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According to written data the first coal miners' brass band in Trbovlje (Slovenia) had been founded before the year 1872, when a Vienna bank company bought the coal pits in Trbovlje and founded the Trbovlje coal mining company which establish the Trbovlje coal mine. In 1891 Mr. Herman, a member of the band, founded the second coal miners' band and led it for one year. After his death the leadership was taken over by brothers Oto and Ernest Puncer. The band played at different public events and miners' manifestations. After a miners' strike in 1903 the band was dissolved. In the same year the administration of the Trbovlje coal mine founded a Wardens' band, which worked under the auspices of the Trbovlje warden and workers' society. From 1903 to 1918, the bandmaster was Franc Pavlic, who hired some of the best musicians by promising them good jobs in the mine.
fter the dissolvement of the Miners' band in 1903 and the foundation of the Wardens' band, the miners and other workers decided to start their own brass band. The initiators and founders were Ivan Mlakar and Vencelj Rinaldo. The Trbovlje workers' band was founded in 1903 with the support of a cooperative society which also bought new instruments for the band; at the time, this consisted of twenty members. The first bandmaster was Gasper Turnsek, who was assisted by Simon Grahar from Zagorje, a musician and teacher of the majority of bandsmen of his generation. Turnsek was succeded for one year by Alojz Draksler. Later bandmasters were Ivan Kerca, Mr. Korndorfer and an entrepreuneur Mr. Kacnik. In 1911 the band was taken over by Stanko Kolenc, who was its master until 1914, when he was enlisted into the army. During that time the band mainly played at workers' and miners' manifestations and celebrations but as far as we know, it did not have any concerts on their own. From 1914 to 1917 the Trbovlje workers' band stagnated, since many of the bandsmen were enlisted into the Austrian army including the bandmaster. A small ensemble (10 to 12 musicians) was held together by a 13-year old clarinet player, Tone Hudarin, who was to become a long-time successful conductor of the Trbovlje workers' band. In 1917 Stanko Kolenc returned from the army and took over the band for one year until the bandmaster became the miner Alojz Draksler who conducted the band of 24 musicians until his death in 1927. During his time the band participated in different miners' and workers' manifestations, such as the miners' day called Barbara, May 1st in Mrzlica, miners' meetings and other public events of local character. Draksler did not want his band to play only marches, so he started preparing concert programmes as well. After his death, the leadership of the band was taken over by the clarinet player Tone Hudarin, who continued his predecessor's work by carefully and seriously preparing concert music. At the same time he educated new musicians, wrote music for individual instruments, bought new instruments and took care of the band's presentation. The band used to have annual concerts where they played new and increasingly demanding pieces of music. In addition, the bandsmen gave six promenade concerts in miners' settlements, as well as in upper Trbovlje. The band also played at funerals for deceased miners. There was hardly an event (public, national or even religious) that the Trbovlje workers' band would miss. They played at meetings of Svoboda clubs in Maribor, Celje and Ljubljana. During the 1935 crisis, the band played for two weeks at the Ljubljana Grand Fair, where they made their first recordings for Radio Ljubljana. To satisfy different music demands in the period between the two world wars, the Trbovlje workers' band founded a number of small ensembles, such as the Sramel ensemble, and salon and string orchestras. Under the leadership of the young and promising bandmaster Hudarin, the artistic path of the 40-member band went uphill until the occupation in 1941.
Due to revolutionary ideas of some of its members, the Trbovlje workers' band faced a lot of troubles under the occupation regime. In 1943 a number of bandsmen joined the partisans and the band was left with only 18 members, who in September 1944 also joined the Liberation Army. Thirty-five bandsmen participated in the fights against the occupation forces. Members of the workers', as well as other bands from Trbovlje, founded a band from the staff of the 4th Operational zone in the liberated area of the Upper Savinja valley. The band played at meetings, celebrations and other events which were going on in the liberated territory. Before the offensive in December 1944, the band was dissolved and the musicians were sent to different units. The musical instruments were hidden in a church sepulchre at Gornji grad to be used after the liberation. But the Germans found and confiscated them. Fourteen bandsmen from the Trbovlje workers' band died in the liberation war. In May 1945, immediately after the end of the World War II, the band started rehearsing. The bandmaster was still Tone Hudarin. The miners trade union helped the band to get new instruments. The band also had a lot of trouble replacing the destroyed or lost music notes. The Sloga railway band from Ljubljana helped them a lot. After the war there were many liberation celebrations and the Trbovlje workers' band was always there. The bandsmen also participated in post-war reconstruction actions, either as workers or as musicians. In addition to all that, they started to educate a new generation of bandsmen and, in a few years' time, the Trbovlje workers' band developed into the best amateur brass orchestra in Slovenia as well as in Yugoslavia. At the end of the 40's, the Trbovlje workers' band had between 40 and 45 members and the number did not change for the next thirty years.
At a Slovene competition of brass orchestras in January 1949 in Celje, the Trbovlje workers' band was chosen to participate in the Yugoslav brass competition in Belgrade. January 25, 1950, was a day to remember: the Trbovlje workers' band and its conductor, Tone Hudarin, won the first prize. In autumn 1952, they went on tour to Austrian Corinthia and, with a concert in Klagenfurt, proved the high quality of their musical performance. The following years were very successful. In April 1955 they played at the Yugoslav festival of miners' clubs in Kreka and won the first prize again. At the festival of amateur bands in 1958 in Ohrid, they were given primacy in the competition of brass orchestras. After their performance the composer Blaz Arnic was thrilled and cried: "Guys, this sound, this is a symphonic sound!"
n autumn 1957, when the well-known and successful Trbovlje dance band ceased to exist, the Trbovlje workers' band founded a big band orchestra whose conductor was Mihael Gunzek. Its members were mainly bandsmen from the Trbovlje workers' band, who had previously played in the Trbovlje dance band. The orchestra was complete: four saxophones, five trumpets, four trombones, etc.. The big band played on the New Year's Eve in 1957 in Trbovlje for hundreds of enthusiastic dancers. It soon became one of the best amateur big band orchestras in the country. This was confirmed at the Yugoslav competition of brass bands and big band orchestras, which took place from July 13 - 19, 1958 in Ohrid, and where the big band won the first prize. Afterwards they played in Senovo, Krmelj, Hrastnik, Maribor, Zagorje, Ljubljana, Trieste and other places. The big band was dissolved at the end of 1962 because many of its musicians found jobs in professional orchestras in Ljubljana. Between the years 1956 and 1958 many musicians played in the Trbovlje symphony orchestra, whose conductor was Albin Weingerl, the headmaster of the Trbovlje music school. The orchestra's greatest affirmation was a concert held on December 1, 1956, when they played at the opening of a new Workers' Cultural Centre in Trbovlje. Although the orchestra was dissolved at the end of 1958, its musicians continued to play in different instrumental groups which only gathered when they were needed. They played at concerts, operettas and operas organized by Joze Skrinar.
After winning the first prize at the Yugoslav brass competition in Belgrade in 1950 and a successful tour in Austria in 1952, the band wanted to buy new instruments and to establish a youth band within the Trbovlje workers' band. Due to its popularity, many young men wanted to join it, so the idea to form a youth band which would be a good school for future bandsmen, was born. The youth band was established in 1953 and was led by the conductor Andrej Tavsic with the assistance of Franc Medvesek, a bandsman in the Trbovlje workers' band. After a year of rehearsals, the youth band had their first concert. They played in Ljubljana, Celje, Maribor, Koper, Jesenice and Belgrade. In June 1955 they went on tour to France and played in towns where Slovene expatriots lived. These were very impressed and expressed their gratitude to the young musicians for the joy they had brought from their country. In 1958, when the youth band achieved a high quality of playing and its members reached the appropriate age, they joined the senior workers' band.
fter many years of successful artistic leadership and due to illness Tone Hudarin resigned in 1963. This ended an important period in the artistic, musical and organizational development of the band. It was a period when the band built and equipped their premises, bought new musical instruments, the bandsmen got new uniforms and the orchestra was refreshed with young and enthusiastic musicians. This was an ideal starting point for new achievements. Tone Hudarin was succeded by Mihael Gunzek, his pupil. He was educated at home and abroad and became Professor at the Ljubljana Academy of Music. He took over the leadership of the band with a lot of enthusiasm, expertise and skill. During his artistic leadership a younger generation of musicians joined the orchestra, since the old bandsmen stopped playing. Many young musicians came from the Trbovlje music school. The band had its own permanent training and provided grants for its members to continue their musical studies abroad. In the early 80's the band had eighty members and started to accept women musicians as well. The orchestra was a young one - in 1983 the average age was 29 years. The large number of musicians and the new Yamaha and Selmer musical instruments which guaranteed technical and acoustic perfection demanded a new programme. Already under the leadership of Draksler and Hudarin the band did not play only marches, reveilles and promenade concerts. With Gunzek, however, they started to perform modern and more demanding pieces which guaranteed the success. The band was more and more successful and reached its peak in 1974 at the world competition of brass orchestras in Kerkrade in the Netherlands, where they won the first prize and the gold medal in the highest competition class. In addition, they were awarded by the US embassy as the best foreign ensemble. The high quality performance and longlasting musical tradition of the Trbovlje workers' band were confirmed at the same festival in the years 1978 and 1981. Due to a lack of musicians and inappropriate balance between musical instruments, the Trbovlje workers' band could not compete somehow with foreign brass orchestras. However, they compensated for this technical setback by their enthusiastic performance. Enthusiasm proved to be the main advantage of the Trbovlje bandsmen when it came to the judgement of artistic value, even at the world level. It also gained them popularity among audiences, as well as musical experts. The band also participated in different national competitions, toured at home and abroad, recorded for radio and made records. At competitions, they won all the first prizes with the exception of the Slovene competition of brass orchestras in Koper (Capodistria) in 1969, when they were second. The Trbovlje bandsmen were happy and proud of their successes and confirmed them at different occasions.
n 1989 the artisitic leader of the Trbovlje workers' band became Professor Alojz Zupan, who had been the deputy conductor for 25 years. He used to prepare the bandsmen for different concerts and competitions. His rich instrumental knowledge and long experience with orchestral music helped him to push the musical quality of the Trbovlje band to the very summit of musical performance. The Trbovlje workers' band has thus become a model for other Slovene brass orchestras. Some of the most demanding pieces from their concert repertoire have turned the Trbovlje workers' band almost into a symphony orchestra. As such they won first prizes at the national competition in 1991 and at the world competition of brass orchestras in Kerkrade in the Netherlands in 1993. At the Slovene competitions of brass orchestras in Maribor in October 1995, in Krsko in May 2000, and in Trbovlje in May 2003, the Trbovlje workers' band, conducted by Professor Zupan, became the national champion in the concert group. On the basis of extraordinary successes that the orchestra has been achieving in the last decades, the WMC Foundation (Kerkrade, The Netherlands) invited the Trbovlje workers' band to participate at the 14th World Music Contest (WMC 2001) in the prestigious concert division. At this competition, the orchestra performed the most
demanding compositions of A. Comitas, G. Rossini, P. Hindemith and R. Golob and obtained the overall 8th position.
Since 2007 the artistic leader and the conductor of the band has been Professor Joze Kotar, principal clarinet with the Slovene Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and associate professor at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana.
Until 1945 the bandsmen were mainly miners and other employees of the Trbovlje coal mine. From the beginning to the end of World War II, the Trbovlje workers' band was basically a miners' band. With the development of industry and the non-industrial sector, the structure of the band has changed. Today the members of the Trbovlje workers' band are elementary and secondary school pupils, students, workers as well as bandsmen who after their studies got jobs as professional musicians. In addition to the many prizes the band has won, they have also received a number of different awards, such as the June 1 award of the Trbovlje community, the Gallus award, and the Preseren fund award, to mention only a few. Some of the bandsmen who contributed with their expertise to the high quality of the band also received the highest awards (the Preseren award, the Preseren fund award, the Betteto award, the Gallus award, etc.). All the time the Trbovlje workers' band was present at different events from the cultural, economic and public spheres of everyday life. There was hardly any event in Trbovlje that the band would miss. At a number of different performances the Trbovlje bandsmen acquired the highest prizes both of the public and experts. They became the most eminent cultural ambassador of the town of Trbovlje.
The bandsmen invested a lot of efforts, energy, willingness, idealism and love for music in order to achieve these invaluable successes. We spent many hours and days away from our families and our beloved for the sake of our faithfulness to the band. But we were rewarded with a feeling of satisfaction that we gave something beautiful and noble to our grateful and enthusiastic audiences. We sincerely wish that this would continue in the future.
Lenarcic, T., "80 let Delavske godbe Trbovlje: 1903 - 1983", Delavska godba Trbovlje, Trbovlje (1983).
The Trbovlje workers' band archives.