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2003 Welsh Regional Qualifying Championships

Championship Section - Retrospective


On a weekend when the sun really shone in Swansea, Buy As You View Cory conducted by Robert Childs gave a truly commanding performance of Judith Bingham’s “Prague” that saw them take the Welsh Regional title by three clear points and secure the all important qualification place for the 2004 European Championships.

It was an immensely impressive account of a work that has caused difficulties all around the UK for the very best of bands, but as adjudicator David Read told 4BR it was a performance that was based on the detail that was contained within the score – a performance that he described “that only one of the very best bands in the country could have achieved”.

Robert Childs was also delighted to have retained their Regional title and secure that 2004 place ahead of the European Championships in May. “I felt that it was always going to be a fight between Tredegar and ourselves and I was right. Theirs was an excellent performance and ensured that we had to give a top rate performance of the test piece to win. I think we did that, and I’m very proud of what this band can achieve when put under pressure. They respond so well and they do enjoy this type of music.”

BAYV Cory have now given three outstanding performances on contemporary works that other MD’s find difficult to develop. “Montreux Wind Dances”, “The Maunsell Forts” and now “Prague” have been given superbly constructed and detailed performances that make difficult music come to life and there is little doubt that the forthcoming European Championships and Torstein Aagaard Nilsen’s new work will be approached with the same vigour. On this form they are certainly the band to beat wherever the contest stage may be.

Joining them in the Finals will be Tredegar, who pushed them harder than the three point margin suggested and gave a wonderfully musical performance under the baton of Thomas Wyss, whilst Burry Port Town took the second qualification spot by coming a very well deserved third under the equally impressive David Evans.

The action started a bit later than expected due to the Fourth Section running a little over time – a rare blip on a very well run weekend by the Regional committee and David Read was well secure in the tent when the first band, Parc and Dare took the stage.

Parc have been gradually rebuilding over the past few years under the baton of Craig Roberts, but on this occasion they had drafted in Nigel Seaman, one of the Principality’s most experienced band trainers and who is also the Principal Tuba of the National Orchestra of Wales. He also managed to persuade the Principal Trumpet of the Orchestra to join him as well, and so Philippe Schartz found himself on the end chair. He was excellent, but the band couldn’t get to grips with the music and as much as Nigel Seaman clearly directed, they never sounded comfortable and the result was 10th place. A little harsh but contesting isn’t always about fairness is it?

With the audience now knowing what the piece sounded like in the flesh, BTM under David Stowell took to the stage and gave a powerful account of themselves and the music. Perhaps a bit too powerful if truth be told, especially in the first movement and much of the detailed patterns in the ensemble were lost. There was some fine solo playing in the middle movements but the tuning at times really grated. They finished powerfully to end but once more the detail was lost and we were left thinking that the performance as a whole could have benefited from just a little more restraint. David Read gave them 4th spot and we agreed – BTM are moving in the right direction.

BAYV Cory took to the stage and immediately provided the listener with evidence that this music can sound both powerful and detailed. The first movement just had those little moments when the listener could hear the inner parts emerge from what had sounded like a disorganised cacophony of sound and the rhythmic patterns were clearly defined. The middle movements also had so much detail as well – perhaps too much at times as the flow was a little stilted, but the standard of playing was immense and the solo playing of Ian Williams on top man was a pleasure throughout. It was the fourth movement that really showed the class however, as once more the inner parts were so clearly defined amid the complexities of the overall picture.

This was perhaps the best band in the country at full throttle – the preparation by the MD was so evident and as David Read told us, “The devil was in the detail”. That is what this performance was all about – detail; and so you heard the menace of the Golem return when the thematic structure re appeared from the end of the second movement in the fourth. Detail and understanding – it marks out the very best from the rest, and this was some of the very best playing indeed. Winners and deservedly so.

Northop followed BAYV Cory on and it was a great pity to report that the majority of the audience couldn’t be bothered to stay and listen. The Welsh are a parochial lot at the best of times but Northop deserved better than this and giving support to a band that had made the long journey south (and equally long one back home) was the least the banding public could have done.

Northop never sounded at ease from the start and the decision to use two soprano cornets didn’t quite work. There was a some lovely solo euphonium work in the third movement and the two middle sections contained the best playing, but it was the complexities of the outer sections that caused them the greatest problems and there was a distinct lack of detail that was covered by some harsh overblowing. Not the best the band have played here for sure and the piece didn’t suit their lighter sound, so 9th place was about right.

Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda also found it tough but put in a solid enough performance on their return to the top section. Again the two outer movements lacked the detail and the inner sections didn’t have the flow, but there was evidence enough that they will be able to compete solidly in the top rank for the rest of the year. It was a hard test to begin with though and 8th place was a good return.

Burry Port made the decision to return to the talents of David Evans, the MD of Yorkshire Imps, and just as he had done with the band at the Grand Shield weekend last year and with Imps at Bradford he brought out some super playing from his charges. At Bradford he gave the music time to unfold in the inner sections and he did so again here and was rewarded with some fine solo playing all around the stands. He didn’t go for the stand up lines here as he did with Imps but there was plenty of clarity all the same. The first movement was their weakest but the fourth showed a band that had plenty of stamina and a big bold sound and third place was spot on for David Read and us. They will travel to London knowing that they won’t be overawed.

Cwmaman were keen to show that they meant business, but on the day they never performed to the form they showed during 2002 and gave a real curates egg of a show. It was too harsh and hard in the opening section and once more at the end and the detail never had the chance to appear – it was there but submerged in the blowing. The middle movements didn’t quite come off either and there were too many errors that cost marks. It was a straight forward no nonsense reading by John Hudson but on this occasion the band never really got to grips with the music and they sounded as if they wanted to just blow their way to qualification. 7th was their reward and a bit less eagerness to show how they could produce a big sound would on this occasion have benefited them more.

That led to Tredegar and a performance that was as different to BAYV Cory as chalk is to cheese. This was a very controlled performance of the test piece – right from the start, and the detail in the outer movements was very clear and precise. There was some fine solo playing throughout, but there were noticeable blobs and errors that just detracted at times. The two middle movements were wonderfully laid out, again just marred by little clips but there was as super finish to a fine reading of the score by Thomas Wyss. It was very different to BAYV Cory yet pushed them closer than the three-point margin may have suggested and they were clear runners up. David Read described it as “excellent, and so full of music”, but also added that it was beaten by a performance of rare class.

Tongwynglais under Ian Holmes followed Tredegar onto the stage and a gave a fine showing of themselves and the music in a performance that benefited from some excellent direction from the MD. He ensured the band never overblew and had something left in reserve for a good quality end that left the listener impressed. They certainly played to their strengths and although it never quite reached the mark of the bands above them it certainly deserved to come as high as it did. It had the hallmarks of good quality preparation and at this level that is like money in the bank. 5th from both 4BR and Mr Read.

That just left Seindorf Beaumaris but last years runners up are certainly not the band they were a twelve month ago and even though they gave of their best, the vibrancy and excitement of last year seemed to be missing right from the start. It was harsh and overblown too often and the outer movements never had the quality you expected from them, whilst the middle movements sounded mechanical rather than musical. This was a great pity as there was quality there, but it seemed reluctant to show itself. Perhaps the players didn’t like the music as it lack the conviction that was so evident on “Whitsun Wakes” and the MD couldn’t draw out the inner detail or the colour that was required. 6th place was about right, but it was something of an anti climax to the contest.

So that was that and even though there was little doubt to the winners and runners up, the final qualification spot was one that had the audience split. David Read also gave it a lot of thought, but went for Burry Port ass he commented that it was a question of them having greater control over the tuning – the Achilles heel of BTM’s performance.

David Read also noted that he felt the overall standard in Wales, not only in this section but also in Sections 1 and 3 were good, and opened out the debate concerning new works by asking the question to whether or not some discussion should be initiated over contest repertoire choice. As always they were thoughtful and well considered remarks – as were his remarks concerning “Prague” itself, a piece which he at first hated but now felt was a good choice. It was he said a piece that was academically clever but one where there was music to be found. The four bands that he marked in the 190’s he felt had given the music fine performances – with the top two and winners in particular standing out.

The results were announced and there were no complaints – BAYV Cory had stamped their class, Tredegar had confirmed their talents and Burry Port had beaten the bookies, 4BR and some much more fancied bands. Congratulations to them all – they will represent the Principality well come October.

 

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