Twin towns: what’s that about then?


The London Borough of Bromley, where I live, has been twinned with a place called Neuwied in Germany for 25 years. That fact has been displayed on all road entrances into the Borough for years  I’d always paid it little heed, thinking that it was the Conservative’s equivalent of a Nuclear Free Zone. Remember those?

I’d thought that town twinning was just a way of councillors blagging foreign holidays for themselves on the pretext of fostering cultural exchanges. Rueil Malmaison, just outside central Paris, where we lived for two years was twinned with no fewer than 13 towns around the world from Austria to Japan. I’m willing to bet that they have no shortage of Rueillois volunteers for serious fact-finding missions to Kitzbühl or Bukhara.

But Neuwied? I’d wondered about it from time to time but never really given it much thought. But this year is the anniversary of the twinning initiative and there are EVENTS. The BYMT adult choir is planning to to sing The Messiah in two joint concerts with a choir from the Neuwied area both here and there next spring. It seems presumptuous because I’ve only just joined the choir, but I think I might go along on the trip to the Rhineland next May.

Last night a village band from Heimbach-Weis, a suburb with less than a tenth of the population of Beckenham, performed in a concert in Beckenham’s St. Barnabas Church with our own Beckenham Concert Band. I went along to the concert – my husband plays trumpet – thinking that I might hear some Beethoven numbers from natives of his birthplace. Perhaps the Ode to Joy that has become the European Anthem? In fact, the German Band played a program of innocuous light music from Abba to Eric Clapton, with a lovely flugelhorn solo in Rodrigo’s Concerto D’Aranjuez. The Beckenham Band then did their bit including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and featuring the trumpet section in a thrilling, if slightly frantic, version of Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday. They finished the concert with a joint performance of Chorale and Rockout by Ted Huggens. I got the feeling that both bands had raised their game for the benefit of the other with a most enjoyable result.

So there really was a cultural exchange going on. And apparently, European bands play A at 442 Hz, as opposed to the UK norm of 440Hz. Sharp, then.


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