2006 Welsh Regional Championships - Third Section retrospective

23-Mar-2006

There was plenty to entertain the large audience on the Saturday morning as Beaumaris B returned to the Welsh Regional Contest with a fine win.


The Third Section appropriately enough provided fine entertainment for the bands and audience first thing on the Saturday morning.

Nine bands really gave it a go, with the three podium places and the winners in particular providing the adjudicator Nigel Seaman with a tricky task of separating the bands out in their bid to gain the two qualification places on offer for Harrogate.

Beaumaris
Back after a Gap year: Beaumaris B celebrate their victory

In the end Nigel plumbed for Beaumaris B conducted by Paul Hughes and on reflection it was a deserved choice, not just because they played very well, but because they really did approach the work in the right fashion. 

Nigel in fact highlighted this in his well received remarks to the audience at the conclusion of the contest. "This is still a fine test for any band," he said to start, "Let alone the Third Section." That may have been interpreted as an oblique reference to lower the expectations of the bands, but he went on to cleverly dissect the piece with analogies and neat insights that highlighted just what he meant.

With the two outer movements being ‘Da Capo' Nigel highlighted the fact that it did give the bands the chance to improve on things the second time if things were not good the first time through - although he did mischievously add that, ‘That wasn't always the case."   He also highlighted the need to keep the flow in the famous ‘Elegy' ("not schmaltz" was his clever way of describing it), whilst he third section required lightness and detail to make it work. "The hall can accommodate broad sounds" he said, "But you do have to work hard to make the detail come through." It was a well received and accurate assessment and he was spot on with his indication that it was a close contest with similar standards from all the competing bands. "One or two did stand out," he said, and you couldn't argue with that.

The usual problems did stand out here, as they have done throughout the country one suspects. The opening Caprice was at times taken too fast, with the euph players struggling to stick all the notes in, whilst the grace notes were once again played incorrectly by far too many cornet sections. The Tranquillo suffered by not being tranquil enough whilst the quiet Affetuoso section caught out the soloists who didn't put the air through the instruments.

The ‘Elegy' once more saw not enough rubato on display and the final ‘March' again lacked wit and lightness as well as the usual problems with the grace notes (they do change in pitch) and the last bar which invariably saw the bands accent the last note.

‘Entertainments' is definitely a stern tests for bands at this level, but they themselves are not helped by MDs who don't take the time to do their homework either. It is not a Third Section version of a Philip Wilby test piece.   

Paul Hughes had certainly done his homework though and Beaumaris B gave a thoroughly competent performance that was made just that touch special by some very fine cornet playing from John Barrie on solo cornet. The MD, resplendent in a fly neck collar may have looked a bit like a Swansea night club bouncer but his band were in no mood to be refused entry to the Conference Centre in Harrogate as they delivered a neat opening Caprice, a fine Elegy and a light and breezy March.

Beaumaris
Hands up who thinks we are the best! Beaumaris celebrate!

The applause at the end (including some nutter going bonkers) may have been a bit OTT but it was still a pretty good reflection of a talented young band playing to the top of their form.

Joining them in September will be Radyr and Morganstown Melingriffith under the direction of Gareth Ritter who is working little miracles where ever he goes it seems. With the experienced Alan Gwynant on solo cornet and former Welsh National Opera trumpet player Terry Lax on soprano they had a fine top end sound to the band.

Radyr
Exceedingly well done: Sian Kipling accepts second prize for Radyr from adjudicator Nigel Seaman

Elsewhere they also displayed excellent control in the opening Caprice, a delicate touch in the Elegy and a vibrant brightness in the March which saw them through. Second place was well deserved but it was mighty close to the winners as well as to third placed Holywell.

Holywell
So near: Gareth Thomas picks up a well deserved third prize for Holywell

Theirs was the other fine performance on the day that was perhaps a touch unfortunate not to get through. Very well directed by Gareth Thomas it also featured a splendid solo cornet player in young Louise Carden who had a lovely sweet sound and a rock solid technique. There was plenty to admire in all three sections in fact and just a hint of untunefulness in the ‘Elegy' may have cost them that trip to the Finals.

Behind these three bands the standard did drop away somewhat, but as we have said, that was more to do with the approach of some of the MDs rather than the limitations of the players.

Blaenavon Town just bit off more than they could chew with their approach which was undermined by some nasty individual errors in some of the solo lines and untidiness in the ensemble that too often bordered on the scrappy. Alun Hathaway gave the band plenty of opportunity to shine, but it never became more than the sum of its individual parts. Nice to see Deiniol Williams the former soprano cornet player with the BTM enjoying himself on the front row though, a bit of salt and pepper in his hair now, but undoubtedly still a fine player.

Royal Oakley put in a robust effort that just lacked style, but had its moments as well. The approach wasn't quite Vinteresque and that may have cost them points, but there was evidence that there is plenty to work on with the band. 

The same could also be said of Harlech who possibly ruined their chances with the interpretation of the first movement which was taken at a tempo around 140!  You were left asking why, especially as the ‘Elegy' was much the same. The ‘March' however was excellent – taken with a spot on tempo and some lovely little bits of playing all around the stands. One that needed a bit of homework.

Porthaethwy Menai Bridge also struggled with tempos off the number 1 draw, whilst they also had far too many errors in places to make an impression. It never quite felt at ease from the word go and by the end it became a bit of a struggle as stamina and tuning suffered.

Ogmore Valley under Ivor Barnett certainly had the right style in their approach but just didn't have the personnel around the stands to bring it off. They did however have a top notch percussion section with some excellent xylophone work that was the best heard all day. If there had been more like that then they would have possibly been booking their trip to Harrogate.

Finally, Severn Tunnel who did find the test piece hard work on this occasion. Nothing quite came off for them in any of the movements, even when they shared the workload around in the cornet section between the solo cornet and the third man down. Still, plenty to work on for next year.

It will certainly be this year for the winners Beaumaris and fellow qualifiers Radyr. Both know they will have to up their game come Harrogate of they are to make a real impression come the finals, but with another few months of hard work you wouldn't bet against them doing just that.

Iwan Fox.

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