The conductor raises his baton and the musicians in the hall bring their wind instruments to their lips, and moments later, fill the room with sound. This scene plays out weekly when the fanfares, music groups and 'harmonies' come together to rehearse. This is the name given to the brass and music bands that liven up Luxembourg’s villages and towns. It’s impossible to imagine public life without the country’s music associations, whether they are local brass bands, orchestras or choirs. Here, people of all backgrounds meet after work to indulge in their passion: making music. These associations are supported by the Union Grand-Duc Adolphe (UGDA), one of Luxembourg’s oldest federations, which offers many other activities.
An integral part of society
Anyone who attends Luxembourg’s festivals, strolls through public squares in the summer, or plays an instrument themselves will have already noticed: almost every village in Luxembourg is home to a music association. There are often even several of them, some of which have existed for more than 100 years and which still animate village life and inspire a new generation.
These associations are firmly rooted in their communities and are incredibly diverse. Here, office workers meet farmers, teenagers meet pensioners, and many a newcomer has made their first social contacts with the locals. This makes them an important part of the cultural and social fabric of the villages and towns, and makes them a vector for integration in Luxembourg society. Not only do new members always find a warm welcome, but many music and cultural associations of Luxembourg’s international communities also enrich this environment.
The Union Grand-Duc Adolphe (UGDA) has been promoting this enthusiasm for 157 years. As the umbrella organisation of all music associations in the country, it represents more than 12,500 members and almost 300 associations, including brass bands, choirs, folklore and theatre groups.
One of the tasks of the UGDA is to support exchanges between the associations, as well as to facilitate international cooperation and travel. For example, it organises a whole series of training courses, concerts and competitions in a wide variety of fields, and thus actively supports the life of the association.
The UGDA maintains close relations with federations from other countries, which leads to regular exchanges. For example, UGDA music school’s National Youth Wind Orchestra Luxembourg plays concerts every year, including abroad.
More info and concert dates on their Facebook page.
A broad offer for aspiring musicians
Above all, the UGDA offers easy access to music, with a total of 55 music schools spread across Luxembourg. These local institutions are direct route into the world of music for many children, and they also provide an easy entry point for adults who are (re)discovering their love of music. The courses are held locally and are therefore particularly accessible; they are organised in cooperation with the municipalities, which also provide the rooms.
About 6,000 students are currently enrolled in courses, i.e. around 1% of the total population. What makes these courses so successful? Most certainly the easy access and the many competitions and training courses, as well as the quality of the teaching, because all teachers are trained music educators. In addition, many courses take place in close coordination and cooperation with the local clubs – so whoever enrols has many opportunities to actively participate in local club life within a short time.
Did you know?
Residents as well as non-resident workers’ families are entitled to childcare vouchers (Chèques service accueil, CSA) in Luxembourg. The vouchers can be used for a wide range of childcare services, as well as activities in clubs for children aged 0-12, including music schools and UGDA courses.
Preserving the musical heritage
In addition, the UGDA is committed to the preservation of musical heritage: the documentation centre collects, bundles and publishes works by Luxembourg artists and composers in the various musical fields.
However, the musical heritage of the country is lived every day through the associations: they are wherever people come together. This is of course the case at many public and private celebrations, as well as on ceremonial occasions and at smaller festivals. So if you’re strolling through a local market, or on a warm evening in a public square, a band or choir is bound to be brightening up the moment with a musical performance. On national holidays or on important church or social occasions, artistic background music is just as much a part of the occasion.
And of course at the 'Kirmes' fair - a traditional date in every village. Not only do they play at the festival itself, but the brass bands also parade through the villages on weekends, playing music to announce the event and collect donations The same song, the Hämmelsmarsch (mutton march) – a traditional march based on a folk tune – is played over and over again. If the donation is more generous, or the homeowner donate drinks, the waltz T’ass Kiermes am Duerf (It’s fair time in the village), or a flourish is also played to the donor, before the procession continues its way.
These moments unite everyone around a common goal: to give the listeners and spectators a good time and also to have a pleasant moment together themselves as an association.