2010 Welsh Regional Championship - Championship Section: retrospective

25-Mar-2010

Something moved in Swansea on Sunday - about 25 miles east from its usual epi-centre to the Sirhowy Valley and the home of the new Welsh champion.


Tredegar
Heritage win: Tredegar celebrate at the Brangwyn Hall

Although this result hasn’t produced an earth shattering shift in the tectonic plates on which Welsh banding has settled for the past decade, Tredegar’s win at Swansea has certainly moved the pedestal on which Cory had looked down on the rest of banding in the Principality a little further east from the Rhondda towards the Sirhowy valley and the home of the new Welsh champions.

Reception

Tredegar’s 2008 win here was certainly a seismic surprise, but this one wasn’t as soon as the last chord of ‘English Heritage’ rang out in the Brangwyn Hall and was greeted by the type of reception the audience has usually reserved for the current World, European and British Open Champion for the past decade.

Drawn together at the tail end of an enjoyable contest the reigning champion Cory produced a performance constructed of the highest quality under Robert Childs, with all the usual hallmarks of solidity of technique and breadth of sound displayed to stunning effect.

The ensemble work was full of a deep toned lustre whilst the solo work was effective and polished, with the MD allowing a relaxation of the dynamic leash at the close, which thundered like a tsunami in Swansea Bay.   

Inspired

Tredegar
followed in inspired form under Ian Porthouse, to craft, rather than construct, a rendition of ‘English Heritage’ that not only mastered the fearsome technical challenges with ease, but also drew a rich, engrossing musicality too.

The impression created in the first 20 or so bars of the piece was one of razor sharp clarity, which hit you in the sternum with surgical precision, whilst the solidity of the main solo lines was enhanced by subtle displays of artistic nuance (a wonderful flugel opening entry and a singing trombone cameo after the fast cornet solo).

Their close was powerfully controlled, with its climax centred on the very last bar.

Dewi Griffiths
Dewi Saint: Tredegar's Dewi Griffiths picks up his Best Instrumentalist Award

Little to choose


At the contest’s conclusion there was little to choose between them, but for adjudicator Malcolm Brownbill, the difference between ‘two magnificent’ performances lay in the more musical approach of the leading solo lines of the winners.

“Theirs was a performance of real stature, with so much ensemble detail and clarity. The top two bands were magnificent and it was hard to separate them, but that extra quality in the solo lines came with Tredegar on this occasion,” Malcolm told 4BR.

That opinion was confirmed with Tredegar’s principal cornet payer Dewi Griffiths awarded the ‘Best Instrumentalist’ prize for his stunning contribution to the new champion’s victory.

The winning MD was an obviously delighted: “I really thought we deserved it today,” Ian Porthouse said. “It was a magnificent performance and the best this band has played for me on a major contest stage. To beat Cory on that form today shows we are making real progress to where we all want to be. All the credit goes to the players who have shown such commitment since I came back to the band.”

It was the band’s 10th regional victory, their second in the past three years, and the third major success of the 2010 season following victories at Yeovil and the recent Welsh Miners Eisteddfod.  Their growing ambitions now focus on the Grand Shield at Blackpool in May as they seek to return to the British Open.  

Linz

Although disappointed, Cory’s MD, Dr Robert Childs was one of the first people to offer his congratulations to the new champion, before heading from the hall to start concentrating his band’s efforts on their hat trick ambitions at Linz in a couple of months time.  

He will know that all that was perhaps missing on the day was the ability to just click into the overdrive gear that was theirs at a flick of a switch during 2009.

The MD will also have left warmed by the impressive debut of principal cornet Tom Hutchinson and soprano Adrian Williams in particular on a piece that asked more of his cornet section than any other on the day, a fact that may just have swung the result in their rivals favour.
   
Cory
A rare second for Cory in Wales

Squeal of delight


Just moments before the announcement of the new champion, there was an absolute squeal of delight from the hall when Tongwynlais Temperance’s name was announced in third place.

That gave the 2009 Pontins and First Section National Champion the second qualification spot at the Albert Hall, their first in their history to support their claim to being the new ‘third force’ in Welsh banding.

Their exciting rendition under the baton of Philip Harper was noticeably lighter in texture and tonality from Tredegar and Cory, but their ensemble clarity and solo lines of security were enough to just snatch the second qualification place ahead of BTM.

Just two years ago the band supped the bitter taste of commiseration beer in the Brangwyn Hall bar following their relegation from the top section, but now, two years later, they could well have opened celebratory champagne instead. It was a wonderful result and one that was fully deserved.

Malcolm Brownbill told the audience that he had pondered long and hard before deciding on the bands placed third and fourth, before opting for Tongwynlais.   

Disappointment

That decision saw BTM suffer the disappointment of missing out on London qualification for a second successive year after a promising account was blighted by an increasing error count.  

Bold and robust, it seemed to be heading to a clear qualification place only for an accumulation of unforced errors to just rob a well thought out reading of its overall composure as the band sought to regain lost ground by its impressive close.

Tong
Squeals of delight for Tongwynlais Temperance

North Wales trio


The contest opened earlier in the afternoon (and closed at a respectful hour even with the added bonus of a short concert by the RWCMD College Band) with a trio of performances from the challengers from North Wales.

In the end it was Northop conducted with his usual degree of sensible thought by Thomas Wyss (and with Russell Gray on repiano) who produced a warmly hued, but slightly lightweight account from the number 1 draw to set a decent marker for the rest of the field to beat.

It never had the stamp of a winner about it, but is deserved its final 5th place finish to confirm the progress the band continues to make under the MDs baton.

Beaumaris followed their rivals onto the Brangwyn Hall stage to provide Malcolm Brownbill with his first tricky bit of decision making. Gwyn Evan’s drew a much more robust and colourful account from the score, that was just marred by the occasional roughly chamfered ensemble edge and minor solo line fragilities.

After weighing up the pros and cons of both, it was Northop who got the nod by a short head.

Fell away

Outside the top six bands, the standard did start to fall away appreciably in places, and Malcolm Brownbill would have had a difficult job in separating out the 7th – 9th place finishers.

Cwmaman Institute, Point of Ayr and Burry Port all showed potential and an encouraging desire to overcome the technicalities of the fearsome score by musicality rather than over wrought volume, but the mistakes and errors were clearly defined both in the ensemble and solo lines.

With Graham O’Connor indisposed, Cwmaman were thankful that Craig Roberts (who also conducted Burry Port on the day) was able to step into the breach and direct with a stamp of clear authority on a performance that was understandably short of the finishing touches of finesse but had the essential foundation stones in place to end in an encouraging 7th place.

Alwyn Powell
Winning points: Mal Brownbill explains things to Tredegar's Alwyn Powell

Return


Point of Ayr meanwhile will have been pleased that their return to top section banding here showed such promise in coming 8th, after their robustly drawn performance under John Hinckley just ran out of steam in the final quarter of the piece.

Craig Robert’s other band, Burry Port may not be so charitable with their congratulations to their MD after coming 9th, but will have respected him for his decision.

They could not accuse the MD though of not giving anything other than 100% to their cause with a performance that started well but was marred by a high error count and tiredness that saw them finish rather tamely.

It was very much the same story for Penclawdd, and despite sterling efforts from their host of young performers and an eminently sensible approach from Tony Small at the helm, it was always a bit of a struggle as they battled their way right through to finish bowed but not beaten in 10th place.

Glory

For Tredegar, 2010 holds the prospect of even greater glory if they can continue to play to this form, whilst for Cory, defeat will have been consigned to the back of the mind as they look to book their Montreux place courtesy of another European success in Linz.

Tongwynlais though will still be celebrating in a bar somewhere we are sure.


4BR would like to thank Fred Tape for his help with this retrospective

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