Harmony in Republika Srpska

Capt. Benoit Guilloux
First published in
SFOR Informer#144, August 1, 2002

Forty musicians of The Band of the Welsh Guards recently toured Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Divided into two groups, they visited four kindergartens in the town of Banja Luka on July 10. Later in the day, they marched through the streets of the city and performed a concert on the grounds of the Turkish castle that was transmitted on Republika Srpska television. The band is the youngest of the state bands in the United Kingdom and was formed along with its regiment during World War I (1915).

Banja Luka - Major Philip Shannon, director of music, led one of the two groups to Tijane Nursery School where approximately 25 children, along with their teacher, had a private performance presented to them. Due to the young age of their audience, the band played a few tunes from Star Wars and Star Trek. The children were a bit cautious at first, but then had a go at some of the instruments.
Music is a mutual language
Some neighbours stopped by after hearing these tunes being played. Among them, Radenko Prole, borrowed a trumpet from one of the trumpeters and started playing a local tune. "It is a Serb national and religious song composed by the famous composer Goran Bregovic. In the West you know him through his sound tracks for film director Emir Kusturica. This tune is the anthem of the Red Star football club but it fits the Brits as it is called 'St.George'. I am a displaced person over here, and 15 years ago I used to play with the Fire Brigade Brass Orchestra of Gornji Vakuf,” said Prole.
Guardsman Michael Jones 11* escorting the band bus along with his platoon comrades said: "It is good publicity. It worked well with the kids." Music brings people together and the band visiting Banja Luka illustrates the progress made and the ongoing normalisation.
Orchestra of soldiers
At the second school named Kolibri, the group performed again for approximately 40 kids from age one to six years. Nurse Radmila Bikic was delighted: "This presentation was beautiful. The kids have music lessons but they never have the opportunity to listen to direct live music. They realize it is an orchestra of soldiers." Master teacher, Mira Garvanovic, added: "The kids have already seen it on TV. Look at their smiles. "
Later in the day, the whole band marched through the town including the crowded pedestrian street in the town center. The band stopped in front of the town hall where the mayor thanked them. People followed the band through the streets and along the avenues. Lance-Sgt. Norman Hunter plays percussion. He said: "I think we have hardly ever performed in such warm temperatures." It is true that the parade woolen red tunics and their bear skin hats are more likely to be worn around Hyde Park in London.
City castle performance
Finally, the band performed a night concert in the city castle. The performance was well attended and the audience gave a standing ovation to the British. The standards of the mythical Beatles were very much appreciated as well as an Irish tune. During the performance, a choir of Welshmen and women joined in on some traditional Welsh songs. Last but not least, the band played their regimental march, incidentally the shortest in the British army to the amazement of the spectators.
* There are eleven or more servicemen in the regiment bearing this family name.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK

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Photos: Cpl. Grant Rivalin

Following in the footsteps of the Beatles 'Magical mystery tour'.


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Children from the Kolibri School say goodbye to members of the band who performed for them.


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Students from Tijane Nursery School have a good time with Maj. Philip Shannon as he conducts with the baton.


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Children were happy and proud to wear the bearskin hat.