The first title of the Cheltenham weekend was won in the most emphatic fashion, as Welsh champion Ebbw Valley claimed a historic 'hat-trick' of National victories under inspirational MD, Gareth Ritter.
And even on a racecourse that has seen many famous triple winners over the years, none could have romped home in such a commanding manner — Arkle included — as the band from the former steelworks town in South Wales.
'Simply fantastic', adjudicator Anne Crookston later told 4BR, as she reiterated the written remarks she and fellow judge David Hirst made after their outstanding rendition of set work, 'The Snaring of the Sun'.
"It was a good margin ahead,"Anne said. "It was so confident, well prepared, detailed and delivered, that it was hard to find fault. It was pushed by a fine performance by the second placed band (Eccles), but it was still a very clear winner."
David Hirst agreed: "A great deal of credit goes to the MD for this win. He certainly knew and understood what was required to bring the story to life. It was a performance that brought the drama as well as the refinement out of the score."
Those remarks saw David write;"A very musical performance that had the hallmarks of a skilled MD who knew the music inside out." Meanwhile, Anne summed up their rendition as being, "...so well directed. Great quality throughout with classy contributions from soloists and percussion."
Despite a fine challenge from North West contenders Eccles directed by Mareika Gray, and with fellow Welsh qualifier Deiniolen finishing a delighted third under Lois Eifion Jones, there was little doubt in anyone's mind that the title was heading back to Wales for the sixth time since 2007 after Ebbw Valley had played.
In a highly enjoyable contest that saw a number of exciting, colourful interpretations of Stephen Roberts' take on the Polynesian fable, the remaining top six prizes went to Carlton Brass, Wotton under Edge and Old Silkstone.
None though was as brilliantly portrayed as the winner as they stormed to a thoroughly deserved victory.
"I simply knew we couldn't have done anything more on the day,"Ebbw Valley's MD Gareth Ritter told 4BR.
"The players have all been determined to create their own piece of Welsh banding history this weekend that they gave me everything in their preparation and commitment coming up to the contest and on the stage itself."
That piece of history saw Ebbw Valley become only the second Welsh band to win a National 'hat trick' (after Cory in the early 1980s), but the first to do it by winning three separate sections.
They are also only the second band since Ashton under Lyne in 1999 to achieve the feat in the 70 years of the finals themselves, whilst their experienced Eb tuba player David Meredith followed in the footsteps of principal cornet Nanette Jones and former soprano player Martyn Moxon is winning the 'Best Instrumentalist' award on each of their triumphs.
In the run up to the contest Gareth also sought the assistance of Dr Robert Childs to help him pick out anything he may have missed in the score.
"Bob came up to our rehearsal on the Wednesday and immediately pin-pointed things we needed to do. I always ask my players to try and improve on each performance — and the same applies to me.
Bob's insight gave us all such a lift — and proved crucial. My thanks go to him, but also to everyone associated with the band for being able to make our mark on the history books."
Earlier, the contest had opened with a string of fancied rivals delivering exciting, if rather variable accounts, before the quartet of Old Silkstone, Wotton under Edge, Eccles Borough and then Ebbw Valley followed each other on stage.
It proved to be the fulcrum of the day — each heading the judge's preference before the comfort break. Immediately after though Ebbw Valley provided the unbeatable marker none of the other seven competitors could come close to, despite fine efforts from Carlton Brass and Dieniolen who eventually ended fourth and third respectively.
After the results Eccles MD Mareika Gray graciously offered her congratulations to the winners, knowing that her band also continues to make impressive long term progress, whilst Deiniolen could be a band to watch out for here next year, as packed with young players they showed remarkable maturity under their talented MD Lois Eifion Jones.
There was also much to enjoy in the performances of the other prize winners, with few grumbles from any band on their eventual placing in the results table.
The judge's certainly picked up on the loose ensemble, nerves and tiredness that just blighted accounts that had plenty of drama and excitement — although it was noticeable that even the top six prize winners lacked the more subtle balances of dynamics and tempi shown by the top two bands and the winners in particular.
Below them, the usual problems just took the gloss off some performances that held such initial promise, such as Rushden, AW Parker (Drybrook), Colchester and Lockwood that filled the top ten places, although it was good to hear the difficult percussion parts played with style and dynamic appreciation by all bands.
For Ebbw Valley though the day could not have been any better — with things topped off by a successful marriage proposal from Band Manager Dean Woods to fiancÃ© Isobel Cook on the steps of the main Cheltenham grandstand.
"That's made it the best banding day of my life,"he said as he proudly showed off the National trophy in his hand and Isobel sparked the engagement ring on hers.
All that can now top this for the all conquering triple Welsh and National champion is to return next year to make it four in a row in the First Section.
Not even Arkle did that.
The players have all been determined to create their own piece of Welsh banding history this weekend that they gave me everything in their preparation and commitment coming up to the contest and on the stage itselfGareth Ritter
Saturday 19th September
Test Piece: 'The Snaring of the Sun' — Stephen Roberts
Adjudicators: Anne Crookston and David Hirst
1. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)
2. Eccles Borough (Mareika Gray)
3. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion Jones)
4. Carlton Brass (Paul Watson)
5. Wotton under Edge & District (Ian Dickinson)
6. Old Silkstone (Sam Fisher)
7. Rushden Town (Adele Hudson)
8. A W Parker (Drybrook) (Joshua Ruck)
9. Colchester Band (David Maddocks)
10. Lockwood Brass (John Roberts)
11. Tyldesley (Robert Taylor)
12. Croy Silver (Kenneth Blackwood)
13. Chapeltown (Andrew Dennis)
14. Jedforest Instrumental (Phil Rosier)
15. NASUWT Concert (Andrew Hunter)
16. Yiewsley & West Drayton (Christopher Cole)
Best Instrumentalist: David Meredith (Eb Bass) — Ebbw Valley