Wednesday, 19 April 2017

From Saturday 22 April the selected youngsters of the European Youth Brass Band edition 2017 are going to work with an inspiring Belgian musician that knows from own experience how it feels to enter an European stage and knows what impact it has to win an European title. Raf Van Looveren has a lot of experience to share.


Born in Wilrijk (Belgium) in 1979, Raf was five years old when he started to play music as a percussionist in the Academy of Antwerpen. A few years later he began to play cornet in the very successful class of Arthur Vanderhoeft. He continued this study at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven where he finished his bachelor studies - in 2000 for cornet and in 2001 for percussion. After his master for cornet Raf completed his studies with the highest result possible.

Raf was principal cornet with Brassband Willebroek from 1999 till 2009 with whom he won 2 European and 9 Belgian titles. At the moment he is the 1st soloist cornet with the Royal Band of the Belgian Guides, member of the Cosy Brass Quartet. Since 2016 Raf grants assistance tot Sterling Instruments where he has developed his own type of cornet.

In addition to the cornet playing Raf is also active as a conductor.  

Raf Van Looveren - black & white

You have won some European titles yourselve

Yes, I did. In 2004 I became European Soloist Champion in Glasgow. And in 2006 and 2007 we became European Champion with Willebroek. I was principal cornet at that time. In 2006 we played in Belfast ‘Journey into the Centre of the Earth’ (test piece ‘Seascape with High Cliffs’ - Ian Wilson) and a year later in Birmingham we played ‘Music of the Spheres’ by Philip Sparke (test piece ‘Elgar Variations’  by Martin Ellerby).

Knowing Willebroek so well, is it your favorite band at EBBC2017?

Not in terms of winning the title. I expect that Cory will play both test piece and own choice the best. Everywhere they go, they win. It’s their style of playing that makes the difference.

Are you going to listen to the contest yourself?

We have those moments free time, so yes, you can probably find me as a listener in the hall.

What are your expactations for the week?

I hope that the musicians are good together, that they have the time of their lifes. And that they connect and therefore are willing to work together. I am experienced to work with youth – I have youth orchestra’s myself. But I also think it is very exciting for me getting to work with all those fanatic musicians that I never met before, trying to motivate total strangers in a language that isn’t my own. So, I also will be challenged myself as well during this week. Luckily we all understand the universal language that is called music. I really hope that the level of playing is good and that we are able to make progress during the week - that we really improve together.

What do you want to convey to the young brass players as a 'seasoned pro'?

... Erm, you make me sound very old now. I am only 38 you know … ;))
I would like to give them the feeling how it is to play in a ‘real’ brassband. I am planning to work on sound, the way we do this in Belgium: trying to copy the English band sound – at least try to get as close as possible to get that sound. My expectation is to start as an ensemble with talented boys and girls who come from different counties bringing their own different style. My goal is to create a homogeneous sound that would be as close as possible to the original English band.

Can you tell us something about the programme? Is it influenced by Belgian composers? Or were you completely free to put it together yourself?

I had total carte blanche regarding the programme. The only desire was to program a contest piece. I decided to go for Sparke's 'Tallis Variations'. (This piece is skipped from the programme during the rehearsal week). Being able to choose the music yourself is nice and makes it more comfortable for me as well. When you pick the music yourself you already have some kind of a connection with it and it therefore makes it easier to transfer my enthusiasm to the musicians. I must say that I have deliberately chosen to put some Belgian composers on the playlist. We play an opener composed by Jan Van der Roost. And also a piece by Simon Van Hoecke. They both are fantastic composers! Simon wrote a piece for the amazing Belgian trumpet soloist Jeroen Berwaerts (1975). We accompany him during the Gala Concert on Saturday 29 April.

Just the other day Jeroen had the idea of making a special solo composition that connected the location of Oostende, lying in front of the water, using a traditional song “Al Die Willen Te Kaap'ren Varen”. And he deposited that idea on Simon’s composer desk. You will hear the result on the Gala Concert.

We play some serious music but we also have entertainment, for instance a sand artist Colette Dedyn. An intriguing combination.This really will be something special! Overall: I’m sure there is something to enjoy for everybody.

But first you have to put together ‘your’ band

Yes, on Saturday 22 April we have to devide the seats. Everybody was asked to play a short piece that I sent them and they also have to bring a piece themselves. I am very curious about the overall level and I hope that I have a very difficult task to pick the principal players.


I am very much looking forward to meeting all these young, enthusiastic brass players. Can’t wait to start our week together!


Oostende - EBBC 2017 black and white


EYBB performances:

Tuesday 25 April     20.00   concert EYBB  Mariekerke 
Wednesday 26 April      17.30 concert EYBB CC Perron Ieper       
  20.00-20.30                Last Post Ceremony       Menepoort Ieper        
Thursday 27 April 20.30 Final European Conductors Competition        De Grote Post
Friday 28 April
Opening Ceremony (by invite only)  
Saturday 29 April 20.30 Gala Concert Kursaal 
Sunday 30 April 15.30 Farewell Concert Kursaal
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