Report & Results: 2023 Welsh Regional Championships

Tredegar, Ebbw Valley, Abergavenny, Crosskeys and Royal Oakeley claim the Welsh titles in Swansea

  Tredegar was crowned Welsh Champion for a 14th time

A "tip-top performance by any standard" that drew "a real spine-tingling reaction" saw Ian Porthouse and Tredegar Band claim the Welsh Regional title for a third time in four years in Swansea.

That was the written reaction of adjudicators Dr Robert Childs and Alan Morrison, as an outstanding rendition of Philip Wilby's 'Red Priest' off the number 1 draw saw the band go on to repel the immediate challenge of defending champion Cory.

Both now head to Malmo to lock horns at the European Championships, with Tredegar already booked to represent Wales in Palanga in 2024 and Cory looking to join them there as they reset their focus on the defence of that title.

The duo will also be joined at the Royal Albert Hall in October by Llwydcoed Band, as they secured the second qualification place on Sunday afternoon.


"A tremendous performance full of drama, style and detail — always driven by musical shape. One or two small blips, but a tip-top performance by any standards," Bob Childs wrote in summing up Tredegar's 'Red Priest'.

Meanwhile, Alan Morrison described it as; "A performance of high musical integrity and virtuoso playing that had a real spine-tingling reaction for all listening."

"It's always great to win this title," Ian Porthouse later told 4BR as he held the Championship Trophy and cup as winning conductor for a sixth time. "Philip Wilby's score offers so much opportunity but so much risk too. We had a couple of slips but overall, I couldn't have asked for anything more."

He added: "The players have been on fantastic form for some time now and I'm delighted for Rob Westacott who has brought so much to the band. We must build on this though for Malmo and take things to another level to be successful there. I'll give them a few days off, but then it's back to work."

Back to back

Once again there was little to separate the heavyweights of Welsh banding (although the interpretations from the MDs were very different), with the back-to-back early draws ensuring that seats in the Brangwyn Hall were eagerly taken before the start of the top section action.

Audience expectations were immediately rewarded as Tredegar delivered a 'Red Priest' of Catholic splendour, balance and Vivaldic virtuosity.

Ian Porthouse's elegant reading was further enhanced by excellent solo contributions — notably from 'Best Instrumentalist' Robert Westacott on soprano. A couple of minor clips (and a clanging dropped mute) just allowed a chink of light to creep under the almost impregnable armoury, but on this occasion, Cory were unable to grasp the opportunity.

Philip Harper's portrait was one of broad colourings, dramatic impulses and deliberate pacing — built on an agile foundation provided by their 'Best Basses' and the artistry of 'Best Cornet', Tom Hutchinson. Like Tredegar it was certainly not flawless, with minor blemishes and some errant intonation seeing them finish behind their rivals.

Extra level

"There was clarity between the top two," Alan Morrison later told 4BR. "It's a wonderful piece that enables bands to showcase their talents and judges to spot the differences. It's like a hugely complex jigsaw puzzle to fit together. Neither was faultless, but the winners had an extra level today."

Bob Childs agreed: "We looked for that X factor and we got it once or twice — especially with the winner. At this level there is little choose, but there was clarity and some intonation issues separated the top two."

Both had earlier given detailed pre-result addresses, leaving no one in doubt to what they were looking for: Bob reiterating what he said in the North West and Yorkshire, Alan pinpointing details on balance, alignment, chordal balances and blend.

Much to consider

Although Tredegar and Cory "were up there on their own", there was much to consider in deciding who would join them at the Albert Hall. In the end it was a delighted Llwydcoed who secured a second successive appearance with a performance of solid purpose to pip fourth placed, City of Cardiff (M1).

Bob later revealed that a significant deciding qualification factor was one of dynamics — Llwydcoed maintaining control of energy and excitement levels under the talented Joshua Ruck as their rivals just lost dynamic focus in the final sections of the piece. They now head to Blackpool and full of extra levels of confidence.

Something to offer

Behind the podium finishers every band "had something to offer", although the judges did point out their surprise at the lack of understanding of the acoustic of the hall ("we do come back here most years," Bob said), and of muted balance and blend ("there wasn't enough thought given at times," Alan added).

Elsewhere there was further encouragement in the rebuilding process for Tongwynlais Temperance as Owen Farr led them into a hard working fifth, with somewhat inconsistent renditions from Pontardulais and Tylorstown filling the remaining places.

First Section:

Whilst Tredegar and Cory will represent Wales in the heavyweight division at the forthcoming European Championships, two high quality cruiserweights will fly the flag at the First Section National Finals in Cheltenham.

Ebbw Valley and Beaumaris were also 'on their own' in terms of quality as they gave fine accounts of Philip Lawrence's 'A Day in the Life of a Knight' in impressing adjudicators Bob Childs and Alan Morrison.

Work for them

As they did the following day , both gave detailed pre-results appraisals to ensure no one was left in doubt what they were looking for in a score littered, as Alan said, with complexities as well as ambiguities.

The MDs had to work out "how to make it work for them", he said, by exploring moods, dynamic balances and tempos, spacing and the use of some "musical common sense". Bob also broke down "the basics" both spoke off in the eight small movements that "had to be linked musically" to present a coherent performance.

"The top bands did that," he said. "Then there were three or four presentable ones." Alan earlier stated that, "there was some excellent playing with the top two or three ahead of the others."

Drawn together

As in the top section, the title contenders were drawn together (although at the end), with Gareth Ritter leading a confident Ebbw Valley to a deserved Welsh Open/Area 'double' with a performance of mature musicality, ensemble and solo security — led by their splendid 'Best Instrumentalist' horn player Tianna Thomas.

"A super performance full of detail and musical shape," Bob wrote in his remarks, whilst Alan said: "So much clarity and detail as you found the different moods and scenes to tell a very transparent storyline".

"This another step in the right direction," Gareth Ritter later told 4BR. "We know we have a way to go yet, but we are building and improving all the time. We now have the Senior Trophy to look forward to which will give us a further indication of where we are nationally."


On this form they will head to Blackpool for the Senior Trophy as well as Cheltenham confident of adding further silverware to their name.

So too Beaumaris, as they took another significant step in their rejuvenation under conductor Bari Gwilliam with a performance of vibrant character to return to Cheltenham for the fourth time in five years.

Marked return

Another band making a significant mark after a period away was Goodwick, as they returned to the contest for the first time since 2019 to claim third place with a new generation of youngsters in their ranks. At a time when there are deep concerns over banding numbers in Wales it was great to see them back.

Behind the podium finishers came accounts of merit but inconsistencies from top-six finishers BTM, Lewis Merthyr and Parc & Dare, although unfortunately a registration infringement meant that ninth placed Markham & District was subsequently disqualified.

The band, which accepted full responsibility for their error, was fully aware of the situation before taking to the stage but still wished to be part of the contesting day.

Second Section:

There may well have been no happier group of players and supporters on Saturday evening than those associated with Abergavenny Borough Band, after they claimed the Second Section title.

Over the last few years the band has worked tirelessly to overcome the challenges of Covid-19 and to develop a new generation of young players who have started to come through their ranks under MD, Lana Tingay.

Inspirational figure

She has been an inspirational figure through her local school peripatetic work which has seen youngsters developed in a friendly and inclusive environment — one which was evident in their celebrations after claiming a first Area title since 2017.

Their considered rendition of 'The Pilgrim's Progress' was described as being "very musically shaped" by adjudicator Martin Heartfield, as he praised the MD in his written remarks for bringing "dynamic control that brought the story alive".

Fellow adjudicator Nicholas Garman agreed, saying that it had "real quality" and was "very enjoyable".

That sense of enjoyment was something Martin touched on (with a crafty, but accurate assessment of the excellent Eb bass playing as well as the need to layer dynamics) in his pre-results remarks.

Real pleasure

"It was a real pleasure to listen to the performances today. One or two did stand out of course and the overall standard was pretty good on a piece that has its challenges."

Nick agreed: "We were not clip counting today, but we do have to take into account noticeable errors. Our remarks may sound a bit harsh but are aimed to help improve bands in the long term. There were good impressions made in every performance though."


The best came for them came from Abergavenny.

"We are thrilled," Lana Tingay later told 4BR. "All the hard work that has gone into this — and not just the players. The youngsters have made such an impression, and everyone is enjoying being part of the band — especially me!"

Joining them at the National Final will be Newport Borough, as the bands drawn 2 and 1 respectively provided the qualification markers rivals could not match.

Led by Robin Hackett, they qualified for the first time since 2019 thanks to a performance of rich character — aided by a fantastic bit of Eb bass playing from 'Best Instrumentalist', Patrick Miller.

The final podium place went to Usk as they continued their solid progress under Jamie Jones, whilst just behind it was a question of consistency, increasing clips and unforced errors in well directed accounts from the top-six finishers of Penclawdd, Ammanford Town and Royal Buckley as well as the remaining contenders.

Third Section:

It proved to be a memorable weekend 'double' for Crosskeys MD, Sion Rhys Jones.

Not only did he lead his band to a thoroughly deserved Third Section title success, but the following day played solo euphonium with Tredegar as they secured to top section honours — and both from the number 1 draw.

Impressive form

Victory on Stephen Bulla's 'Chorale and Toccata' secured a place at Cheltenham for a third successive year, where they will hope to continue to build on impressive form that has seen them claim victory on six of their last eight contests outings.

They will be joined there for the first time since 2005 by Newtown Band. They took to the stage with a raft of youngsters in their ranks thanks to a long term development policy under MD Steve Edwards that is coming to exciting fruition. Their wonderful show of delight was just reward for a performance of youthful maturity.

Last year's finalist Crwbin just missed on a Cheltenham return as they ended in third, with the remaining top-six places going to solid renditions from City of Wrexham, RAF St Athan Voluntary (on what was to be their last ever contest performance before disbanding due to the closure of the RAF base) and Gwaun Cae Gurwen.

Clear winner

"There was a clear winner," adjudicator Duncan Beckley said before the results. "This is a great little piece, but some bands wanted to play too fast and aggressively, which wasn't required. The best took away that aggression and gave the music more space."

His colleague Chris King added: "Choices of tempos were important today, alongside balance that allowed the melody and counter melody to come through correctly. It's a deceptive piece to work out — the best did that and played without it feeling anxious."


That certainly applied to the impressive new champion, with Duncan Beckley describing Crosskeys' performance in his written remarks as, "well constructed". Chris King said it was "well organised" from "a very good band."

"I'm really happy," Sion said after his first victory of the weekend, one delivered with warm ensemble sounds, balanced dynamics and pacing and confident soloists — headed by their excellent 'Best Instrumentalist' cornet player Tomos Evans.

"We have a great work ethic; the players enjoy themselves and I love conducting them. It's been a difficult piece to master, but we have enjoyed it, but now we start planning for Cheltenham."

Fourth Section:

One of the main talking points of the contesting weekend (and being Wales there were many) was the concerning lack of entries in the Fourth Section.

Over the years the community tributaries that feed into the main system of higher level banding have been more numerous and successful. Wales has boasted five National titles since 2011, as well as gaining seven other top-six finishers, but Covid-19 has had a devasting effect. The foundation of Welsh banding has never been so precariously placed.


It was a point carefully picked up on by adjudicators Nicholas Garman and Martin Heartfield who pointed out that they could tell that there were parts missing — although "it wasn't an overriding factor to decide the results".

"It's the basics that told us where the prizes were going", Nick added, whilst Martin praised "the good moments" they heard in each of the four renditions.

Much then to ponder (with numerous calls to 'open up' the section), although there was no minimising both the pride and delight of winners Royal Oakeley Silver — a band that has certainly battled through numerous challenges over the years.

A thoroughly deserved first Area title since 2005 under the watchful, encouraging direction of MD Paul Wilson came from a characterful performance of Darrol Barry's 'Hungerford Town' that balanced solid ensemble basics with confident solo work — led by 'Best Instrumentalist' Ian Colwell on solo euphonium.

"Very enjoyable" and "musically shaped", wrote Martin, whilst Nick added that it was a performance "that got better and better".

Joining them at Cheltenham for the first time since 2013 will be Melingriffith 2 as they produced a well worked account under John Murray.

Great effort

Just behind came Severn Tunnel, whilst there was a great effort shown by Ogmore Valley Silver who took to the stage with just 20 players but played with huge pride and determination led by Danny Stone.

"It's been well worth the long trip down to Swansea," Royal Oakeley Silver MD Paul Wilson said after the results. "The band is working so hard to keep going and improving by reaching out into our community. This is a huge boost and one we can build on."

Collective response

Once again Wales will send highly competitive bands to the National Finals in nearly every section.

However, it was also obvious on a well run weekend that people are now concerned that excellence is coming from an inexorably declining number of bands that are able to compete at the event. The contest has lost over 20 competitors since 1998.

As more than one person told 4BR, calls for action and a collective response from different interested parties is now a matter of urgency.

Iwan Fox

A performance of high musical integrity and virtuoso playing that had a real spine-tingling reaction for all listeningAlan Morrison's written remarks on Tredegar's winning performance


Championship Section:

Test Piece: Red Priest (Philip Wilby)
Adjudicators: Dr Robert Childs & Alan Morrison

1. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)***
2. Cory (Philip Harper)**
3. Llwydcoed (Joshua Ruck)*
4. City of Cardiff (M1) (Christopher Bond)
5. Tongwynlais Temperance (Owen Farr)
6. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)
7. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)

*** Qualify for National Final and to represent Wales at 2024 European Championships
** Pre-qualified for National Final
* Qualify for National Final

Best Instrumentalist: Robert Westacott (soprano) — Tredegar
Best Cornet: Tom Hutchinson — Cory
Best Basses: Cory

First Section:

Test Piece: A Day in the Life of a Knight (Philip Lawrence)
Adjudicators: Dr Robert Childs & Alan Morrison

1. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)*
2. Beaumaris (Bari Gwilliam)*
3. Goodwick (Matthew Jenkins)
4. BTM (Jonathan Pippen)
5. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)
6. Parc & Dare (Nigel Seaman)
7. Burry Port Town (Andrew Jones)
8. Deiniolen Silver (Lois Jones)
9. Markham & District (Jayne Thomas)**

*Qualify for National Final

** Ninth placed Markham & District was subsequently disqualified for a registration infringement.
Best Instrumentalist: Tianna Thomas (horn) — Ebbw Valley

Second Section:

Test Piece: The Pilgrim's Progress (Rodney Newton)
Adjudicators: Nicholas Garman & Martin Heartfield

1. Abergavenny Borough (Lana Tingay)*
2. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)*
3. Usk (James Jones)
4. Penclawdd (John Jones)
5. Ammanford Town Silver (Glyn Rhys Davies)
6. Royal Buckley Town (Keith Jones)
7. Cwmtawe (Wayne Pedrick)
8. Abertillery Town (Alun Williams)
9. Mid Rhondda (Graham Sheppard)

*Qualify for National Final

Best Percussion: Abergavenny Borough
Best Instrumentalist: Patrick Miller (Eb bass) — Newport Borough

Third Section:

Test Piece: Chorale and Toccata (Stephen Bulla)
Adjudicators: Chris King & Duncan Beckley

1. Crosskeys Silver (Sion Rhys Jones)*
2. Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)*
3. Crwbin (Alex McGee)
4. City of Wrexham (Ian Johnson)
5. RAF St Athan Voluntary (Alan Bourne)
6. Gwaun Cae Gurwen (Alex Parker)
7. Ynyshir (Dean Evans)
8. Briton Ferry Silver (Jeff Pearce)

*Qualify for National Final

Best Instrumentalist: Tomos Evans (cornet) — Crosskeys Silver

Fourth Section:

Test Piece: Hungerford Town (Darrol Barry)
Adjudicators: Nicholas Garman & Martin Heartfield

1. Royal Oakeley Silver (Paul Wilson)*
2. Melingriffith 2 (John Murray)*
3. Severn Tunnel (David Ferris)
4. Ogmore Valley Silver (Danny Stone)

*Qualify for National Final

Best Instrumentalist: Ian Colwell (euphonium) — Royal Oakeley Silver

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