Members of Stoke's Celtic Pipe Band are exhausted but exhilarated after their tour to Germany.
The band has returned from what bass drummer and committee member Helen Gilchrist described as a "triumphant performance tour" where they played in front of audiences of 8000 in seven cities across Germany.
The band of 19 members aged from 13 to 50 were invited to accompany the New Zealand Highland Dance Company to attend the German Musikparade, the largest military and brass band touring event in Europe. It included bands from China, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Bavaria, Netherlands, and Germany.
Mrs Gilchrist said for many of the members, nine of whom are still in school, it was the first time they had been on a plane or a train.
After $4000 worth of fundraising, many hours of practising and 22 hours of flying, the group landed in Frankfurt in six degree weather.
Some of the players were so exhausted they fell asleep at the table during their pork schnitzel dinner.
With no time to fight the jet lag, they were up the next morning at 8am to travel to their first venue in Koblenz where they were greeted with an audience of up to 8000 people, she said.
It was exhilarating seeing the hive of stage crew and high calibre of the different acts practising, she said.
Despite having only 20 minutes to practise their 12-minute set before their first performance, they received great feedback and were applauded for being professional and having an excellent sound, she said.
While downtime was scarce, the band had visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, north of Berlin.
Drummer Hayden Phipps, 17, said he learned more there in four hours than he had after a whole year of social studies.
Mrs Gilchrist said despite two and a half days of flying and a long drive back to Nelson from Christchurch, the band members were up and ready for band practice that night.
"As tired as we were, we all had smiles on our faces and this trip will undoubtedly be etched in our memories forever.
"The band had the experience of a lifetime, made new friendships, experienced other cultures, history and language."
Pipe Major Bryce Gilchrist said the group was exhausted but exhilarated and looked forward to including some of what they learned in performances.
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