An illusion or reality?
The Welsh illusion remains; despite the hazy miasma of outstanding musical performances in Swansea almost masking the reality.
There was no doubting Cory’s imperious victory in the Championship Section, or the impressive standard of the other winners – but peer into that celebratory mist and the substance of Welsh banding still exhibited the crumbling texture of a Caerphilly cheese.
Kid themselves all they like; padding out the Sunday with a short concert by the students of the Royal Welsh College and a leisurely lunch break was a neat bit of window dressing, but what was a few years ago a bit of a worry, has now started to take on the look of a full blown panic.
And the Welsh don’t panic very well.
Cory, Beauaris and Tredegar will hope to return home from the Albert Hall with at least an automatic qualification place for 2012, whilst the bands that travel to Cheltenham have realistic hopes of celebrating another batch of podium silverware.
Wales will be sending a strong set of representatives to the Finals, but even though there will be a great deal of pride in what they will achieve, back at home things are not looking so rosy.
Talking to people connected with bands at the Brangwyn Hall was a sobering experience – and not just because the bar prices have been hiked up.
At least one band in the top section had to call in no end of old favours to coax people out of retirement to be bale to make it to the starting line up, whilst a band in the First Section even had to drag one player out of their enjoyable French retirement to ensure they were able to compete.
Of the five bands in the Fourth Section, two were fledgling returnees in very fragile states of rebuilding, whilst a number of others in the Third and Second were unable to field full compliments of players.
Well done Dad! Chris Turner and daughter celebrate Cory's win
4BR was sat with Paul Hindmarsh, one of the most respected commentators on the banding movement in the UK over the last 25 years or more, and although he was suitably impressed by the standard of the best bands in each of the five sections, he also expressed his concern over the lack of numbers and the fragile state of many of the other competitors on display.
The good news is that work is now being done to rescue Welsh banding from being added to the list of the endangered species of the musical world.
The Royal Welsh College is providing a lifeline of young playing talent that is being encouraged to join bands in the Welsh valleys, (although further North there are still great difficulties as seen by the reported demise of Pont of Ayr once again), whilst the Welsh League of contests is attracting more interest, and there is a Welsh Open contest for lower section bands in Porthcawl later in the year.
Roll of Honour for John Trotman
Swansea Council still provides the superb Brangwyn Hall at a price not to be sneezed at, and the organisation as always over the two days remains slick and professional – and bi-lingual too.
There were plenty of supporting families enjoying the music in what was an encouraging take up of paying customers, and there was a fine response to the annual ‘Roll of Honour’ award to John Trotman of Cory, for his dedicated years of service to Welsh banding.
He can only hope that there are to be many more bands for him to serve so well in the year’s to come.