The Kikvorschen were born, when in 1927 the city authorities of ‘s-Hertogenbosch took the peculiar decision to forbid the making of street music during carnival. A long tradition of celebrating Carnival in an overt Burgundian way came under siege, evoking the rage of many. Amongst them were some inhabitants of the neighbourhood ‘de Pijp’, who decided to protest in a playful way, that did justice to the authorities as well as to the traditions of street carnival
On the memorable day of 11-11-1927 these humorous ‘Bosschenaren’ under the guardian eye of ‘ Mother Truus’ initiated a ‘schertsfanfare’ – fake fanfare – using wood sawn fake instruments and ‘mirliton’ reed pipe children’s whistles.
So, on Carnival Sunday of 1928, dressed as local farmers in their best suits, they were bidden farewell by their very own Moeder Truus of ‘t Pumpke and cheerfully got on their way to greet Prince Carnival. Before they could even leave ‘de Pijp’, though, the fanfare was halted and taken to the police station. When they arrived there, the chief of police had to conclude that the instruments were fake and that the law was not infringed, forcing him to release the band to the streets… “De Kikvorschen” were born. In 1928 the council decree was further adjusted in such a manner that neither real nor fake instruments were allowed in the streets, that is to say: by people on foot. So the band members, being inventive as they were, decided to go by bike.
The mocking rebellion against the local governance even made it to the national press, which in fact was quite beneficiary to the Kikvorschen. After that, the band with all their wit and humour, was invited everywhere, including events far beyond the marshes of Oeteldonk. It was their determination and jest that got them elected in 1930 as the ‘Court Orchestra of the Amadeiro Dynasty’ by His Royal Highness Prince Amadeiro XVI of Oeteldonk, for eternity.
In the forties the band was expanded to a fanfare orchestra, including real brass and copper instruments with a complete drum section.
Who are “the Kikvorschen”?
Comical Folkloristic Brass Band De Kikvorschen is their official name. Usually they are just called “De Kikvorschen”.
Comical because of the fun we have together but also because of the many moments, during our performances, that we can offer others some musical joy. There are many examples of the typical “Kikvorsch” humour although not always immediately understood by everybody.
Folkloristisc because of the authentic costumes we wear. These date from the period around 1900. They were worn on Sundays by the farmers in the “Meierij”, an area near ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Our “Kikvorsch” ladies, although they are not members of the brass band, also wear the traditional costumes from that period, complete with starched snow-white bonnets.
Brass Band refers to the cast of instruments. Wood and brass wind instruments have been part of the standard cast since the establishment in 1927. Furthermore, mirliton s (reed pipes) attached to homemade wood instruments, have been part of the brass band right from the start. And so the brass band is also the oldest mirliton band in the Benelux.
Kikvorschen refers as name of the brass band to the enormous involvement with the unique carnival domain that goes back to 1882: Oeteldonk. (the name for ‘s-Hertogenbosch during carnival). Oetel refers to the many frogs that used to live in the marshy surroundings of the town, a donk is a higher spot within the marshes.
Due to its musical and especially its humoresque contributions, the brass band may even call itself “Royal band of the Amadeiros”. Since 1930 appointed for life the band acquits itself arou nd the 11th of November an during carnival in grand style of its musical task for the (carnival) Princes and the people of Oeteldonk.
What do “the Kikvorschen “do?
Music They enjoy making music together and have a real good time doing it. The sound of the “Kikvorschen”is, due to the unchanged cast ever since the beginning, still unique. During Carnival they play music written by well-known local composers and throughout the year there is music by famous Dutch an international artists on the programme. Their one and only aim is to have a good time together and with the people hosting them.
Original country dances from the end of the 19th century are standard on the programme of festivities. At many festivities the “Kikvorschen” (together with their ladies) dance the original dances, which used to be customary at celebrations in good old Brabant in those days. Pure one hundred percent folklore!
Brandy, the favourite drink of the “Kikvorschen”. As soon as a new musician becomes a member of the brass band he swears off water! During this “Kupke wassen” as it is called, all musicians sing the “Kikvorsch”song and the new member swears off water for ever more. Besides the brandy however, Heineken beer brewed for the export in the capital of Brabant, is a favourite an much consumed beverage too.
Traditions: indispensable for the “Kikvorschen”. For example ther are no female musicians. The “Kikvorsch” ladies however are often present at performances. Another special tradition is the rule that the director may not be able to read notes and the number of playing musicians can not be more than 28. The latter is because a bottle of brandy contains not more than 28 drams. Furthermore the “Kikvorschen” only perform in their tradionla costumes. Special persons are decorated by the “Kikvorschen” with a “Kikvorsch ” tie and so they become members of the club of the “Dassendragers” (wearers of the “Kikvorsch”tie).
Traveling runs in the “Kikvorsch’s” blood. The “Kikvorschen” move, just like their namesakes the frogs, all over the world. Kikvorsch is an old-fashioned name for kikker, the Dutch word for frog. Germany, France, Ireland and Israel are just some of the countries they have visited. Also crossing the Atlantic is no problem. Canada has already been visited and in 2006 they went to China. A “Kikvorsch” feels comfortable wherever he is and in his native country, as well as in far away places, he leaves a visiting card behind with the typical sense of humour and culture of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Brabant.
Some of the national en international Kikvorschen performances:
- 2013 several performances in Hotel “der Brabander” in Winterberg (Germany)
- 2012 Heineken Regatta St Maarten
- 2010 Wereld Expo Shanghai for an impression of this trip www.inturnet.nl/kikkers
- Regular performances in Hagenau and Saumur and various wine festivals
- September 2006: various perfomances in China
- a Concert with Duke Ellington in the Kurhaus at Scheveningen
- a Concert with the Brabant Orchestra
- Several performances to the Royal Family
- a Concert to the start of the Tour the France Prologue
- a Performance at the Berliner Woche
- a Performance at the Paris 2000 celebration
- a spontaneous Concert at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
- a Performance at the Flower Corso of San Remo
- Several performances in Ireland during Saint-Patrick Day
- An eleven Day Tour through Canada
- An Israel Tour including a 60.000 people concert in Tel Aviv
De Kikvorschen and Oeteldonks Carnival
Ever since the Kikvorschen were elected as the Court Fanfare in 1930, the band has played a very important role in protocol in the Oeteldonk Carnival, the name of the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in these days of festivity. During six successive days, the band is constantly on musical duty. They will escort his Royal Highness to all the Oeteldonk venues and official receptions.
The first highlight in this busy schedule is the official welcome reception on Carnival Sunday of His Royal Highness by singing the Royal Hymne, followed by the Grand Parade through the city amidst many thousands comically dressed up participants and spectators.
On the market square the Prince will reveal the huge statue, the symbol of carnival of in the person of ‘Boer Knillis’ – the paper made puppet in traditional regional farmer clothes. Then Royal Highness will voice His speech in the Open Court, followed by an ear caressing and spectacular ‘acte de presence’ of the Kikvorschen. On the following Monday Prince Carnival is musically accompanied during the Big Parade through the historic city.
On Mardi Grass-Tuesday the reception of Prince Amadeiro in the Royal Court Brewery will take place, followed by the escorting of HRH to the heart warming Children’s Parade out on the streets. On Tuesday evening the band receives the Prince in its own house at the foot of the Cathedral, which culminates in His deeply felt farewell of His court orchestra.
During the rest of the year the Kikvorschen are quite active as well for the ‘Oeteldonkse Club’ and they accompany the Council of Ministers to festivities, either within or outside of Oeteldonk, as well as to a variety of international events and festivals.