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Goodbye, Vietnam

All Good Things…

Band photograph at the British International School, Ho Chi Minh

All good things must come to an end and our Vietnam tour is no exception. Although it’s emotional having to say farewell to my new friends, I’m still buzzing from all the experiences we have shared together. Before I wrap up the final part of this blog, I would like to share our recent school visits and concerts.


Thursday saw the Desford band continue its educational programme at the International School Ho Chi Minh City American Academy. It transpired the school did not have a brass band but rather a concert band featuring brass instruments and instruments from other families. But even some of the brass instruments were perhaps unusual or unfamiliar to our audience. For example, concert bands have French Horns (in the key of F) rather than the brass band equivalent of Tenor Horns (in the key of E flat). And you wouldn’t find an Eb Soprano in a concert band. Again, the band performed several miniature concerts to numerous groups enabling them to listen to that brass band sound, as well as a few individuals demonstrating their own instruments. Some of the students were even brave enough to conduct the band.

Jurassic Park – Desford Colliery Band
Vietnam 2019
Disney Fantasy – Desford Colliery Band
Vietnam 2019

After a delicious lunch, a number of band members worked with students at the school, mainly as small groups but some individually. Our group, for instance, focused on what is a good sound and how we go about achieving it. And because we were a small group, we also explored how to play well as an ensemble. Other areas such as articulation and dynamics were discussed. Bearing all this in mind, we looked at two pieces of music. I was particularly amazed at their sight-reading skills. Well done to all the students. Just keep practicing and enjoy making music together!


Friday marked the final day of performances and demonstrations. On this occasion, our bus took us to the British International School, the same place we had our rehearsal on Tuesday. The school has several campuses and the morning focused on the early years. Children as young as two were listening to us and trying out some instruments. They were extremely enthusiastic and I loved the reaction on their faces the very moment we played our first note. The second group we worked with were slightly older. A huge shout out to our conductor Leigh Baker who was absolutely superb with the children. Bravo, sir! Now it was time to walk across to the secondary campus.

The British International school accommodates young people from a range of ages. Again, the band performed a concert to hundreds of young people. Though, at the secondary campus, we also had the pleasure of rehearsing and performing with the choir. Our joint performance included a selection of music from The Lion King and A Whole New World from Aladdin. What a superb way to conclude our tour here in Vietnam and demonstrated what music is all about. A special mention to Ian Alexander for treating the band like royalty and allowing us to demonstrate and educate the young people of Vietnam.

Lion King – Desford Colliery Band and the British International School Choir
Vietnam 2019

Knowing this Friday would be the final chance to mingle with the band, I made a special effort to try and do just that. Shortly after arriving back at the hotel, the whole band made its way (with instruments) to the pool on the 10th floor! The brilliant Andrew Pippin hosted a hilarious Awards evening. And to cap things off, we snapped a lovely band picture, too.

Band group pic in the pool!
Vietnam 2019

Today, was rather a long day, and even though my stomach was full of beer, it required another kind of nourishment. Nobby, Andrew and I headed over to the Japanese BBQ restaurant but soon made our way to a nearby bar to gather with the rest of the band. Brass bands are quite notorious when it comes to drinking, and so that evening was well… a blur to say the least. But I do remember the important moments.

Saturday – A chance to explore a little

Saturday morning and I was busy tidying my room, checking all nuts and crannies over and over again (yes I’m OCD) to ensure I didn’t leave anything behind! Rob and Steph were very kind to let me join them and explore the city. Walking around Ho Chi Minh and you can’t escape the unmistakable sounds of mopeds and beeping of horns! So I was delighted when we turned left and headed towards a temple. Next on the agenda was the Bitexco Financial Tower. Vietnam is developing extremely quickly and even comparing the current landscape with ones from several years ago on the computer screen was mind-boggling. No doubt parts of the city will be completely transformed by the time I will visit again. My stomach was churning once more and so sampled some market food at Ben Thanh market. It is amazing how delicious the food is given how little space they have to prepare and cook. And the sugar cane drink. Best thing I have ever tasted. OMG! Anyway, moving on! Ben Thanh market also allowed me to purchase a few mementos and gifts for loved ones. The time was flying by and was conscious England was playing South Africa in the final. Nobby was already at the bar, so I had to make haste and join him! Besides, the band had earlier flights than mine and made sure to visit them in the hotel before their merry way to the airport.

Beef noodle with Soy Sauce – Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City
Sugar cane drink – Yummy!

Final thoughts

Where do I even begin? I’ve met some amazing people over the past week. They have welcomed me with open arms. Musically speaking, I’ve been left speechless. If I had to pick a moment, I would say Star Wars and the amazing trombones (have to keep them sweet!) and Kevin Crockford (Soprano) and Kirsty Abbots (Principal cornet) playing Pie Jesu. But the band and all soloists were simply astonishing. And we ought to say a huge thank you to Desford’s chairman, Peter Smith who has spent almost a whole year organising and making this tour possible and making it such a success. Thank you.

Pie Jesu – Kevin Crockford and Kirsty Abbots with the Desford Colliery Band
Vietnam 2019

Each and every school embraced music in such a positive way and created energy which completely blew me away. The students were extremely enthusiastic and talented. I have no doubt they will develop into wonderful musicians. Recalling my childhood, it was extremely inspiring to see and hear music in my school and hopefully, we have inspired some young people in Vietnam.

Safe journey, everyone. It’s been a blast. Considering all the beer and erm.. steak, it is time to get on the treadmill and lose some weight! On a serious note, however, I cannot stress enough the benefits music can bring to every one of us. It creates memories and experiences you’ll never forget and I’d even go further and say the Vietnam tour was life-affirming. I’d love to join you Desford if the opportunity comes around again. Tạm biệt! Andrew xxx

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