Pontardulais Band showed that there is always light at the end of a long tunnel, let along emanating out of the depths of ground, as they claimed the Second Section title in excellent fashion.
Inspired by their talented conductor Paul Jenkins, who has maintained a commitment to his boyhood band on what has been the veritable 'roller-coaster' ride of promotions and relegations through the sections since taking up the baton in 2006, their first Area triumph at this level 1998 had the stamp of quality authority that will surely see them as one of the shorter priced runners for a potential National success in Cheltenham.
The musical substance of their success on Jonathan Bates' 'Ex Terra Lucem' was imposing, with John Winterflood telling the audience that they had won in "very good fashion", whilst Steve Sykes said it was "clear by a margin".
The subsequent written remarks bore out their opinions for the west Walians; "Much to enjoy and well prepared" wrote Steve, whilst John summed up his remarks by stating; "I thoroughly enjoyed this. A very good performance with lots of detail."
Long term ambition
"We're thrilled," Paul later told 4BR as he was joined by his young family for the traditional celebration photo shoot with the trophy. "We aim to produce our own players (shown by their prize winning 'Best Percussion' section) and grow with long term ambitions, so this is the start of building towards the First Section and beyond over the next few years.
It's an honour for me to conduct my home town band, so we are going to enjoy this one before we plan for Cheltenham and life in the First Section in 2019."
Behind them in a contest full of engaging musical interpretations and good quality technical playing, came Ifton Colliery, who marked their Welsh Area debuts (their bandroom having moved a few yards over the border from Shropshire) with a considered performance under Scott Lloyd that grew in stature to claim their fifth Cheltenham appearance in the last six years.
Sporting Welsh dragons on the sleeves of their walking jackets, they understandably enjoyed their first experience of the Brangwyn Hall.
"It was great to play here," cornet player Martyn Harris told 4BR. "We now consider ourselves 100% Welsh when it comes to banding so it would be great if we can go on and do well for the nation at the finals."
The foundation stone to the success of the winner in particular came with the security shown in the key second movement, 'St Elyn's Chapel' (something highlighted by Steve Sykes in his pre-results remarks), with Paul Jenkins keeping a lovely natural flow to the music with Pontardulais, aided by subtle contrasts in dynamic (another area pinpointed) and consistent percussion colouring and effect in the outer moments (a factor for John).
And whilst Ifton's performance lacked the same malleable pulse, the tempered approach appealed in the box to just pip Newport Borough who produced a lyrical account under Robin Hackett (aided by the classy contribution of principal cornet Seamus Gallaher).
The remaining top-six places went to well-directed renditions from Ammanford Town (who had a fine young cornet player themselves), Royal Buckley and Abertillery Town — each bringing a sense of dance-like joyfulness to the opening 'Brigantes' and growing slow-burning drama to the finale.
And whilst the standard did fall away somewhat with the final three contenders each emerged with a great deal of credit even if they did occasionally overblow in the louder sections and loss flow in the middle movement.
None though shone brighter than Pontardulais, whose victory smiles lit up the Brangwyn Hall stage every bit as their title winning playing.
We aim to produce our own players (shown by their prize winning 'Best Percussion' section) and grow with long term ambitions, so this is the start of building towards the First Section and beyond over the next few yearsPaul Jenkins.
Test Piece: Ex Terra Lucem (Jonathan Bates)
Adjudicators: Steve Sykes and John Winterflood
1. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)*
2. Ifton Colliery (Scott Lloyd)*
3. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)
4. Ammanford Town Silver (Glyn Davies)
5. Royal Buckley Town (Keith Jones)
6. Abertillery Town (Joshua Ruck)
7. Penclawdd (Tony Small)
8. Crwbin (Craig Roberts)
9. Blaenavon Town (David Langley)
*Qualify for National Final
Best Instrumentalist: Seamus Gallaher (cornet) Newport Borough
Best Percussion: Pontardulais