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All England Masters 2002:

Player Profile:
4BR “Outstanding Instrumentalist at the 2002 All England Masters” - Morgan Griffiths of the Williams Fairey band.


It is always nice to get a prize isn’t it? – Just ask Morgan Griffiths, the exceptionally talented euphonium star of the Williams Fairey Band who on Sunday became the first recipient of the 4BarsRest trophy as “Outstanding Instrumentalist at the All England Brass Band Championships”.

Morgan had given the audience an exhibition of sublime euphonium playing in the second movement of Philip Wilby’s test piece, “Atlantic” and on a day when fine players from very fine bands found it hard going, the quality of his performance showed once more that he is one of the foremost players of his generation. Given that Wilby required the soloist to play an extended solo line that demanded they finally climb from a bottom C# to a top D at pp through a diminuendo meant difficulties a plenty, but then to require the player to re enter with a top C# to B demi semi motif meant that only the best could do it at all and only the very best perform it with such style, control and musicality. Morgan Griffiths’ performance showed just how good a player he now is.

We caught up with him after he had won our trophy and as he was being led away to the band bus for the long journey home. Both were happy as they could be given Williams Fairey had just come second here once again, but he was delighted to have become the first winner of the 4BR trophy.

“I thought we played really well”, he said. “It was about as good as we could have played and the second movement in particular we thought was something special.”

Was he disappointed that it wasn’t enough to win then? “Of course, but Fodens put in a tremendous performance and at the end of the day, two of the three judges thought they were the best, whilst only one thought we had done enough to win. That’s contesting for you, but I’ve been fortunate over the years to win a couple of times here, and if we continue to perform like that at the Open and the Nationals I think we could be in with a chance of gaining a title this year.”

Morgan Griffiths also paid tribute to the work of Frank Renton and the playing of his colleagues in the Williams Fairey Band who he thought had pulled out all the stops. “Kevin Crockford on sop was outstanding as was Ian Porthouse on cornet and the rest of the guys. It’s a real pleasure to have the opportunity of playing with people like this week in week out and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed working with Frank Renton – he made the rehearsals interesting and constructive. I liked the test piece - although it didn’t look too hard on paper, the more you played it the more detail became apparent – I think it was a pretty good test.”

Morgan Griffiths has been at Williams Fairey since the turn of the year after he had decided to leave Yorkshire Building Society and find fresh challenges. “It was a very hard decision, but the right one I think. I had some brilliant times with YBS and Dr. King has been a major influence on me as a player – an influence I am deeply grateful for. The move to Fairey’s has given me a fresh challenge and at the moment I am thoroughly enjoying myself – if only I could win the bleeding Nationals!”

That aside Morgan Griffiths has had an amazing brass banding career crammed into his 31 years so far, what with 3 British Open wins, 7 European wins, 2 All England Masters and 3 Yorkshire Area titles. All this and he was awarded the “Euphonium Player of the Year” in 1998 and holds the joint distinction of being the youngest ever solo euphonium player with Black Dyke Mills when he took over the position aged just 18.

“I’ve been very lucky so far,” he said. “I started playing at the age of 7 on the cornet before my father thought it better I took up the euphonium and sent me for lessons with the great Geoffrey Whitham. I’m so grateful for all he taught me – and with David King they remain the two greatest influences on my development as a player – my father remains the greatest influence on me full stop though.”

Morgan is also joined at Williams Fairey by his brother Geraint on bass trombone.

“I enjoy playing in the same band with Geraint, but we always look out for how my dads band has done at local contests (Ted Griffiths is the MD at the famous Dobcross Youth Band as well as being actively involved with YBS). Linzi keeps my feet on the ground and it was special for me to be able to win the solo prize with her in the audience.”

Asked how he was going to spend the 4BR prize of 100, he didn’t know.

Morgan Griffiths is rightly seen as one of the very best euphonium players in the banding world and going by the form he showed at the All England Masters, he will remain one of the very best for many years to come. Thoroughly nice chap as well – just hope he gets to spend a few bob of our money on himself!

Morgan Griffiths Fact File:

Age: 31

Started Playing:
Age 7 – first on cornet and then with persuasion to ephonium.

Teachers:
My father, then Geoffrey Whitam

Bands played for:
Yorkshire Bus Company, Brodsworth, Hammonds Sauce, Black Dyke, YBS and now Williams Fairey

Hardest test piece:
….Dove Descending

Favourite solo:
Rule Britannia

Favourite test piece:
Variations on a Ninth – Gilbert Vinter – he wrote great euph parts.

Biggest influences:
Geoffrey Whitham and David King

Brass Band hero:
John Clough – the famous euph player with Black Dyke

Playing ambitions:
To finally win the National Championships of Great Britain.

Awards:
A few – 3 Opens, 7 Europeans, 2 All England Masters, 3 Yorkshire Area, Euphonium Player of the Year 1998.

Coronation Street or Eastenders:
Corrie of course – although I’m usually in band when it’s on.

Instrument:
Sovereign euphonium (medium bore) 966

Mouthpiece:
Denis Wick 4AL

Football Team:
Huddersfield Town for my sins

Nickname:
None that I know of….

Advice to young players:
Work hard… you never get anything or anywhere for nothing.

[Note: This article was slightly modfied since its initial publish. August 2009]

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