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Memory #4 - The First Trip to Europe, by Joe Donahey

posted Jul 22, 2012, 6:55 AM by Largo Gold

How many of you recognize the name Hans Schillings?

How many of you who went to the Netherlands in 1974, remember the very tall and very thin young Dutchman with the mode hairdo, Prince Valiant style down to his collar? He was the young man assigned to us as our English-speaking liaison to the World Music Contest and its operating committee.

For those of you who were on the 1978 trip, you should remember Hans. By this time he had become a friend of the Band of Gold. He had been relentless in his pursuit of the band’s return in 1978. When we went back in 1978, he met us upon our arrival and stayed with us during every waking hour while we were in Kerkrade and environs.

Do you know how I first met Hans? Probably not, let me share with you the story...

Page back to 1974, the Pan Am plane going off the runway delaying the band’s departure from the U.S. and preventing the connection with the “tagalongs” who had proceeded the band on a separate flight. We were supposed to have met in Cologne, Germany for a leisurely tour up the Rhine on our way to the Netherlands. The connection was never made as planned, after a long wait the “tagalongs”took a shortened version of the Rhine cruise with everyone so tired they could barely keep their eyes open. But finally the Band arrived, the connection was made and we proceeded by bus, make that “COACH”to Kerkrade.

Soon after our arrival and while the details of housing and other facilities were being made and everyone was trying to find a place to lay their heads for a much needed nights sleep, someone from the Contest committee delivered our official Contest document along with our instructions and schedule. No one had sufficient awareness about the instructions to pay any particular attention to them when first received, being consumed with fatigue.

The following morning with everyone gathering at Rol Duc Abbey, someone examined the documents with some care; I do not remember whom. This is when it was discovered for the first time that a monumental misunderstanding existed between Mr. Cotter and The World Music Contest Committee. Some of you may not know that the WMC, like most American band contests, is broken down into Divisions.They had a Division for Middle schools and below, another for the secondary school, high school level, and the Open Division reserved for college, university, community, regional and national bands. These were, of course, primarily adult organizations. The Boss had very carefully filled out our application back in the U.S. a year earlier and applied, of course, for entry in the Open Division. Little did we know that when the Contest Committee received our entry, they just naturally assumed, “Silly Americans! They did not understand the application and made a mistake in applying for the Open Division!” They took it upon themselves to amend our application and placed us in and scheduled us for the high school division. The poor representative of the committee who was present at the Abbey (not Hans) struggled with his English and could not understand Mr. Cotter’s dismay.

Most of you who were on that trip will remember Mr. Ken Moore. Ken had an international driver’s license and a rental car and was doing the errand running and coordinating for the organization. Mr. Cotter, after being told by the on site Committee representative, that, well it had been done, the schedules were set and nothing could be changed, terminated the conversation. He turned to Ken Moore and me and said, “ Donahey, go down to the Rol Duc Hall, the Committee Headquarters, and tell those people, that if we are not changed to the Open Division, we are packing up and leaving. We will not compete! There will be no compromise. We did not come all this way to compete against high school bands.” I’m sure I sputtered some dismay, said something about not being able to speak Dutch, he glared at me, turned, strode away, started dealing with other matters and brokered no further conversation. I had my marching orders.

We got into the rental car and moved out. Fortunately, Ken had already reconnoitered the area and knew where the building was located. Down we went. After we arrived, and after receiving several unhelpful directions and instructions, we found the main office of the Contest up on the second floor of the Hall. We talked first to one and then another, and another and then another, who was identified as the headman, the Secretary of the Contest Organization. He first spoke in English, assured me the mistake was ours and not theirs and that we would be most happy with the decision to put us in the Second Division before it was all over. When I insisted that would not be the case and that we simply would not perform and would leave and go home, he apparently decided that we were not communicating and that perhaps his English was not so good after all. He turned and walked away. It seemed to be my day for having people turn their back on me and walk away.

Ken and I just stood there, contemplating our next move. I didn’t have one in mind, and if he did, he did not share it with me. Fortunately, in a few minutes the Secretary returned with this young, six foot seven, thin as a rail gentleman, with a very perplexed look on his face. We were introduced to Hans Schillings for the first time. Hans then became the interpreter for the secretary and me. We went through the discussion several times. They very carefully describing the differences between the various divisions and why we belonged in and should compete in the division they had assigned to us. We kept responding that the application had been understood, we applied for the Open Division because that’s where we wanted to compete and would not compete in any other. While this was going on, we were informed that the Band’s buses had begun to arrive. The Secretary, I believe, interpreted this as a weakening of our position and we adjourned to the parking lot.

When we emerged from the building and started walking toward the buses, Bob stepped out of the first one, fixed his gaze upon us, walked directly over to us in those strides and determination that only he could take, completely ignored everyone but me and asked, “ What did they say?” “Well,” I said, “they say it’s too late. We will have to compete in the division they have assigned us to. Nothing can be done!” He ignored them, and looking only at me, said in a loud voice, “Tell them we are not competing, we’re going home”, and with an abrupt about-face, strode back toward the buses and said in a voice loud enough for them to clearly hear, “Load up the buses. We’re going home.” I looked back at Hans and the Secretary. There was a moment of silence, and then the Secretary spoke, “Alright, alright, we’ll put you in the Open Division. But, you will not win ANY prizes! You will have to explain to all your people back home why you did not win any prizes and you will never come back!” I went to find the Boss and convey the news. He grumbled a little and then shouted out, “Alright, get them off the busses.”

The Band then went into the concert hall and performed and never again was a word spoken about the Band of Gold being anything but Open Class and World Class.

Thanks for the Memory…

Joe ‘Old Yellow Pad’ Donahey