The first years
Wind Band Vooruit was founded in the early 1920s, with as most important goal supporting the local workers' movement. It was a regular wind band with no significant importance until a young conductor, Gustaaf Devolder, started leading the band in the early 1960s. A large group of young musicians, students of Harelbeke's musical academy, was recruited. This gradually improved the orchestra's musical quality.
The sixties and seventies
In 1964, Vooruit participated for the first time in a provincial competition and was promoted instantly. It didn't end there, as the orchestra reached the highest division by 1974: the superior division. Vooruit also successfully started participating in the national competition of the city of Antwerp. A next step was taken when Vooruit decidedly chose the path of popular music. The band further improved its musical quality and the number of members grew. The declining popularity of wind bands was countered in Harelbeke through "amusement concerts", during which popular music, often from American origin, was performed in a relaxed atmosphere. This attracted around 800 people at least twice per year. However, it didn't imply that the orchestra recklessly chose the commercial path. The band paid a lot of attention to performing the pieces in a just way, and original works were at the top of the repertoire.
The continuity of the band was guaranteed by the education of young musicians, not only in Harelbeke but also at the conservatories of Ghent and Brussels. In 1982, the first long playing record was recorded - the first of many, of which the quality grew each time. In 1987, the fourth album was also published on compact disk. After that, eleven more albums followed, one per year. They were regularly played by the Flemish public broadcast, and even by specialised programs in other countries. The repertoire evolved from amusement music to specific works for symphonic wind band.
1985 until 2000
Vooruit's first international break-through happened in 1985, with the band's participation in Kerkrade's (NL) World Music Competition, in which it won first prize in the first division with 341 out of 360 points. One year later, Gustaaf Devolder passes the baton to Geert Verschaeve, who keeps expanding the orchestra in the same style. In 1987, Vooruit participated for the first time in the "Certamen Internacional de Bandas de Musica" in Valencia, Spain. Again, the orchestra scores highest in the tournament, followed by the same result in 1988. In 1989, Vooruit participated among the world's finest bands in the concert division, which is invitation-only. It scored third highest, with 343 out of 360 points. In 1990, Vooruit won first prize, with standing ovation and praise by the jury for its progressive performance. In the same year, two concerts were also organized in the French city of Nantes.
In 1991, Vooruit participated in the WASBE conference in Machester, with the world creation of "Due Pitture" by Flemish composer Roland Coryn. In 1994, it brough the world creation of "Eight Belgian Impressions" by laureate André Waignein at the composition competition at the "Coup de vents" festival in Le Havre, France. In 1995, the orchestra concluded an especially succesful concert trip to Austria, where a number of musical institutions invited the orchestra to perform four concerts, one of which was broadcasted on national Austrian television. July 1996 started with a concert in the beautiful Parisian park "Jardins du Luxembourg", on invitation by the French Senate. Following that was a successful trip in Spain, with three concerts and a fourth one as "banda invitada" at the "Certamen internacional" in the Valencian arena.
In 1997, Vooruit celebrated its 75th anniversary. At a regional music festival, almost 40 orchestras perform. During the month of July, the band invites a series of internationally acknowledged bands bring a series of concerts in Harelbeke. In November, a two-day brass festival takeplace with the best brass bands of the country. In July 1997, the international status of the orchestra is confirmed at the WMC in Kerkrade (NL), with Vooruit ranking highest amongst the foreign bands. During the nineties, a new path is chosen in terms of repertoire: the pieces for wind band are joined by a number of great classical works transcribed for wind band. A few examples are Ravel's "Boler", Tchaikowsky's "Capriccio Italien" and "Ouverture 1812", Brahm's "Festouvertüre", ...
Wind Band Vooruit pays great attention to the works by Flemish composers, whose work is performed during concerts, and radio and cd recordings. Some examples are: Dirk Brossé, Willem Kersters, Jacqueline Fonteyn, Jan Haderman, Jan Vanderroost, André Waignein, August De Boeck, Willy Soenen, Godfried and Frédéric Devreese, and of course also a number of composers who originated from Harelbeke: Peter Benoit, Jan Decadt, Roland Coryn en Elias Gistelynck. These composers never hid their enthousiasm when their works were programmed by Vooruit. These efforts were crowned by three official nominations of Vooruit as "Flanders Cultural Ambassador" in the consecutive years of 1995, 1996 and 1997, by the Flemish Government.
2000 until 2010
At the start of the new millennium, Vooruit moves forward with a younger management. In 2000, Vooruit becomes first laureate at the international competition of Strasbourg, with a score of no less than 97%. In 2001, the orchestra remains in superior division of the provincial competition, and it also becomes fifth laureate in the concert division of the WMC in Kerkrade, with a score of 93.67%.
In 2002, the orchestra tours in Switzerland, with concerts at the International Alpine Music Festival at Saas-Fee and at the Jungfrau Music Festival at Interlaken. Earlier that year, the band attracted attention at the opaning of Anno '02, a festival organized in commemoration of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of the Golden Spurs. With the contemporary oratorio "Welp" by young composer Johan De Smet, Vooruit received a lot of positive reactions by an audience that was less familiar with wind bands.
In 2004, Vooruit again participates in the Jungfrau Music Festival at Interlaken (Switzerland), with the full "The Planets" suite by Gustav Holst. The band finishes as first laureate in the highest division, and received the Golden Diploma.
At the 15th WMC in Kerkrade, Vooruit becomes World Champion in the concert division, the highest and most demanding division. This was not an endpoint, but a motivation to further reinforce our reputation in the next projects. The band was invited for a gala concert at the WASBE conference at Killarney, Ireland, in 2007. In the same year, it's one of the nominees for the Flemish Culture Prize.
At the WMC competition of 2009, Vooruit confirms its status as one of the best European orchestras with a second prize. In 2010, Vooruit is 3rd laureate at the "Certamen Internacional de Bandas de Musica" at Valencia, Spain.
2010 until 2020
During the summer of 2011, Vooruit for the first time leaves the European continent and brings a series of concerts on the South-Korean island of Jeju. The warm welcome and enthousiastic ausiences make the trip unforgettable for all who were there.
In 2016, flutist, pianist and composer Erik Desimpelaere takes over the role of conductor from Geert Verschaeve. One year later, the band toured in the Italian region of Tuscany and in 2019, Vooruit again wins first prize at the Certamen Internacional de Bandas de Musica in Valencia, in the first division.
Since 2004, Vooruit also traditionally performs the finalists' pieces live at the biannual International Composition Competition Harelbeke. The competition stimulates contemporary music composers in their work for wind band. The finalists' pieces are also recorded. The competition was created by Roland Coryn and has been led by Erik Desimpelaere since 2017.
In 2018, Vooruit also recorded a DVD. Many recordings can also be found on social media channels such as YouTube and Spotify.
2022: Vooruit celebrates its centenary
In 2022, our orchestra celebrates its 100th birthday. We celebrated it with concerts, a festival weekend, the publication of a book about our history, and the 3rd prize in the Concert Division for wind bands at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, The Netherlands.