A GROUP of 28 - the largest ever - visited Coutances from May 2 to 6 as part of the annual twinning visit.

As well as members and friends of the Ilkley Twinning Committee, six musicians from the Two Rivers Band and four members of Rotary, seeking to renew ties with their opposite numbers in Coutances, joined the trip to Normandy.

Chairman of Ilkley Twinning Committee Judith Dunn said: "We were, as usual, generously hosted by local families and taken on a visit to the historic town led by a very knowledgeable guide.

"One morning was spent visiting Granville, with its WWII battery and a stroll in the gardens of Christian Dior's family house. The afternoon took us to Villedieu-les-Poêles and fascinating visits to a bell foundry and a copper workshop. The jazz festival was just getting into its swing and Two Rivers kicked off the first session on the amateur stage with a memorable set, in perfect harmony with three local players.

"A Civic Reception was held in the Town Hall on Saturday morning, hosted by Mayor Yves Lamy. Brian Mann, representing Ilkley Parish Council, brought greetings from the town and Ilkley Parish Council Leader Steve Butler. This reception was held in the room reserved for weddings in the Town Hall; very appropriate as it happened as 2019 will mark Twinning's Golden Wedding. We are very much looking forward to hosting guests from Coutances on that occasion, as our friendship grows ever stronger."

On the day they arrived Two Rivers helped host an Anglo-French Boeuf (Jazz Jam Session) at the local bar Les 3 Piliers. The bar was packed out as different combinations of French and English musicians played together in the true spirit of jazz.

Then on Saturday, May 5, Two Rivers Jazz had the honour of being the first act to appear on the amateur stage at the start of the local Sous Les Pommiers Jazz Festival - one of the biggest jazz festivals in France.

They played in bright sunshine to a large appreciative audience, accompanied by a rhythm section from the Coutances Music School's Jazz Workshop.

Their programme included two of their own arrangements, and the first international performance of Ethiomoon, an Ethiopian Jazz style piece composed only last year by their tenor sax and conga player Steph Atkinson.

Les Goldman, chairman of Two Rivers Bands said: "Playing and performing with our French colleagues was a real highlight of our visit. We're delighted with the links we've built with the École de Musique in Coutances. We want to build on those links and plan some really special musical activities for their return visit to Ilkley in 2019. This international musical collaboration is a great opportunity for our bands and also for the wider community."