Welsh Regional Championships: 4BarsRest take a closer look
at the competing bands in the championship section. Also
featuring BTM Band.
This Sunday sees the bands in Wales line up to what is possibly
the hardest task in banding at the moment – trying to beat Buy As
You View Cory Band.
Just like Manchester United, Cory seem to be head and shoulders
above their domestic opposition at present and have got their eyes
firmly set on Europe as their outstanding priority for the year.
However, the Welsh Regional Championships also double as the qualifying
competition for the European Championships for 2002, so even though
Cory have pre qualified to the National Finals this year as reigning
champions, there will be a great amount of pressure on them not
to take things for granted and to go out firing on all cylinders.
Defeat could see them having to rely on winning (a feat not in
anyway beyond them) the European Championships this year in Montreux
or regaining the National title in October to gain qualification
again. On paper therefore, going for victory in Swansea may seem
to be the easier and less complicated route. However, there has
been a bit of a revival in Welsh banding of late – led by BAYV Cory
with Tredegar also continuing to make their mark at national level.
Manchester United may be a great team, but as Liverpool and even
West Ham United have proved this season they are not unbeatable
– even at home. It should be a great contest.
The reigning champions come into the Area as overwhelming favourites,
but with the European on the immediate horizon they have had to
work up three test pieces in recent weeks. However, with players
of the quality of Ian Williams on principal cornet, David Cornelius
on horn and Nigel John on euphonium they have a backbone of top
class performers. Robert Childs is also meticulous in his preparation
and he is sure to have instilled the band with the need to carry
on their winning run in Wales and retain the title the band won
last year. That would mean qualification for the 2002 Euro’s, and
would give Bob Childs his first Welsh Area title to emulate his
brother Nicholas who won it twice with Tredegar and their father,
John, who also won it twice with the same band. That’s not a bad
record to aim for.
Tredegar go into the contest as favourites to take one of the two
other qualification spots on offer. (There are two to aim for, as
Cory is automatically invited to the Finals as reigning champions).
Tredegar has recovered from losing many of their players at the
beginning of last year to the rivals to such an extent that they
not only remain one of the top ten ranked bands in the UK, but also
saw them come 8th at the Open and 5th at the Nationals and just
missing out on automatic qualification. There are a lot of bands
in the country that would give their high teeth for their record
over the past few years, and with one of the most talented young
conductors in the shape of Steve Bastable taking the band, and some
excellent performers with Roger Boyle on principal cornet, Joanne
Dean on Flugel and Paul Holland on horn, they will travel to Swansea
aiming to regain the title they last won in 1996.
Point of Ayr make their annual pilgrimage to the Brangwyn Hall
with a record of late at the contest that is as good as any of their
main rivals. There is a certain symmetry about their record with
a win in 1997 followed by third in 1998, a win in 1999 and a third
in 2000. A win in 2001 then? Although it’s certainly not out of
the question, the band has been through a very rough patch of late
that even saw them unable to take up their qualifying place at the
Finals in London in October last year. Thankfully the band has survived,
but getting a qualifying place may be the more realistic task for
them this year. Thomas Wyss brings his experience and flair to the
band, which can only be a good thing.
Northop Silver also makes the long trip south form North Wales
with a realistic chance of getting amongst the prizes. Conducted
by Ian Porthouse - who has won plenty of admirers as well as prizes
in recent months with his stable of bands under his baton, they
have been making steady progress towards the level that saw them
gain the runners-up spots at the Areas in 1995 and 1996. Some excellent
players around the stand could see them making a real mark this
Burry Port Town are another band that has made remarkable progress
in recent years under the direction of Michael Thorne. 2000 saw
them become runners-up to Tredegar in the Champion Band of Wales
title race with a series of ever increasingly mature performances.
They are now a band that has made its mark in Wales and one that
is hoping to make a mark further afield, with some very talented
players within their ranks, and euphonium player Ceri John an undoubted
star performer. They are more than capable of giving “Jazz” a real
performance and more than capable of taking any number of scalps.
Cwmaman Institute also come to Swansea on good form, and has secured
the quality services of John Hudson to direct their title attempt.
John is no stranger to success at this level, with a National win
with CWS Glasgow and a runners-up spot with Tredegar to his name.
Now making his living in Norway he will bring a very common sense
approach to a band that has overcome many problems and now should
start posing a threat not only here, but at the Senior Cup in Blackpool
later in the year. They also have some very talented players in
their ranks with principal cornet Richard Davies and horn player
Tim Malpas top class players.
Parc and Dare are a famous band that has had very little luck of
late, but approach the Areas with renewed vigour. A successful lottery
bid will see the band stage a series of high profile concerts at
their home concert hall in Treorchy over the next couple of years
that will feature international soloists and new works from leading
brass band composers. The Areas may have come too soon for the band,
but the last couple of Welsh ranking contests has seen great improvement
in the performances under the sensible guidance of Craig Roberts.
Due a bit of luck.
Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda are also a band that has worked hard
in recent years, especially under the baton of Alan Gibbs. Nigel
Seaman has the stick this time, and he brings to the band a well-deserved
reputation as one of the best band trainers in the country. Some
top players as well, with Kevin Gibbs on trombone and Carol Flannery
on soprano, players to look out for.
Our feature band are Bedwas Trethomas and Machen, universally known
as BTM. The early 1990’s saw the band qualify on a regular basis
for the Finals, with them being Welsh Area Champions in 1991 and
1993 and Champion Band of Wales in 1992.
In 1991 the band were Pontins Champions and came 5th at the National
Finals on “Energy” under the baton of Melvin White. 1992 saw them
retain the Pontins Championship, but further success at National
level eluded them. However, the Areas have proved to be a happy
hunting ground and in 1994 they were runners-up, 1995, third and
1998 they again took second place.
The last couple of years saw some barren times and the band were
demoted to the First Section in Wales and missed the Regional Championships
in 1998 in a dispute over entry forms to the contest. However, the
band has recovered well and under the direction of Gareth Pritchard
they have matured into a solid and competitive outfit.
4th place at last years Grand Shield was a return to good form,
and their unique performances at Entertainment Contests has won
many fans. They were the first band to perform a strip routine a
la “Full Monty” and have a very professional ten-piece ensemble
called “BTM X” who not only bring in revenue to the band but also
continue to provide top quality entertainment to varied audiences
throughout the UK. Their Youth Band has grown into a fertile breeding
ground for new players for the band and many of the current line
up has come through their exemplary set up.
Others who have found fame and small fortune through BTM include
James Gourlay, who started his conducting career with the band and
Melvin White who has taken his experience gained at the band to
great effect, especially in the London area. The band also hold
the somewhat unique achievement of producing British Solo Champions
with Mark Hutcherson and Chris Thomas winning the prized title whilst
at the band, and Owen Farr, now solo horn at Williams Fairey, also
winning the Junior title. Their quartet are the current British
Champions to boot.
They also boast some of Wales’s most talented young players within
their ranks. Many are members of the vibrant National Youth Brass
Band of Wales, whilst older members such as Mark Hutcherson on solo
euphonium and his brother Jeff on principal cornet have long been
recognised as some of Wales’ best brass players.
They will certainly be a band to look out for on Sunday.
The current line up of the band is as follows:
Soprano Cornet: Laura Davies.
Currently occupying the soprano seat in the absence of their regular
player Deiniol Williams, Laura is one Wales’s brightest talents
and is currently the assistant principal cornet of the National
Youth Band of Wales.
Principal Cornet: Jeff Hutcherson.
A top quality player who for many years held the flugel horn position
in the band with distinction.
Solo Cornets: Glyn Maplestone, John Cullen and Felicity Danning.
Glyn makes a welcome return to the band even though he still makes
his living in the army, whilst both John Cullen and Felicity Danning
are players have joined the band in recent years to add a lot of
Repiano and Flugel Horn: Mena Beale and Trevor Isaac.
Both players have been with the band for a number of years and bring
a wealth of experience to their playing. Trevor moves from the front
row to flugel for the contest.
Back Row Cornets: Mark Joseph, Alex James, Paul Kelly and Anhaghrad
All youngsters and all very talented. Alex is currently the principal
flugel with the National Youth Band of Wales.
Horns: Geraint Chamberlain, Sarah Giles and Lyndon Harris.
Geraint has moved from baritone to solo horn with great success,
whilst Sarah is the steadying influence. Lyndon joined the band
from Rogerstone Band about 18 months ago and is making a name for
Euphoniums and Baritones: Mark Hutcherson, Mike Altree, Andrew
Gourlay and Hywel Rowles.
Mark is recognised as one of the best euphonium players Wales has
ever produced and he gets good support from Mike Altree. Andrew
Gourlay has a great deal of experience, whilst Hywel has joined
the band I the last few weeks from Pontypool.
Trombones: Susan Cherrington, Nick Jones and Peter Smith.
A good hard working section of players who have brought a lot of
stability to the band.
Basses: Meilyr Howells, Mike Davies, Keith Hutcherson and Bedwyr
The family band shows up here with Mike the father of sop player
Laura and Keith the father of both Jeff and Mark.
Percussion: Alan Hathway, Andrea McLaren and Julian Ruddall.
A young and very talented trio of players with Alan Hathway rightly
regarded as on of the best percussion players in Wales.
Conductor: Gareth Pritchard
A consistently inventive and clever conductor who is now very much
in demand. Both BTM, Besses o’ th’ Barn and others have had the
benefit of his intuitive approach, which has seen his bands gain
considerable success since his return form Norway in 1999. A man
to watch we think.