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Prelude to Germany

Photo courtesy of rick stewart/rickers photography Many of these "Amazing" Worthington City Band members, shown here in this photo taken at the end of the summer 2010 band season, will be among the 42 persons who will comprise the band traveling to Crailsheim, Germany, next week.

WORTHINGTON -- Passports and Euros are in hand, instruments are tuned up and bags are nearly packed as 42 members of the "Amazing" Worthington City Band -- plus 22 other Worthington representatives -- prepare to fly next Monday to Crailsheim, Germany, for a week filled with concerts, cultural experiences and a bit of sight-seeing.

But first, the band will offer local citizens the chance to hear excerpts from its Germany concert program tonight, as members cap off the 2011 summer season with one last 7:30 p.m. performance in the historic Chautauqua Park band shell.

"We will present tonight's concert as if we were in Crailsheim," explained Jon Loy, director of the municipal band. "Our program will include the 'Crailsheimer Festmarsch,' 'Silent Night,' 'Praise to the Lord' and more.

"The Great Plains String Quartet will offer intermission music, and Gordon Moore and David Etzel will share emcee duties, just as they all will in Crailsheim," listed Loy.

Loy is particularly excited to premiere "American Worth," a piece the "Amazing" Worthington City Band commissioned this year from regionally renowned composer Jeremy Hegg.

"The composer will be present, and the number includes glimpses of American favorites such as 'Yankee Doodle,' 'This Land is Your Land,' 'My Country 'tis of Thee' and 'Blowin' in the Wind,'" Loy said.

In addition, 2010-11 Crailsheim exchange student Etzel will offer a few words of farewell, while Kayli Kuhl -- Worthington's representative to Crailsheim for the coming year, and a city band saxophonist herself -- will bid the crowd auf wiedersehen before her year-long adventure begins.

"This is the 64th year of the sister city partnership between Worthington and Crailsheim, and I've heard so much about the sister city relationship that it will be fun to experience it firsthand," Loy said.

"The last time our band traveled to Crailsheim was in 1994, and it's nice to renew this musical friendship and partnership," continued Loy, adding that the trip was prompted by an invitation from Crailsheim mayor Rudolf Michl. "The band members are excited and will be outfitted in black polo shirts that have a special logo depicting the bond between the two cities."

Kris Besel, the band's first clarinetist and a Worthington High School teacher who has led groups of students on international travel programs annually over the past decade, was the primary Worthington trip coordinator for the band. Her Crailsheim counterparts were Carola Schnabl and Franz Kasimir, who oversaw the placement of the Worthington group into Crailsheim host homes.

"Crailsheim has been incredibly good," said Besel, who has put many hours into arrangements on the U.S. side herself. "The city has been gracious and welcoming to us -- and that's even before we get there.

"I know those traveling are pretty excited, and having been there with the band in 1994, I can't wait for everyone to experience the Crailsheim hospitality."

John Nordell, first chair French horn player in the "Amazing" Worthington city band, has also been involved with Worthington-Crailsheim International Inc. since his son, Todd, spent the 2004-05 year there.

"From a historical standpoint, the partnership started in 1947 as a way to channel some material aid from Worthington to the citizens of Crailsheim, but it soon became an exchange of people and friendships -- that's the lasting thing," Nordell said.

"People are much more precious than materials things, and it's the annual exchange of students and the friendships they form that really pulls the communities together," he added. "The cultural exchanges, like the band going to Crailsheim, are an outgrowth of the student exchanges that have been going on for decades."

Indeed, several former Crailsheim exchange students are among the band's host families.

While the group will be centered in Crailsheim for the bulk of its visit, side trips to Rothenberg, Munich and the famous castle Neuschwanstein are planned.

But of course, the music is at the core of it all, and Worthington's musicians will begin making their mark in Crailsheim next Wednesday when the Great Plains String Quartet -- also part of the entourage -- will give an evening concert, with the Worthington Brass (all of whose members are also playing in the larger band) serving as intermission entertainment.

On Saturday, the "Amazing" Worthington City Band is to perform a full concert in Crailsheim's Johanneskirche, which was completed in 1440 and escaped Allied bombs during World War II.

"Karen Skog will join the band on the church's organ for a few numbers at the Johanneskirche," shared Loy, and the Great Plains String Quartet will take its turn as intermission entertainment.

On Sunday, the Worthington band is part of Crailsheim's Cultural Weekend musical lineup at an outdoor concert.

During a welcome reception coordinated by the city of Crailsheim, Loy and Nordell will present Crailsheim officials with an official proclamation from Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh, as well as with a hand-carved wooden sculpture (crafted by artist Jeff Hegwer) inspired by Worthington's Windsurfing Regatta.

"We're also giving their city band an 'Amazing' Worthington City Band banner, as their band gave us a banner on their visit here in 2008 that we display at each Chautauqua Park concert," shared Loy.

Loy noted that the band is grateful for the community's support in this somewhat shortened hometown summer band season; many cookbooks (sold to supplement the band's travel expenses) have been purchased, and crowds have been enthusiastic.

Expressed Loy, "We've had a lot of good response from our audiences this summer, and we look forward to playing many favorites here again for everyone next summer."

The "Amazing" Worthington City Band performs its final Worthington concert of the 2011 summer season tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Chautauqua Park band shell. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be held at First United Methodist Church, 408 11th St., Worthington; notice of the alternate location, if necessary, will be made after 5:30 p.m. on KWOA and US 104 radio stations.