Once every four years, World Music Contest (WMC) Kerkrade is organized as an international festival of wind music that promotes and cultivates the international wind music scene.

In the 18th edition of the contest this year, WMC 2017 takes place between 6 to 30 July, and will see approximately 260 participating bands from over 30 different countries.

The Band Post speaks to Harrie Reumkens, Artistic Manager, for more information about this contest.

Apart from organising competitions for bands and ensembles around the world, what other goals does WMC seek to achieve?

From its start in 1951, WMC looked to bind the world of amateur music under Friedrich von Schiller’s motto”Alle Menschen werden Brüder..”(van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony). It also tried to help the band world to improve its quality by introducing best practices from the world of professional music; by developing the quality of the conductor as well as of the individual musician, and by improving the repertoire for bands.

Marching & Show Contests

Competition is one of the most common ways of achieving this, and therefore it is understandable that WMC puts competitions for amateur musicians (and later of band conductors; chamber wind ensembles; soloists etc.) at the heart of its activities. The contest is still the core of the festival, but there is a myriad of other activities as well. The concerts, in which amateur meets professional, are still an important part of the festival programme.

WMC also has other activities, such as the Young Generation-project, in which youth bands from all over the world meet to exchange their (band) culture and repertoire, and the Round Table Conference, which covers on important contemporary problems of the sector. There is also the Conductors course and competition, which aims for the improvement of the band conductor, and the Biennial for Chamber Winds, which underlines the development of a whole new world of exciting music, that could be part of every band’s programme.

WMC Kerkrade is involved with many of the major international organisations in wind music, such as WASBE; WAMSB; ABA; and the Midwest Band Clinic. To this day, WMC has played a leading role in many initiatives to improve the band scene worldwide.

Can you tell us about the new format for the Harmony and Fanfare Concert Divisions starting this year?

WMC has four divisions of contests for bands (Concert, 1st, 2nd and 3rd) across two sections ‘Harmony’ and ‘Fanfare’. Starting 2017, there will no longer be a test piece for the Concert divisions. There is no change for the rest of the divisions.

The main reason for changing contest formats lies in recent developments and scientific insights about the way audiences look at music, about the way our brain works, and the way music have an influence on us.

In recent years, we have been able to establish that under the influence of media such as film, television and the internet, many more components are becoming part of the concert practice than music alone.

More than just a classical ‘listening’ concert

As the Netherlands research shows, in 2015, the number of concerts with ‘extras’ such as literature, art, video art and film was for the first time larger than that of classical ‘listening’ concerts. During the previous contests in the Concert divisions, WMC was able to notice the same development. Since WMC Kerkrade is expected to provide new impulses for the sector, we decided to use the experimental Concert Division to introduce a number of novelties.

Among these, are a new assignment for participating bands to present the audience and jury with a total concert showcase of their own making, of which they will carry full artistic responsibility. In this concept, a test piece does not quite fit, since this would be appointed by WMC and would influence the choice of programme substantially.

Another major change concerns the jury system. Recent scientific research shows the restrictions of the human mind where judgement is concerned. Even absolute experts in fields like music are far less capable to judge, without the influence of things happening around them.

For example, in the situation of a band contest, around 40 million bits of information are fired at us per second. A human being, despite how well trained, is only able to absorb a maximum of 40 to 50 bits per second, leaving the obvious conclusion that one million people watching and listening to the same performance can legitimately claim to each have experienced different things.

No one person ever experiences anything in exactly the same way as another, science tells us. This means that we need to adjust our way of looking at jury contests as soon as possible, so as not to lose contact with the real world, and thus with our audiences and our young generation.

As an experiment, the adjudicating panel for the Concert Division will consist of five recognized specialists from different fields in music:

  • Specialized band conductor, Eugene Corporon (USA)
  • Orchestral conductor with experience in wind music, Ed Spanjaard (The Netherlands)
  • Composer, Jan Van der Roost (Belgium)
  • Soloist, Steven Mead (UK)
  • Music dramatic specialist, soprano singer and former director of Opera Zuid, Miranda van Kralingen (The Netherlands)

New Concept in Concert Division Contests

These five will each adjudicate the full package of the concert performance, but of course from its own perspective. Together they represent largely the main aspects of a musical performance, thus insuring a contemporary judgment of the concert. Furthermore, WMC would like to involve the audience in having a direct say, by the way of introducing an audience prize.

Some music magazines suggested, that WMC is seeking for the X-Factor, and maybe they are right in saying that. People are no longer interested in the technical perfection of a performance alone. Passion, musical tension and the way a performance is able to move the audience are as important!

After the WMC this year, we will evaluate these innovations with the main parties involved, and decide if this model should also have an influence for the regular contest divisions.

How do you feel about having more foreign bands (especially from Asia) coming to WMC?

WMC Kerkrade considers this to be a great asset, as it is the successful result of many efforts in the past years to reach as many people around the world as possible. It improves the connectivity of WMC to no end!

And yes, we will continue to reach out to wind bands around the world to come and join us in this unique stage for wind music, and for us to show that music is able to bind the world’s nations in peace!

For more information about WMC 2017, visit their website here

Participating groups from Singapore:
Singapore Wind Symphony Percussion Ensemble (Percussion / World – 21 July)
Musart Youth Wind Orchestra (Harmony 3 – 16 July)
National University of Singapore Wind Symphony (Harmony 2 – 23 July)

Other Asian participating groups:
– Guangzhou Small Sailboat Childrens Orchestral Band / Hangzhou No.4 High School Symphonic Winds
Hong Kong – Hong Kong Young Musicians’ Wind Orchestra / The Hong Kong Symphonic Winds / Ying Wa College Band / Ying Wa Primary School Symphonic Band
Malaysia – Seri Puteri Symphonic Winds
Thailand – Kasetsart University Percussion Ensemble / Saint Gabriel Percussion Ensemble / Orchestra Wind and Kasetsart University Wind Symphony / Suranaree Wiitaya Wind Symphony

We wish all participating groups the best of luck.


Written By Editor

A contributing editor at TBP.