2004 Welsh Regional Championships - Retrospective
Saturday 13th March
Test Piece: Coventry Variations – Bramwell Tovey
Adjudicator: Geoffrey Whitham
Sometimes bands with famous pasts are hampered by their heritage.
Since winning their last Welsh Championship title in 1989, Parc
and Dare had found life in the Championship Section tough going
– expectations were perhaps unrealistically high and as a
result they found themselves falling farther and farther off the
pace at the top level. Finally, in 2003 they were relegated from
the Championship Section for the first time in their history.
Where as other bands may have found this to be the last nail in
the competitive coffin, Parc and Dare have been revitalised, and
under Craig Roberts they produced a winning performance here that
had real echoes of their past. This was an experienced and mature
band playing with a real sense of confidence and more than a little
swagger – it may only be the First Section, but this was the
Parc and Dare of old.
On a day when nearly all the bands struggled to over come both
the technical and musical challenges set by “Coventry Variations”,
Parc and Dare overcame them with an ease and understanding
from the MD right down to the percussion team that was well worth
Geoffrey Whitham described his experience in the box as “painless”
and said that there were three good performances here. The winners
he said were directed by a MD who knew what he was doing and the
ensemble playing had everything that he expected. He was perhaps
being kind to some of the bands when he said many a performance
was a “curates egg”, but when it came to the winners
he perhaps could and should have put them more than the one point
clear then he did. There was no one to touch them on the day.
All their soloists performed well, with the ageless Robert Burnett
on euphonium and the excellent Robert Samuel on cornet the pick
of a fine bunch that included some sweet soprano playing and equally
fine flugel playing. Come Harrogate they could be one of the short
priced favourites to take the title itself.
Second place went to Wrexham Brass under Wayne
Ruston who gave a very secure account of the set work that benefited
from a very lucid reading from the MD and some excellent cornet
and euphonium work. Their start was perhaps the best of the day,
whilst the ensemble (so important in this piece) never became overblown
even at the extremes of the dynamic range. It was a very good performance
and well worth the runners up place and the trip to Harrogate.
Behind them came a series of performances that never quite had
enough about them to make an impression to catch both Parc and Dare
and Wrexham. Curates eggs they were indeed.
Penclawdd were placed third (we had them 6th), whilst Pontardulais
were 4th (we had them 3rd), Ammanford 5th (we had them 4th) and
Rhyl were 6th (we had them 7th). Our choice for 5th place were Abergavenny
who were placed joint last – but more of that later.
Penclawdd gave a very committed performance that
started so well but became tired and overblown towards the end.
There was some fine soprano and cornet work, but the strengths of
these players meant that the balance of the band became lopsided
as the piece entered its last quarter. Still, they produced a big
sound and weren’t too far off making it to Harrogate for a
second year in a row. They are moving in the right direction.
Much the same could go for Pontardulais under
Mike Faro who started well and seemed to be heading for the Finals,
before the stamina gave out in the last third and the piece ran
out of steam. Again, when this happened the balance went awry, but
it was a decent showing.
Ammanford could count themselves a little unlucky
perhaps, as they had a lovely sweet start (the opening trio was
played standing in a small group, with a fine solo cornet player
throughout). It had the right sense of style, but perhaps lacked
the real intensity that the piece required. A good showing though
and another band building well.
Ditto Rhyl. Gareth Westwood produced a nicely
shaped account from the number 1 draw, that was perhaps a little
light in tonal colour in places and just felt a little nervous in
the more exposed passages. It didn’t quite have enough about
it to push higher up the prize list, but it was a solid show.
After these Rogerstone had its moments under the
baton of Ceri Thomas, which featured perhaps the best soprano player
on the day (oldies are still the best it seems!) and a core of youngsters
from the excellent Greater Gwent Youth Brass Band. The piece had
an ebb and flow, but also too many clips and blips - there was plenty
to admire though.
Finally two of the more fancied pre match bands who had poor days
at the contesting office. Tylorstown Valley Lines are
a better band than this, but suffered from an aggressive approach
from the MD that didn’t suit them or the music. Their usually
fine solo cornet player seemed exhausted by the experience of having
to blow for all he was worth from the word go. This was a performance
to forget for them.
Finally, Abergavenny under the baton (and no music)
of Philip Harper. The band took the stage minus a bass trombone
and whilst they borrowed from Parc and Dare, the MD decided to forgo
his contribution at the start and give the part to the solo trombone
to play. It was a very high-risk strategy that didn’t work
at all, and the start was disastrous. Even though some of the playing
afterwards was the best of the day, the damage had been done and
Geoffrey Whitham is a notoriously hard man to impress if you don’t
play well from the word go. Abergavenny didn’t, and paid the
That was it then and the result wasn’t really in doubt. Parc
and Dare were deserved winners and sounded like a good Championship
band, whilst Wrexham too had that quality that comes from experience
and musical intelligence. Both will represent the Principality with
pride and well placed confidence come Harrogate.