Exciting and unifying "At the Watergate" festival a great success

The two-hour closing concert of "At the Watergate", the 13th edition of the European Youth Music Festival (EYMF), began at 8.30 pm with the festival theme song, followed by a large selection of well-known pop songs, including 'YMCA' and 'Thriller', as well as hits from the MUZT musicals. "I've got the music in me" was a fitting closing number.


"What a great festival this was," said EMU president Philippe Dalarun in his speech. The European Music School Union (EMU) is the spiritual father of the EYMF. "My compliments to the organization." Dalarun then turned to the thousands of young people and said: "Thanks for all the great concerts, great to see you here while playing and singing, music brings out the best in us!" At the end of the concert, Lieuwe Toren, director of Cultuur Kwartier Sneek and festival director of "At the Watergate", handed over the EYMF torch to Sofia, Bulgaria, which will organize the next edition of the festival.


Festival atmosphere


"At the Watergate", the most international project of "Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018 European Capital of Culture", was concluded in style with its closing ceremony. There was a true festival atmosphere the whole week long in Sneek. After the regional talent was heard from Monday to Wednesday at the  "Open the Gate" pre-festival, "At the Watergate" was launched on Wednesday evening with a swinging opening concert near the Waterpoort. Afterwards,  it was time for the guests from Spain, Italy, Finland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Poland, Sweden and the other European countries to show their talents.


Thursday and Friday were busy from 11 am to 11 pm at the stages in the city center of Sneek - including locations of Patyna's elderly care organization - and at the satellite stages in Bolsward, IJlst, Workum, Sandfirden / Westhem, Makkum, Woudsend, Heeg and Koudum. The organization estimates that 55,000 people visited the festival in Sneek.


There was a lot of classical music on the program, but pop, jazz, folk and other music genres and dance were well represented among the 200 groups. With the perfect festival weather, a mix of orchestras, choir ensembles, big bands and other groups performed. Music sounded on every street corner; from a choir in traditional embroidered Czech costumes to a symphony orchestra with dozens of musicians in their formal suits. Each group performed several times, in Sneek and on a satellite stage. They were transported to the locations by bus.


The variety in the programming made "At the Watergate" surprising and refreshing. The groups could count on an enthusiastic introduction by beautifully dressed announcers, all students of MUZT Musical Training Program from Sneek. The talents of the young musicians were rewarded with applause from the audience, many of whom even allowed themselves to be seduced into a dance.


In addition to the many concerts, young people spontaneously made music everywhere such as in parks, on terraces, in shops and even at FoodPlaza, the former cattle market of Sneek where breakfast, lunch and dinner were served (17,000 meals a day)…even during the trips in the municipality that were made between the performances. Also for schools De Diken, csg Bogerman,

RSG Magister Alvinus and RSG Malta - which were transformed into hostels for the occasion - music served as a universal language and provided a pleasant atmosphere. This led to groups from different countries giving spontaneous performances as well as regularly helping each other with performances,  by lending instruments for example.


A catalyst for music education


Cultuur Kwartier Sneek and Rabobank, one of the main sponsors, are convinced that "At the Watergate" will be a catalyst for the cultural experience in the municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân and that is will increase the focus on music within mainstream education. As a stimulus, an instrument fund has been created which can be used by schools. It might even be possible that "At the Watergate" will get a small-scale follow-up every year: a festival or competition for children who receive music lessons at school. On Wednesday prior to "At the Watergate", a declaration of intent was signed during a conference of the EMU in Theater Sneek by prominent people in cultural education in Friesland to promote the program "Méér Muziek in de Klas" with all kinds of initiatives to stimulate music education at school.


Lieuwe Toren (festival director): "During ‘At the Watergate‘ we saw a beautiful cross-section of European music-making and heard that the level is indeed incredibly high. The preparation was a huge logistical operation and my compliments to everyone who helped. I am very proud of what we have achieved together. In the end, the music has spoken for itself. It was also wonderful to see how the young people from all those countries got together and made music together everywhere. "At the Watergate" has released a lot of positive energy, especially among visitors who appreciated the festival very much. I heard from all sides that everyone enjoyed themselves."


"For this reason, ‘At the Watergate‘ fits in perfectly with the objectives of Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018 and the mienskip concept. Contacts have been made in all kinds of ways, such as between countries, participants, employees and volunteers as well as between the venues in the various locations. ‘At the Watergate‘ has once again demonstrated that music connects us. It has also underlined the organizational strength, ambition and healthy cultural climate of Súdwest-Fryslân."