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The Reunion Band of the National Youth Brass Band of Wales

Conductors: Edward Gregson, Dr Robert Childs
Soloists: Owen Farr, Dewi Griffiths, Glyn Williams
RWCMD, Cardiff
Saturday 22nd October


1982 was a different age in Wales: Pre-miners’ strike, pre-devolution, pre-mobile phones. Music, and brass band music in particular played an important role in education and in local community life. 

The intervening era has seen a radical change in the social, political and musical landscape; pit head wheels replaced by MacDonalds signs, a shiny new Senedd in Cardiff Bay, and fewer community-based bands.

That has been linked to the 40 years of challenges faced by the National Youth Brass Band through education cuts and revolving door bureaucracy – not to mention a rain sodden welcome to the audience as the heavens opened on the night. It has teetered on the brink at times, but thanks to people such as Keith Griffin (for many years its indefatigable administrator) and others, it has battled through. 

Encouraging

The outlook though is encouraging; a new National Music Service, a home within the National Youth Arts Wales organisation, links to the Royal Welsh College, better community band engagement, and an equally hard working group of ‘Friends’ to support a musical ethos that remains firmly based on excellence of opportunity.

This then was a celebration marked by realism; a warm glow of nostalgia threaded by the warning of what the loss of such an organisation would mean to the cultural outlook of future generations of youngsters

This then was a celebration marked by realism; a warm glow of nostalgia threaded by the warning of what the loss of such an organisation would mean to the cultural outlook of future generations of youngsters. That was certainly touched on by its founding conductor Edward Gregson, who with Dr Robert Childs led the scratch ensemble (5 hours or rehearsal on the day) through an ambitious programme.
 
That visual endorsement came with the unforms representing at least 17 different ensembles (all parts of Wales and a few from England) who have benefited from players who have enjoyed the National Youth Band experience (certainly remarked upon), the musical hallmark embossed by the choices of repertoire.

Original music

Original music from Welsh composers Alun Hoddinott, William Mathias and Gareth Wood (‘Fanfare with Variants’, 'Vivat Regina’ , ‘Concertino for Horn’ and  ‘Sospan Fach’) were balanced against favourite lollipops and a trio of classy alumni soloists in Owen Farr, Dewi Griffiths (‘The Paragon’) and Glyn Williams (‘Grandfather’s Clock’).  

That is a legacy that Welsh music making can ill afford to lose and must be built on in the decades to come. 

There was also a reminder of the serious musical soil that has been tilled over the years, with Eric Ball’s ‘Resurgam’  and Edward Gregson’s ‘Connotations’ – works that have been part of a crop that has also included commissions such as John Pickard’s ‘Gaia Symphony’,  Hoddinott’s ‘8th Symphony’  and Wood’s ‘Concerto for Harp and Brass Band’  amongst others.

That is a legacy that Welsh music making can ill afford to lose and must be built on in the decades to come. 

As Edward Gregson said on the night, the joy of being able to come to a 50th anniversary concert will tell us whether that has been achieved or not. 

Iwan Fox 

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