festivals held on the mission stations the brass band in particular was a powerful attraction.

Thirty years after the seed was planted at Genadendal another brass group was started in the Tzitzikamma region, not far from Port Elizabeth. In 1867 the Clarkson congregation received six brass instruments from brother G. Liliendahl in Neudietendorf. There was great joy when they played "Silent Night" on the church plain for the first time on Christmas Eve 1867. Once again Rev. B. Marx’s contribution was noteworthy.

Under the oak trees on the Genadendal church plain the brass instrumentalists usually formed a semicircle and performed heart-warming hymns of praise in order to welcome the visitors attending the solemn occasions. On New Year’s Day, the Queen’s birthday and other festive days the band members gathered on the adjoining hill at the crack of dawn to render the songs of praise so that the townspeople could rise and shine in a merry mood. The march to the graveyard on Easter Sunday morning without the brass band was unthinkable.

It was absolutely necessary for the administrators of brass groups to organize and present public performances to raise funds for growth and development. In Genadendal an artistic monument was erected in memory of the soldiers killed in action during the First World War. This accomplishment came about after Rev. H. Ulster had inspired the Genadendal brass band members to partake in several fund-raising efforts.

With the emergence of numerous brass groups a strong feeling of closer cooperation resulted in the establishment of the Moravian Brass Band Union in 1951. The main objective shall be to promote brass band music in our congregations to such an extent so as to accede to the Biblical instruction found in Psalm 150 verse 3: "Praise Him with Trumpets." Furthermore the Union shall consist of two distinct branches: one in the Eastern Cape region and the other in the Western Cape.

Isaac H.T. Balie

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an overview of the moravian brass band movement in south africa