The first leg of the 2015 Welsh League Championship took place in Merthyr Tydfil on the weekend, with a strong line up of bands in each of the sections.
The climax of an enjoyable day came in the Championship Section, where there was a keenly fought own choice battle to enjoy between a quintet of ambitious contenders.
Cardiff Festival wins
In the end it was City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) directed by Gareth Ritter who emerged triumphant, with a well managed reprise performance of 'Festival Music', which they also played at the recent Senior Cup in Blackpool.
The band's principal cornet David Leeks took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award, with Ryan Howells of Goodwick claiming the 'Best Horn' prize.
Cardiff's rendition proved good enough to repel the 'Arabian Nights' challenge of defending Welsh League title holders Burry Port, as they gave their Grand Shield set work another run out, whilst Senior Trophy qualifiers Llywdcoed had to be content with third place on their Blackpool set work, 'Tallis Variations'.
First Section win for Parc
In the First Section, Parc & Dare's solidly portrayed rendition of 'Music for the Common Man' under the baton of Andrew Jones just pipped the strong challenge of Markham & District, as Gareth Pritchard led the band on his last domestic contesting appearance before he moves to the USA with his family.
Their rendition of 'Diadem of Gold' ended up just a single point behind their rivals in the opinion of adjudicator Jonathan Pippen, with Blaenavon in third with 'Chaucer's Tunes'.
Wonderful victory for Mid Rhondda
In the Second Section there was a wonderful victory for Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda — their first in any domestic Welsh contest since 1998.
They claimed the honours under Alan Gibbs with a fine performance of 'Mountain Views', with the evergreen solo euphonium Rob Burnett claiming the 'Best Instrumentalist' award for his superb playing.
It proved good enough to just ahead of reigning Welsh Area champion Ebbw Valley, as they finished runner-up with their reprise rendition of 'Variations on Maccabeus', whilst Crosskeys produced an encouraging performance in coming third on 'Confluence'.
In the joint Third and Fourth Section contest there was an excellent victory for the rapidly improving Gwaun Cae Gurwen.
Under the direction of Jeff Hutcherson they produced a well worked rendition of 'Evolution' to claim a clear two point winning margin over rivals Abertillery & District's 'Olympus', with Newport Borough in third with their account of 'Dimensions'.
The winning MD also picked up the 'Best Conductor' prize with the band's solo cornet player Jeremy Davies claiming the 'Best Instrumentalist' award. Jamie Jones of Usk won the 'Best Euphonium' award.
Earlier in the day there was plenty of musical evidence on show that the future of Welsh banding in these parts is in vibrant health, with some wonderful playing from the various Junior Section bands4BR
Earlier in the day there was plenty of musical evidence on show that the future of Welsh banding in these parts is in vibrant health, with some wonderful playing from the various Junior Section bands, led by Gold Award winners Melingriffith Youth, Milford Haven Town Juniors and Rhondda Fach Youth.
Adjudicator: David Hirst
1. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) (Gareth Ritter) — 195
2. Burry Port Town (Nigel Seaman) — 194
3. Llwydcoed (Christopher Turner) — 193
4. Goodwick Brass (Matthew Jenkins) — 192
5. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins) — 191
Best Instrumentalist: David Leak (cornet) — City of Cardiff (Melingriffith)
Best Horn: Ryan Howells (Goodwick Brass)
Adjudicator: Jonathan Pippen
1. Parc & Dare (Andrew Jones) — 187
2. Markham & District (Gareth Pritchard) — 186
3. Blaenavon Town (James Jones) — 185
4. Lewis Merthyr (Gavin Pritchard) — 184
5. Melingriffith 2 (Robin Hackett) — 183
6. RAF St Athan Voluntary (Archie Hutchinson) — 181
Best Instrumentalist: Tom Everson (cornet) — Markham & District
Best Soprano: Andy Watkins (Blaenavon Town)
Adjudicator: David Hirst
1. Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda (Alan Gibbs) — 184
2. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter) — 183
3. Crosskeys Silver (Benjamin Atkinson) — 181
4. Briton Ferry (Jeff Pearce) — 180
5. Siendorf Arian Crwbin (Christopher Turner) — 179
6. Ynyshir (Gary Davies) — 178
Best Instrumentalist: Rob Burnett (euphonium) — Thomas Coaches Mid Rhondda
Third/Fourth Section (combined):
Adjudicator: Jonathan Pippen
1. Gwaun Cae Gurwen (Jeff Hutcherson) — 181
2. Abertillery & District (Josh Ruck) — 179
3. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett) — 178
4. Usk (Jeff Jones) — 177
5. Upper Rhondda (David Langley) — 176
6. Severn Tunnel (Christopher Bond) — 175
7. Oakdale (Kerry Bowden) — 173
Highest placed Fourth Section Band: Usk
Conductor Award: Jeff Hutcherson (Gwaun Cae Gurwen)
Best Instrumentalist: Jeremy Davies (cornet) — Gwaun Cae Gurwen
Best Euphonium: Jamie Jones (Usk)
Youngest Player: Eddie Goodings (aged 10) — Severn Tunnel
Adjudicator: Nigel Seaman
Melingriffith Youth (Carol Flannery Davies)
Milford Haven Town Juniors (Bron Parratt)
Rhondda Fach Youth (Angela Westacott)
BTM Learners (Kirsty Jones)
M4 Beginners (Gareth Jones)
Oakdale Youth (Terry Wells)
St Athan & the Vale Youth (Alan Bourne)
Best Instrumentalist: Soprano Melingriffith Youth
Best Percussion Section: Milford Haven Town Juniors
Youngest Player: Noah Davies (aged 5) — Rhondda Fach Youth