Lovers of brass-band music gather in Central Bohemia

Kmoch Kolin Brass Band Festival, photo:

One of the possibilities for such a low voter turnout at the European Parliament Elections over the weekend may have been due to competing events. The 2004 International Brass Band Music Festival drew many to the Central Bohemian town of Kolin. Kay Grigar was there.

Frantisek Kmoch was a musician and composer who played a key role in the development of the March and the Polka. Ten years after his death in 1922, the town of Kolin decided to honour the man who so greatly contributed to their culture with a three day festival each June. Forty-two years later, the Kmoch Kolin Brass Band Festival has become an international event.

Brass-band music, or "Dechovka" as it is known here, has been a common feature of Czech life for well over a century. Franitsek Kmoch became band leader for the Sokol sport organization of Kolin when he was only 20 years old. When the Sokols held a gymnastic convention in Prague in 1873, his band had an important part in the opening ceremonies. By the early 1900s, almost every town and village in Bohemia and Moravia had its own brass band, and Dechovka flourished and remained a part of Czech culture.

Leading up to World War I it had close ties with the Sokol movement and other Czech nationalist groups. Brass-bands later became even more popular with the communist elite who made regular use of them during May Day parades and other socialist celebrations.

This year's brass band festival fell on the weekend of European Parliament elections - an entirely new political backdrop.

hich in recent history demonstrated national unity and patriotism, were performed by orchestras from all corners of Europe. I myself went to Charles Square in Kolin and was dazzled by the costumes and skills of the local baton twirlers. The Kmoch Kolin International Brass Orchestra Festival is certainly an event displaying rich musical artistry and deep historical roots.