Exactly one year after the tragic accident at the Gleision Colliery in the Swansea Valley overshadowed the inaugural Miner’s Welfare Entertainment Contest, there was a much happier atmosphere to be found at Porthcawl’s Grand Pavilion as 10 Second, Third and Fourth Section bands battled to claim the South Wales Miner’s Challenge Cup and first prize of £600.
However, even the welcome news that thanks to the assistance of CISWO working with the Swansea Valley Miner’s Appeal Fund, nearly every penny of the £1.09 million raised would go to the families of the four men killed, the impeccably observed minute’s silence before the announcement of the results was still a stark reminder of the real cost of producing coal in Wales over the years.
After a day of enjoyable entertainment it was City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) directed by Dewi Griffiths who headed home with the magnificent trophy (worth over £6,000) and the bumper cheque in their possession.
In a close run battle for the title, they pipped rivals Ebbw Valley by single point, with RAF St Athan two points further back in third.
There were a number encouraging performances throughout the day, with the rebuilding Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda winning the £200 on offer as the highest placed Third Section band not in the prizes, whilst the rapidly improving Oakdale took the equivalent Fourth Section award.
The £200 to the band producing the most entertaining stage presentation went to Ynyshir for a second successive year, after they delighted the audience with a programme that opened with invading aliens from Mars and ended with three sturdy trombonists and a flugel player in full Nun’s habits!
M2’s winning 20 minute programme was described by adjudicator David Read MBE as, ‘A very musical performance throughout’.
The band’s euphonium soloist Gareth Ritter enjoyed a memorable contest as he picked up the ‘Best Soloist’ award in addition to leading the emerging Ebbw Valley to a deserved second place, claiming the £400 prize and the Wales TUC Challenge Cup in the process.
With RAF St Athan showing their solid qualities under Alan Bourne to come third (with the MD’s seven and a half year old son Oliver picking up the ‘Youngest Player Award’), the main prizes were shared by the last three competitors of the day.
"I thought we produced a very solid performance," the winning MD Dewi Griffiths told 4BR.
"We played to our strengths but also pushed ourselves both musically and technically with our programme. The victory is down to the hard work and commitment of the band and the players. This win gives us another solid foundation stone to build on for the future."
That future will now see the band compete in the Welsh Open in February next year against the likes of reigning champions Tredegar and M2’s own senior outfit City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) 1.
"That’s going to be something to really look forward to," the MD added.
Last Olympic burst
M2 opened with a last burst of London 2012 musical spirit with ‘Olympic Fanfare & Theme’ before moving though ‘Duelling Xylos’ featuring the talented teenagers Amy Herman and Heledd Gwynant.
A smoothly delivered ‘Irish Blessing’ segued into the upbeat ‘Celtic Cocktail’, before they rounded off with two movements from ‘ Windows of the World’ with Gareth Ritter on prize winning form on ‘Celtic Dream’.
David Read’s thoughtful on stage remarks pinpointed both the strengths and weaknesses of all the competing bands.
He congratulated the top three for what he called ‘very good performances that also had noticeable lapses at times’, and made sure that each of the competitors, in what he termed ‘a very good contest’, were aware that the need to entertain didn’t excuse them from ensuring that good banding basics were not forgotten in the process—especially when it came to slow melodic playing.
The victory is down to the hard work and commitment of the band and the players. This win gives us another solid foundation stone to build on for the futureDewi Griffiths
Ebbw Valley, who was only formed in September 2011 with a merger between the Cwm and Ebbw Vale Town Bands, certainly delivered a performance of note under Gareth Ritter’s purposeful direction.
An ambitious set that featured eclectic choices from the march ‘Goldcrest’ and ‘Blue Sleeve Step’ to ‘Eve of War’ complete with Richard Burton ‘War of the Worlds’ voice-over, synthesizer sounds and video clips from the Tom Cruise blockbuster movie, certainly made an impression to claim second place.
Want to improve
Gareth Ritter told 4BR: "It was an ambitious programme, but we are a band that wants to work hard and wants to improve, so we really pushed ourselves today."
RAF St Athan claimed their second successive podium finish at the contest thanks to a well worked American themed programme.
They opened with the slow swagger of a New Orleans funeral parade on ‘A Closer Walk to Thy’, before ending via a musical trip through the Appalachian Mountains and the Salvation Army to a Las Vegas inspired Elvis Presley trilogy.
Speaking later to 4BR, Contest Controller Rob Gowing was certainly delighted that the happier circumstances surrounding the second Miner’s Welfare event had led to the event being a success.
"There were excellent performances from all the bands, and the audience here is growing year on year. It’s been a very encouraging day and shows that bands at this level can produce highly enjoyable brass band entertainment."
A gallery of images of the 2012 event can be found at:
Adjudicator: David Read MBE
1. City of Cardiff (Mellingriffith) 2 (Dewi Griffiths)—191
2. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)—190
3. RAF St Athan Voluntary (Alan R Bourne)—188
4. Blaenavon Town (Andrew Protherough Jones)—187
5. Briton Ferry (Rhodri Griffith)—184
6. Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda (Alan F Gibbs)—183
7. Tata Steel (Port Talbot) (Ceri Thomas)—181
8. Ammanford (Glyn R. Davies)—179
9. Ynyshir (Graham Sheppard)—177
10. Oakdale (Adrian Browning)—175
Best Instrumentalist: Gareth Ritter (euphonium)—City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) 2
Youngest Player: Oliver Bourne (RAF St Athan Voluntary)
Most Entertaining Stage Presentation: Ynyshir
Highest Placed Third Section Band not in prizes: Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda
Highest Placed Fourth Section Band not in prizes: Oakdale