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2020 Regional Championships
Wales - As it happened

All the action from the 2020 Welsh Regional Championships — as it happened.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 20:32:27

    Tredegar round off a fine weekend with victory

    What was a memorable first event held at the Great Hall of Swansea University, Tredegar retained the Welsh Championship title in equally memorable fashion after a titanic battle with their great rivals, Cory.

    It was the 13th time the band has won the title — the first in 1977, and only the third time they have retained it.

    They will now represent Wales at the 2021 European Championships in Malmo in Sweden as well as heading back to the Royal Albert Hall with National Champion Cory and a delighted Llwydcoed, who will make their debuts.

    Congratulations to all the qualifying bands and to the staff at the University to made everyone welcome. No wonder the contest will be coming back here on the weekend of the 6th/7th March next year.

    Next stop Yorkshire, Scotland and the Midlands...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 17:33:21

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    2020 Champion: Tredegar

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    Second Place: Cory

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    Third Place: Llwydcoed

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    Best Instrumentalist: Ross Dunne (horn) Tredegar

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    Best Cornet Player: Tom Hutchinson (Cory)

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    Two of Tredegar's Best Basses team

    Result:

    Championship Section:

    Test Piece: A Tale as Yet Untold (Philip Sparke)
    Adjudicators: David Hirst and Alan Morrison
    Commences: 1.15pm

    1. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)***
    2. Cory (Philip Harper)*
    3. Llwydcoed (Christopher Turner)**
    4. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Christopher Bond)
    5. Tongwynlais Temperance (Carl Saunders)
    6. Northop Silver (John Doyle)
    7. Ebbw Valley (Nigel Seaman)

    ***Qualify for National Final and to represent Wales at the 2021 European Championships
    **Qualify for National Final
    *Pre-qualified for National Final

    Best Instrumentalist: Ross Dunne (horn) — Tredegar
    Best Basses: Tredegar
    Best Principal Cornet: Tom Hutchinson (Cory)

  • All Section sSunday 1, 16:37:16

    Round up and prediction...

    We have been given some brilliant musical entertainment here — with a stunning battle for the title and an equally engaging one for the podium place and trip to the Albert Hall in October.

    The defending champion Tredegar produced a quite stunning account to throw down the gauntlet to their rivals Cory, who then picked it up and threw it back down at their feet with such brilliance.

    It's a toss of the coin between them — the middle movement the decider surely . Will they go with Tredegar's cool control and melancholic yearning or Cory's more malleable passionate richness? Whoever gets the nod will have deserved it becasue they will have beaten a rival playing at the top of their form.

    Behind them is a much harder choice to make — but we think it could just be Llwydcoed getting the nod over City of Cardiff with Northop just behind.

    Whatever the result, Welsh banding can take a great deal of pride from whoever represents them in Malmo and London.

    My goodness that was a contest to savour.

    1. Cory
    2. Tredegar
    3. Llwydcoed
    4. City of Cardiff
    5. Northop

  • All Section sSunday 1, 16:30:39

    What the press thought...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 16:03:18

    Championship Section:

    7. Ebbw Valley (Nigel Seaman)

    Ebbw Valley certainly gave it their all here — perhaps exhausting themselves somewhat in the process. If they had not tried to match the dynamic top end dynamic scope of the bigger sounding bands it surely would have helped, as the approach was very musical and neatly packaged by the experienced MD.

    There was drive and purpose to the opening, but it was dynamically monochrome, losing the subtle nuances and calibrated levels of detail and balance in the process. Just sounded a little frenetic when 10% less would have had it right in the ballpark.

    Some lovely stuff in the middle section though — relaxed, flowing and tender. Confident soloists do so well — led by a cantabile euphonium. Little moments of concern in the ensemble links, but it recovered to build from the chorale to blazing climax and a neatly contained repose.

    The scrappy opening to the finale took time to find a coherent pulse and contrasting dynamic levels, but it was exciting in its rawness — and it kept that bubbling pulse to the close. Just started to get harsh in tonality as the lactic acid hit lips, but what a bold all or nothing close to round things off.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 16:02:35

    What the press thought...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 15:37:17

    Championship Section:

    6. Llwydcoed (Christopher Turner)

    Another 'tale' told with passionate intent — drawing deep into the well at times, but certainly leaving a rich musical impression on the mind inspired by the MD.

    The opening bubbled at a high temperature — just keeping the right side of spilling over the top with its dynamics and tempi. It took a quick snap of the leash in places from the MD to retain the ensemble compactness — but it was effective.

    So too the central section — played with a free flowing, darkly hued musicality that allowed time for the soloists to deliver bravura cadenza spotlights. What it lacked in tenderness it made up in solidity, the chorale building so well to a rich climax — the repose measured and cultured led by the trombone.

    Neatly paced finale caught a lovely notch of tempo and maintained it throughout. The dynamic contrasts were clearly defined too — with the ensemble drawing deep into those reserves to drive through to the finish without a hint of waning stamina and well rounded tonality. In the mix for a sniff of a Royal Albert Hall berth that without a doubt.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 15:33:38

    What the press thought...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 15:10:09

    Championship Section:

    5. Northop Silver (John Doyle)

    Such as passionate, intense reading of the score from the MD — and delivered to his exact instructions by his band.

    The opening section was perhaps dynamically too robust and lacked the subtle calibrated levels of clarity of the best today, but the music had a tense, engaging pulse that never let go.

    Somehow we never quite found a gentle feeling of yearning loss in the middle section as the blend in different textures never really gelled in the ensemble or between the solo lines. The beauty of the writing found difficulty in emerging.

    Certainly an exciting, but also somewhat wayward romp for home in the third section — again just lacking a touch of dynamic subtlety. The drive never let up, building in torque and pulsating fission — and with an extra gear and level of dynamic forcefulness to stamp out the close on a performance that had its obvious strengths and weaknesses.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 15:06:13

    What the press thought...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 14:44:18

    Championship Section:

    4. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Christopher Bond)

    A confident rendition built on a reading of lyrical flow by the impressive MD.

    The opening section had that driven sense of purpose and intensity, even if it somewhat lacked the subtle nuances in precision and dynamic balance. It was all there though — no doubt about that.

    Much the same 'tale' with the middle movement too; bold, confident and well constructed around solo lines which were played with nerveless aplomb. Could have just taken a few more dynamic risks to really gain the yearning sadness rather than robust passion, but once again it was there in a full flush of spades.

    A well chosen tempo really helps things to close — allowing the detail to come through from all corners of the band. Just the odd moment of scrappy playing and dynamic forcefulness but it didn't detract from the pulse of the momentum that had a fine rigidity and bold purpose to its thumping close.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 14:42:34

    What the press thought...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 14:15:56

    Championship Section:

    3. Cory (Philip Harper)

    Cory respond with playing of rich majesty, a huge dynamic spectrum and crisp edged detail in an opening movement that found a bubbling notch of intensity and fizzled with purpose.

    There was a certainly a marked malleable elasticity to the the phrasing in the middle section — but the yearning sadness was deeply hued with a rich, satin finish from both singing soloists and ensemble. MD asked much with his tender shaping and was given plenty in return here with playing of such intensity. The close had a chilly beauty.

    Just a little stutter to open, but then came playing of ferocious, spiteful brilliance — so cutting and clean. The pace never waned and neither did that level of intense scrutiny from MD and his band all the way to a turbo charged close that singed the air. What a response indeed.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 14:15:07

    What the press thought...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 13:48:20

    Championship Section:

    2. Tongwynlais Temperance (Carl Saunders)

    A hard working, intelligently led reading that was solidly portrayed from start to finish. The first movement had drive and purpose, but perhaps lacked a subtle scope of dynamic contrast leading to a rather opaque sheen that covered the intrinsic detail.

    There was a flowing musicality to the middle section — again dynamically safe — but played with confidence, as shown by bravura euph and lead lines. Some moments of unease and that need for the tenderest of touches, but it held its structure, despite the uncertain close.

    The finale rather stuttered at its ambitious tempo and couldn't quite rid itself of its raggedness, but the pulse and drive moved the music forward with a vibrant momentum. The more subtle aspects of the score detail didn't really come across, but the MD kept things bubbling all the way to a formidable close.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 13:47:23

    What the press thought...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 13:24:36

    Championship Section:

    1. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

    My word Tredegar has produced a stunning performance to lay down such an impressive gauntlet for their rivals to beat here.

    The amount of forensic detail and razor sharp detail in the first movement was so clear, defined and balanced. It was followed by the richest of textures in the middle section — all played at the tenderest of dynamics and topped by sumptuous solo lines — led by the superb euph.

    The control was quite something — as was the playing that followed — really beautiful, yearning musicality.

    The finale was a controlled romp of technical brilliance — so clean and scalpel precise it cut right through the scoring. The final section was hallmarked 24 carat stuff right to the thumping close. Will take some beating that.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 13:06:24

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    Draw:

    Championship Section:

    Test Piece: A Tale as Yet Untold (Philip Sparke)
    Adjudicators: David Hirst and Alan Morrison
    Commences: 1.15pm

    1. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)
    2. Tongwynlais Temperance (Carl Saunders)
    3. Cory (Philip Harper)
    4. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Christopher Bond)
    5. Northop Silver (John Doyle)
    6. Llwydcoed (Christopher Turner)
    7. Ebbw Valley (Nigel Seaman)

  • All Section sSunday 1, 12:57:47

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    2020 Champion: Cwmtawe

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    Winning conductir: Wayne Pedrick

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    Second Palce: Crosskeys

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    Third Place: Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley

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    Best Instrumentalist: Heather Jones (principal cornet) — Buckley Brass

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    Youngest Player: Becca Hogg (Northop) — aged 10

    Result:

    Fourth Section:

    Test Piece: Neverland (Christopher Bond)
    Adjudicators: Nicholas Garman and Jonathan Pippen

    1. Cwmtawe (Wayne Pedrick)*
    2. Crosskeys Silver (Sion Rhys Jones)*
    3. Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley (Paul Wilson MBE)
    4. Buckley Brass (Steve Pugh-Jones)
    5. Oakdale Silver (Kerry Bowden)
    6. Northop (Aled Williams)
    7. Ogmore Valley Silver (Danny Stone)
    8. Newbridge Celynen (Geraint Barnes)

    *Qualify for National Final

    Best Instrumentalist: Heather Jones (cornet) — Buckley Brass
    Youngest Player: Becca Hogg (Northop) — aged 10

  • All Section sSunday 1, 11:59:52

    Neverland delights to start the day

    Its been a great Sunday morning of entertainment here at Swansea — more so not just because of the standard of playing from the best bands, which was very good indeed (and all emerged with credit), but as the contest also featured bands willing to showcase their abilities despite obvious challenges.

    The final band of the contest was Buckley under Steven Pugh-Jones, who summed up the contest in a nutshell — plenty of super playing, intelligent (and crafty) direction from the middle (another using a well placed extra baritone) and two percussionists who played every part without breaking sweat. It may not quite get to Cheltenham, but it ended with a huge amount credit in the contest day ledger.

    4BR Prediction:

    Well we think you can tell we enjoyed this — and all credit to the Music Panel for the choice, the composer for his excellent composition and of course to the bands who all deserved the plaudits for their efforts.

    We opt for Crosskeys from Northop with a close run battle between Cwmtawe and Buckley for the final podium spot.

    1. Crosskeys Silver
    2. Northop Brass
    3. Cwmtawe
    4. Buckley

  • All Section sSunday 1, 11:46:35

    Making the most of Neverland

    As a hugely enjoyable contest heads to its conclusion we have been treated to a brace of performances that have made the most of their opportunities in different ways.

    The last time Newbridge Celynen's name was on the entry list this contest was in 2009 so it has been great to see them back after a decade away. Their MD Geraint Barnes is doing a cracking job in revitalising them — and it was good to see one of their former stalwarts from the glory days before they won National titles under Paul Holland, in the ranks.

    They gave it their all with plenty to plus points for them to build on for the future.

    There was also a spirited account from Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley — with plenty of character, drive and vibrancy on show just after that mysterious opening. There was a crafty bit baritone/trombone work to help things along and some great percussion work too — with one little lad playing with such finesse.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 11:18:22

    Quality adds to the commitment...

    Wales has a very good record at the Fourth Section National Finals — with no less than six Champion Bands since 2000.

    There may well be a couple of qualifiers more than capable of adding to that number if they get the nod from the judges here too — with both Northop Brass and Crosskeys Silver producing performances that combined control of banding basics with an added layer or two of additional musical quality on top.

    There is a Cory link between the two as well — with Northop's super effort led by Aled Williams, brother of Glyn, solo euph at the National Champion, and Crosskeys directed by Sion Rhys Jones, who is Glyn's bumper up!

    There was a maturity about both performances — nicely balanced dynamics, rich ensemble sounds and confident soloists — with the two principal cornets standing out.

    An extra round of applause to Crosskeys for their efforts as well — especially as they came here so soon after their bandroom was flooded out when the river banks burst in their home town. Bravo to them and their north walian counterparts. Trips to Cheltenham may well beckon unless somebody can pull something out of the hat.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 10:43:26

    Great efforts on a super test...

    We are sure Christopher Bond's test-piece has been a big hit around the country this year — interesting for all players in its melodic and engaging writing, with little testing corners for the MDs to shape and phrase. The percussion work adds colour and texture and the technical challenges are within the scope of all the players in each lead seat.

    We're sure everyone has enjoyed rehearsing it.

    The first three bands certainly showed that in their different ways too — with no praise high enough for the 14 brass and 2 percussionists of Ogmore Valley Silver. What an effort.

    Cwmtawe had plenty of youthful talent in the ranks but played with a touch of maturity that brought the colour and vibrancy out of the score, whilst Oakdale Silver's 20 brass players and fantastic single percussion player played with a well directed solidity under the baton of Keri Bowden.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 10:27:28

    More Welshness to come...

  • All Section sSunday 1, 10:19:38

    Why oh why...?

    The first band on stage today in the Fourth Section was Ogmore Valley Silver — with a history going back to 1893.

    They took to the stage today with just 16 players — 14 brass and 2 percussion and played splendidly with such pride and commitment under the baton of Danny Stone. They were a huge credit to themselves — and the applause they received was heartfelt by the audience.

    Why then do we persist with such an antiquated contesting structure that makes it so hard for bands such as this to compete — and to be encouraged, developed and supported when they do take to the stage and immediately after?

    Why not open it all up — allow these bands at this level to showcase what they can do to the best of their abilities and with the judges able to offer immediate constructive support and advice on what they hear and see?

    It won't make any difference to the competitive element of the contest — and we may even encourage more ensembles to take part.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 10:00:26

    Draw:

    Fourth Section:

    Test Piece: Neverland (Christopher Bond)
    Adjudicators: Nicholas Garmen and Jonathan Pippen
    Draw: 9.00am
    Commences: 10.00am

    1. Ogmore Valley Silver (Danny Stone)
    2. Cwmtawe (Wayne Pedrick)
    3. Oakdale Silver (Kerry Bowden)
    4. Northop (Aled Williams)
    5. Crosskeys Silver (Sion Rhys Jones)
    6. Newbridge Celynen (Geraint Barnes)
    7. Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley (Paul Wilson MBE)
    8. Buckley Brass (Steve Pugh-Jones)

  • All Section sSunday 1, 07:30:54

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    Happy St David's Day...

    To all the Welsh Diaspora around the banding world, as well as those who will be at Swansea University today — Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant—or happy St David’s Day.

    It’s been celebrated in Wales since the 12th century after he was canonised—although he is said to have died on 1st March 589 AD.

    There is some debate about exactly where he came from—although it’s believed he hailed from just off the end of the M4 motorway in Pembrokeshire.

    He became particularly popular when the Welsh were battling against the Normans—and then just about anybody else we could pick a fight with in subsequent years...

    The wearing of the leek (worn into battle by Welsh soldiers so that they could be identified by their fellow fighters) as a symbol to celebrate the day has been going on for some time—although the daffodil is more to do with Lloyd George (who knew everyone's father) and not so many people it seems now bake gingerbread men riding a goat anymore....

    As for dressing up in Welsh rugby shirts, miners helmets and especially the picture postcard black hats and shawls for young girls—that came much later, and much like the Scots and all things Walter Scott tartan, the latter is a bit of a Victorian invention inspired by a certain Lady Llanover.

    It’s still a great day though for all those proud to have been blessed by being born Welsh — although a bit odd given that Wales is primarily a protestant non-conformist chapel going nation, we celebrate a Saint canonized by a 12th century Roman Catholic Pope with a bit of a dubious reputation.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 05:57:23

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    The battle for Malmo today...

    The action starts at 10.00am this morning with the eight bands in the Fourth Section performing Christopher Bond's delightful 'Neverland'.

    At just over 10 minutes long it should be short and sweet before the Championship Section action starts — although if the judges take as long as they did yesterday in the Third Section (almost 45 minutes) to reach their decision, we could be in for a bit of a wait.

    Seven bands compete in the Championship Section, with Cory pre-qualified for the Albert Hall as reigning National Champion. Two bands will therefore join them there in October whilst the winning band will also gain the honour (and the expense) of representing the nation at the 2021 European Championships in Malmo, Sweden.

    That '200 first prize will come in handy then.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 05:49:50

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    No whinging...

    The Welsh can have their moments when they like a good old moan, but even though we found this sign at the Great Hall there hasn't been any whinging about the venue and the facilities this year.

    People enjoyed their trip to Wrexham last year and everyone we have spoken to have certainly enjoyed what the University of Swansea campus and the Great Hall has to offer — including the cheap beer, good food — and most importantly, the excellent acoustic and auditorium to perform in.

    Not even the wind blowing off Swansea Bay has dampened the enthusiasm.

  • All Section sSunday 1, 05:39:25

    Patience pays off for BTM...

    It was great to see the wonderful reaction of disbelief on the face of the young BTM representative as he presented with the First Section trophy by the adjudicators.

    Wonderful too to see BTM back to winning ways — and just reward for the long term investment in youth and the patience of their MD Jeff Hutcherson is developing it step by step.

    "It's taken four years to get to this point," he later said.

    Jeff has been with the band man and boy — cut him and he bleeds BTM blood. The band has been developing generation after generation of young players for 25 years and more now — losing many to university or work or to other bands, but still ensuring that their own young players get the opportunity to perform on stage and learn their contesting craft.

    The last time they claimed a Welsh Regional title was back in 1993 when they won the top section honours . No wonder they were going to have a great celebration when they got home.

    Great to see them back.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 19:44:16

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    2020 Champions: BTM Band

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    Second Palce: Tylorstown

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    Third Place: Deiniolen

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    Best Instrumentalist: Dylan Williams: Deiniolen

    Result:

    First Section:

    Test Piece: Legacy (Tom Davoren)
    Adjudicators: Alan Morrison and Jonathan Pippen

    1. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)*
    2. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)*
    3. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)
    4. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)
    5. Parc & Dare (Lewis Wilkinson)
    6. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)
    7. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)

    *Qualify for National Final

    Best Instrumentalist: Dylan Williams (cornet) — Deiniolen

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 19:10:20

    A Legacy in need of preserving...

    Whatever your political thoughts about the NHS, Tom Davoren's work has certainly made us think about the legacy of what good quality brass band playing is all about — and worth preserving.

    The challenges it subtly lays out look so innocuous, but in truth they are so demanding — and essential. Getting balance, texture, dynamic coherence, warmth etc controlled and mastered leads to good banding health. This contest has shown that once more.

    It's rounded off with a very nicely delivered account from Parc & Dare — the middle movement in particular shaped with a tenderness that has been in short supply today and last week in particular.

    Impressively directed this — heartfelt but keeping the music flowing without cloying over-sentimentality. The final section was also detailed, bubbling and forward looking to round off a performance that may well just see a famous banding name claim a richly deserved prize.

    It's between them, BTM and Deiniolen today for us...

    4BR Prediction:

    1. Parc & Dare
    2. BTM
    3. Deiniolen

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 18:54:04

    Different approaches..

    It's been fascinating both here and certainly a week ago in Blackpool to both see and hear the different approaches of the MDs to 'Legacy'.

    The opening is an acid test of control — 6 in a bar sub-divided or a flowing 3 if it can keep the precision? Some conductors have beat a four and a two giving two downbeats. The best have allowed the music to find its natural pulse and used the non-baton hand to calibrate dynamics and fix bar lines.

    The central section cried out for tenderness — not a shouting match. Bevan had a surprisingly high pitched voice, but not in a banzai Maynard Ferguson sort of way, so why so many sops have simply tried to scream their top Cs out has been a brainless option. The final section needs a determined passionate, triumphant drive — not spiteful anger.

    The supremely confident Deiniolen played with such vigour and drive that it was hard not be impressed — especially with the passion that oozed from the music. It did however get dynamically over wrought — losing its musical coherence in youth endeavour. So much to commend about the confidence, but the dynamic overload jmay just cost them.

    Contrast came with Lewis Merthyr — delicately approached by the MD in the opening section that bubbled with the right kind of nervous anxiety. Some lovely touches in the central section too, but it just lost its way to close. A nearly one — but you never know today.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 18:12:42

    Contrasting emotions....

    Two contrasting accounts from Newport Borough and BTM — and a distillation of why Tom Davoren's work is such a fine test of good band playing.

    Both were played with obvious passion and intensity, but Newport just let the adrenaline get the better of them, as if they were forcing their musical argument, not quite having the confidence to allow the music to speak for itself. Tenderness can sometimes hide a steely resolve that shouldn't be under-estimated.

    BTM and Jeff Hutcherson delivered a fine opening statement movement — shaped and phrased so well and without harsh sounds in the ensemble.

    The promise was built on in the middle section with control — and even if the dynamics were on the healthy side the phrasing in solo lines and ensemble was cultured. The finale just lost its way somewhat in terms of tempi and cohesion, but a sense of musical understanding was there to the very end. Good to hear.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 17:39:58

    Legacy issues

    We may have only heard two bands so far today in the First Section and those niggling issues that appeared at Blackpool could well itch like a junk yard dog again.

    Balance, texture, phrasing, warm tonality. The basics of good band playing. The pyramid structure — linked, merged, chamfered, topped with sparkle, built on a foundation of dark, malleable sound.

    Lets hope we get lots of it today.

    Partial success with Tylorstown, although the musical flow and intent was admirable, and much the same with Pontardulais — but the questions over balance and texture with the percussion and brighter, high pitch sounds robbing the picture of a warmth is such a puzzle.

    This is music that invites appreciation of its musical argument — much like Bevan persuading the doctors to his way of thinking. It doesn't need to be so forceful. The middle section should yearn with passion and care the last movement driven with purpose not spitefulness.

    Two nearly ones — but this piece is going to test the musicality of conductors here and all over the country for sure.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 17:26:10

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    The ultimate legacy...

    Tom Davoren's First Section test-piece is inspired by the life of the great Welsh Labour politician Aneurin Bevan who died 60 years ago this year.

    He was the driving force behind the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, which was based in part on the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in his hometown, where residents would pay a subscription that would fund access for all of the town's inhabitants to have free access to medical services such as nursing or dental care.

    In 1947, Bevan stated: "All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to Tredegar-ise you."

    It's a wonderful quote — but he didn't actually say it. It came from a film about his life made in the 1970s...

    Still, he did say: "The collective principle asserts that ... no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means."

    And despite tweaks and challenges every since from different political parties — that remains the ethos of the NHS today.

    No wonder he is still regarded as one of the greatest political figures of the 20th century.

    If that can't inspire the bands from his homeland today then nothing will...

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 17:14:15

    Draw:

    First Section:

    Test Piece: Legacy (Tom Davoren)
    Saturday 29th February
    Adjudicators: Alan Morrison and Jonathan Pippen

    1. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)
    2. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)
    3. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)
    4. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)
    5. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)
    6. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)
    7. Parc & Dare (Lewis Wilkinson)

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 17:11:42

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    2020 Champion: Taff Vale

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    Second Place: Abertillery

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    Third Place: Markham & District

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    Best Percussion: Taff Vale

    Result:

    Second Section:

    Test Piece: The Golden Sabre — Tales of the Hussar-Poet, Denis Davydov (Kit Turnbull)
    Adjudicators: Nicholas Garmen and David Hirst

    1. Taff Vale (Gareth Ritter)*
    2. Abertillery Town (Alun F Williams)*
    3. Markham & District (Jayne Thomas)
    4. Ammanford Town Silver (Glyn Davies)
    5. Abergavenny Borough (Lana Tingay)
    6. Mid Rhondda (Thomas Coaches) (Alan Gibbs)
    7. Royal Buckley Town (Keith Jones)
    8. Seindorf Arian Crwbin (Andrew Jones)
    9. Penclawdd (Tony Small)
    10. Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)

    *Qualify for National Final

    Best Instrumentalist: John Jones (euphonium) — Abertillery Town
    Best Percussion: Taff Vale

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 16:39:32

    An enjoyable scrap for Cheltenham...

    It's been a highly enjoyable scrap for the Cheltenham places here this afternoon, especially as the test-piece has been one that has been approached with a fair amount of good musical nous and experience by the conductors.

    The last two contenders were a case in point — Newtown Silver delivering a well managed account that perhaps just lacked that little bit of Gallic joie de vivre to really have come to life, whilst Ammanford produced a really stylish rendition that just meandered a touch in places but found a great notch of dramatic impulse to close.

    Congratulations also to Kit Turnbull for his test-piece — a bit of an old fashioned tone poem that was full of the type of rich sounds and characterisation that well led brass bands play so well.

    4BR Prediction

    Taff Vale were the class act today with a super performance that captured the moods and musicality of the score to a tee. Who will join them in Cheltenham is a tough ask, but we opt for Markham ahead of Ammanford with Abertillery and Mid Rhondda close behind.

    1. Taff Vale
    2. Markham
    3. Ammanford
    4. Abertillery
    5. Mid Rhondda

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 15:59:28

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    Bands enjoying their Nap hands...

    There is a popular card game in these parts of south Wales called Nap — named after the great old French General. Its a game of intrigue, bluff and skill — the aim to win 'tricks' of cards much like trumps.

    There has been a bit of intrigue, bluff and skill in the last couple of performances too, as both Abergavenny Borough and Thomas Coaches (Mid Rhondda) played their hands on stage under Lana Tingay and Alan Gibbs.

    The intrigue came in the way both MDs argued their case for a Cheltenham place with the careful use of their resources. The bluff followed with a few well disguised moments of ensemble coverage and solo splicing. The skill though was how they managed to link it all together to build things into a coherent and exciting whole.

    Not quite a winning Nap hand you suspect from either but well played nonetheless.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 15:21:21

    Dashing valour on the battlefield...

    Kit Turnbull's test-piece is cracking bit of musical storytelling — and reminds you of that 1970 film 'Waterloo' with Rod Steiger chewing up the scenery as Napoleon and the director Sergei Bondarchuk going bonkers with his lavish OTT battle scenes.

    This is also a bit all over the place with its academic accuracy, but who cares — its great fun — all minor keyed Russian melancholy with a dib dab touch of everything from Stanley Baker and Michael Caine in 'Zulu' to the Grand Armee heading to Borodino with a sharp detour via the Pines of the Appian Way.

    Taff Wells and Gareth Ritter really captured the heart and soul of the music — the MD directing the attack on the title like Boney aboard his trusty steed Marengo. It was super — dramatic, colourful, exciting and a touch on the right side of OTT. Cheltenham beckons.

    A brave effort from the old general that is Tony Small and his troops at Penclawdd — full of vigour and excitement, whilst Jayne Thomas led a spirited Markham & District in an account that started to find its feet in impressive style the closer it got to that triumphal Borodno finale.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 14:48:40

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    We're on our way to Borodino

    Kit Turnbull's colourful score evokes the lead up to the Battle of Borodino fought on 7 September 1812 during the French invasion of Russia.

    The fighting involved around 250,000 troops and left at least 70,000 casualties, making Borodino the deadliest day of the Napoleonic Wars.

    Napoleon's Grande Armee launched an attack against the Imperial Russian Army, driving it back from its initial positions but failing to gain a decisive victory. Both armies were exhausted after the battle and the Russians withdrew from the field the following day.

    Borodino represented the last Russian effort at stopping the French advance on Moscow, which fell a week later. However, the French had no clear way of forcing Tsar Alexander to capitulate because the Russian army was not decisively defeated, resulting in the ultimate defeat of the French invasion following the retreat from Moscow in October.

    As for our poetic, hedonistic hero?

    Upon the enthronement of Emperor Nicholas I in 1825, Davydov returned to the military and went to the Caucasus where he fought in the Russo-Persian war of 1826-1828.

    In April 1831 he received the 1st class Order of Saint Anna for the capture of Vladimir-Volynskiy City in what is now Western Ukraine. Later he was promoted to lieutenant general and received the 2nd class Order of Saint Vladimir.

    After the end of the Polish campaign Davydov retired and settled in the estate of Verkhnyaya Maza, which belonged to his wife Sofya Chirkova. There he continued his literary work, while bringing up his children and doing housework; he built a winery and dug out a pond.

    In 1839 he fell ill and died at the age of 54.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 14:26:54

    Passionate poets rattle their musical sabres

    The great Dylan Thomas resided in Cwmdonkin Drive not too far from these parts in years gone by, and he would have been delighted that the bands here were being inspired by the dashing hussar poetry of Denis Davydov.

    It's been pretty good stuff too — all sabre rattling, testosterone fuelled passion and daring do from Royal Buckley to open, followed by Seindorf Arian Crwbin and then Abertillery Town. All three brought out the colour and character of the music — some losing a few brave soldiers to injuries along the way, but ultimately ending in triumph.

    Lots to enjoy in the deliberate (or homage) nods and winks in the score — from the Mahler opening trumpet call to the spicy Italian jaunt, the sodden Respighi footsteps and even dare one say it — a touch of John Barry's 'Zulu' film music.

    This is great music to get the Russkies up and at 'em — so bravo to Comrades Jones, Jones and Williams.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 13:48:33

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    Well worth the wait for Beaumaris....

    It took the judges nearly 45 minutes from the time the last note was played from the last band on stage to the announcement of the results in the Third Section.

    The audience waited patiently as Glyn Williams and Jonathan Pippen took their time to ponder their decision — telling 4BR that they really did have to look at their remarks and discuss the merits of a number of performances a second time before making their final decision. It was appreciated by the audience though — the Welsh like a decision reached by a good debate!

    The duo revealed that there were "clear winners" in Seindorf Beaumaris, but it was much closer with the battle for the second qualification place and the final podium place.

    In the end Usk will join their North Wales counterparts in Cheltenham with a delighted Briton Ferry taking third.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 13:35:32

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    Draw:

    Second Section:

    Test Piece: The Golden Sabre — Tales of the Hussar-Poet, Denis Davydov (Kit Turnbull)
    Adjudicators: Nicholas Garmen and David Hirst
    Draw: 11.00am
    Commences: 1.15pm

    1. Royal Buckley Town (Keith Jones)
    2. Seindorf Arian Crwbin (Andrew Jones)
    3. Abertillery Town (Alun F Williams)
    4. Taff Vale (Gareth Ritter)
    5. Penclawdd (Tony Small)
    6. Markham & District (Jayne Thomas)
    7. Abergavenny Borough (Lana Tingay)
    8. Mid Rhondda (Thomas Coaches) (Alan Gibbs)
    9. Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)
    10. Ammanford Town Silver (Glyn Davies)

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 13:30:45

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    2020 Champion: Seindorf Beaumaris

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    Second Place: Usk

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    Third Place: Briton Ferry

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    Best Instrumentalist winner: Katherine Gaunt of Seindorf Beaumaris

    Result:

    Third Section:

    Test Piece: Endurance (Andrew Baker)
    Adjudicators: Jonathan Pippen and Glyn Williams

    1. Seindorf Beaumaris (Clive Zwanswiniski)*
    2. Usk (James Jones)*
    3. Briton Ferry Silver (Jeff Pearce)
    4. Gwaun Cae Gurwen (Robert Burnett)
    5. Mellingriffith 2 (Martyn Ford)
    6. RAF St Athan Voluntary (Alan Bourne)
    7. Ynyshir (Dean Evans)
    8. Severn Tunnel (Dan Dennis)

    *Qualify for National Final

    Best Instrumentalist: Katherine Gaunt (baritone) — Seindorf Beaumaris

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 12:22:38

    Last two round off a solid bit of Endurance work..

    The eight bands here have given a solid account of themselves this morning — all just about getting to grips with Andrew Baker's excellent set-work.

    The final two contenders showcased their strengths and tried cover their weaknesses through sensible direction from the middle that ensured that the dynamics were not overblown and the tempos were not overtly over ambitious.

    The problems with intonation surfaced in the opening section with the muted cornets and trombones, but both Severn Tunnel and RAF St Athan built in confidence as the music evolved — drawing out tension, drama and ultimate triumph in their wake.

    There were also some fine solo contributions too — notable a super flugel with Severn Tunnel and baritone and cornet with RAF. Maybe not quite enough to get to Cheltenham but two performances of merit.

    4BR Prediction:

    An enjoyable contest this — on a piece that certainly stretched the bands but didn't defeat them. All emerged with credit with the top two for us in Seindorf Beaumaris and Melingriffith M2 two to look out for come the Finals in Cheltenham.

    RAF St Athan and Briton Ferry could well battle it out for the final podium spot.

    1. Seindorf Beaumaris
    2. Melingriffith M2
    3. RAF St Athan

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 12:04:52

    Just the right chill factor...

    The bands here are giving 'Endurance' a determined crack — with Briton Ferry followed by Seindorf Beaumaris and Melingriffith (M2).

    The opening muted section is proving a bit troubling, but as soon as the bands get over that they seem to find their sea legs and the playing becomes colourful, energised and characterful — helped by all three having super percussion players able to add effect and texture to the music.

    Briton Ferry's was a neatly portrayed account — with the MD knowing the limitations of his resources, whilst Seindorf Beaumaris played with such confidence and a touch of polished musicality — especially from the leading solo lines. There was a richness to the ensemble sound, although it was deliberately chilly even in the majestic finale. The story really came to life.

    So too with Melingriffth M2 who were also inspired by that chill wind off Swansea Bay to day to provide a super rendition that caught the spirit of Andrew Baker's score to a tee.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 11:52:37

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    One from the history book...

    The Welsh Regional contest hasn't always taken place as early as February — with the 1952 event held over two weekends in April and May in Treorchy.

    The adjudicators were Harold Hind and Herbert Sutcliffe (not the famous Yorkshire cricketer) with 34 bands taking part. Cory took the Championship Section honours from Gwaun Cae Gurwen and Parc & Dare.

    All three bands are still going strong — with Gwaun winning the Fourth Section title last year and playing in the Third Section this morning and Parc & Dare returning this year in the First Section.

    In 1952 current Welsh champion Tredegar was competing in the Second Section under the baton of Cornelius Buckley, the father of the well known conductor and adjudicator Brian Buckley who was the principal cornet of the band that day.

    Bands no longer with us from 1952 include Ystalyfera Town, Mynydd y garreg, Porthcawl Juniors, Noral Silver, Skewen Silver and Barry Silver amongst others...

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 11:32:01

    A question of numbers...

    Wales may not be the largest region in terms of the number of competing bands — but it has a proud record of National titles to its name — especially in the 21st century.

    Since 2000 the nation has produced 23 Champion Bands of Great Britain — a record to be proud of. Whether or not any of the qualifiers go on to add to that number at Cheltenham or London this year we will have to wait and see, but a few of them will travel with confidence for sure.

    The qualification rules mean that Cory and two others from a field of 7 go through from the Championship Section with two from each of the other sections. Fair or unfair given other regions have double the numbers? Whatever your opinion, the numbers do add up up in terms of success.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 10:55:08

    A narrative trio to open...

    Andrew Baker's test-piece certainly follows an easy to understand linear progression in its storytelling.

    However, its also poses its challenges as soon as the band's slip anchor on their journey 'South' — with intonation issues to address in the opening bars with muted troms and cornets that form a softly shaded ocean of sound for the solo lines from the flugel and baritone to gently bob along on.

    That has posed a tricky problem for the first three bands so far — although Gwaun Cae Gurwen, Usk and Ynyshir soon found their sea legs in the energised section that followed. Little moments of unease and some imperfections were heard, but all three conductors used their noggins to keep a well tempered flow to the music, a darkness to the harmonies (very Vaughan Williams 'Sinfonia Antartica') and a growing sense of majesty and triumph to close.

    It's right at the top end of Third Section levels here — but three solid shows so far.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 10:28:58

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    Endurance...

    Men wanted for hazardous journey.
    Small wages, bitter cold,
    long months of complete darkness,
    constant danger, safe return doubtful.
    Honour and recognition in case of success.

    It will be interesting to hear how the eight Welsh contenders get on with tackling Andrew Baker's evocative test-piece this morning — one which comes with a pretty foreboding introduction — as written by Ernest Shackleton (above) from his home when looking for hardy souls to accompany him on his Trans-Antarctic expedition.

    Little did they know what actually awaited them...

    'Endurance' was certainly a stern test of character in Blackpool although conductors and players we have spoken with have said how much they have enjoyed its challenges. It's a thoroughly engaging work, melodic and mysterious to open, followed by the energetic enthusiasm, the brittle realities of the monochrome wilderness, the despair of isolation and patience to engineer the journey to safety, and the final epic voyage.

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 10:02:33

    Draw:

    Third Section:

    Saturday 29th February
    Test Piece: Endurance (Andrew Baker)
    Adjudicators: Jonathan Pippen and Glyn Williams
    Commences: 10.00am

    1. Gwaun Cae Gurwen (Robert Burnett)
    2. Usk (James Jones)
    3. Ynyshir (Dean Evans)
    4. Briton Ferry Silver (Jeff Pearce)
    5. Seindorf Beaumaris (Clive Zwanswiniski)
    6. Mellingriffith 2 (Martyn Ford)
    7. Severn Tunnel (Dan Dennis)
    8. RAF St Athan Voluntary (Alan Bourne)

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 10:00:19

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    A warm welcome to Swansea...

    A brand new venue for the Welsh Regional contest this year — and an impressive place it is too.

    The Great Hall seats 700 people and is primarily used for large lectures, conferences and presentation ceremonies, although it has hosted a growing number of concerts. The University is very easy to get to off the M4 motorway and looks very much like a modern American campus with its rather functional looking buildings.

    The bonus is that you can look out of the windows and see the lovely Mumbles area to one side — although to the other is Port Talbot steelworks... although it was home to a local lad made good in a certain Richard Burton, whose image hangs in the hallway here.

    After the excellent organisation and warm welcome offered last year in Wrexham, hopefully lots of people will make the trip here to enjoy the action over the two days.

    A nice rousing rendition of the Welsh National Anthem puts us all in the right mood for the battles ahead...

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 07:42:11

    Championship Section:

    Test Piece: A Tale as Yet Untold (Philip Sparke)
    Sunday 1st March
    Adjudicators: David Hirst and Alan Morrison
    Draw: 11.30am
    Commences: 1.15pm

    City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) M1 (Christopher Bond)
    Cory (Philip Harper)
    Ebbw Valley (Nigel Seaman)
    Llwydcoed (Christopher Turner)
    Northop Silver (John Doyle)
    Tongwynlais Temperance (Carl Saunders)
    Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)

    First Section:

    Test Piece: Legacy (Tom Davoren)
    Saturday 29th February
    Adjudicators: Alan Morrison and Jonathan Pippen
    Draw: 3.00pm
    Commences: 5.00pm

    BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)
    Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)
    Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)
    Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)
    Parc & Dare (Lewis Wilkinson)
    Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)
    Tylorstown (Gary Davies)

    Second Section:

    Saturday 29th February
    Test Piece: The Golden Sabre — Tales of the Hussar-Poet, Denis Davydov (Kit Turnbull)
    Adjudicators: Nicholas Garmen and David Hirst
    Draw: 11.00am
    Commences: 1.15pm

    Abergavenny Borough (Lana Tingay)
    Abertillery Town (Alun F Williams)
    Ammanford Town Silver (Glyn Davies)
    Markham & District (Jayne Thomas)
    Mid Rhondda (Thomas Coaches) (Alan Gibbs)
    Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)
    Penclawdd (Tony Small)
    Royal Buckley Town (Keith Jones)
    Seindorf Arian Crwbin (Andrew Jones)
    Taff Vale (Gareth Ritter)

    Third Section:

    Saturday 29th February
    Test Piece: Endurance (Andrew Baker)
    Adjudicators: Jonathan Pippen and Glyn Williams
    Draw: 9.00am
    Commences: 10.00am

    Briton Ferry Silver (Jeff Pearce)
    Gwaun Cae Gurwen (Robert Burnett)
    Mellingriffith 2 (Martyn Ford)
    RAF St Athan Voluntary (Alan Bourne)
    Seindorf Beaumaris (Clive Zwanswiniski)
    Severn Tunnel (Dan Dennis)
    Usk (James Jones)
    Ynyshir (Dean Evans)

    Fourth Section:

    Sunday 1st March
    Test Piece: Neverland (Christopher Bond)
    Adjudicators: Nicholas Garmen and Jonathan Pippen
    Draw: 9.00am
    Commences: 10.00am

    Buckley Brass (Steve Pugh-Jones)
    Crosskeys Silver (Sion Rhys Jones)
    Cwmtawe (Wayne Pedrick)
    Newbridge Celynen (Geraint Barnes)
    Northop (Aled Williams)
    Oakdale Silver (Kerry Bowden)
    Ogmore Valley Silver (Danny Stone)
    Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley (Paul Wilson MBE)

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 06:59:16

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    Adding to the list of hosts...

    The 700 seat, £32 million Great Hall at Swansea University's Science & Innovation Bay Campus (above) is the host for the 2020 Welsh Regional Championships.

    It follows in the footsteps of the Brangwyn Hall in the city, which has held the event for the vast majority of times since 1945, as well as Porthcawl, Caerphilly, Abertirdwr, Aberystwyth, Llandudno, Wrexham and Treorchy, which held the contest in the early 1950s but also in 1980 for the famous 'No Contest' event when the Welsh were in rebellion against Robert Alexander's National rule.

    Don't quite see that happening again any time soon...

  • All Section sSaturday 29, 06:42:29

    New venue ready to welcome Welsh Area challengers

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