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Report & Results: 2017 Welsh Regional Championships: Fourth Section

RAF St Athan Voluntary and Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley head to Cheltenham as Welsh bands make a best ever impression on the judges

RAF St Athan
  RAF St Athan Voluntary conquers Alan Fernie's St Andrew Variations to head to Cheltenham.

Wales will certainly send a brace of very strong representatives to Cheltenham in September, as the nation seeks a fifth consecutive Fourth Section National title.

That was no idle Cymric bar room boast either, but the remarks of the judges John Maines and Stan Lippeatt after they had enjoyed seven cracking performances of 'St Andrew's Variations' on Sunday morning at the Brangwyn Hall.

Best ever

In his pre-results address, John stated that, "...it was the best Fourth Section contest I've ever adjudicated", whilst Stan added: "The top two bands were very clear. The rest must watch out (as) I'm sure they will do a very good job at Cheltenham."

Those 'very clear' qualifiers were RAF St Athan Voluntary and Seindorf Arian yr Oakley, who will now lead the nation's challenge as they bid to follow in the footsteps of Ebbw Valley Brass, Northop Brass, Usk and Phoenix (Goodwick) and return home as National Champion.

Just behind them came in a podium finish 'that took a little sorting out', according to Stan, came Gwaun Cae Gurwen, who pipped Upper Rhondda, Cwmtawe Youth and Vale of Glamorgan in a contest that John said, '...all bands had played very well.'

Wonderful return

For RAF St Athan and MD Alan Bourne, victory marked a wonderful return to the winner's enclosure at the Area contest for the first time since 1999, as one of the most popular and dedicated Welsh bands now contemplates a first Finals appearance since 2005.

"It has been a long time coming," their thrilled MD told 4BR. "We've had quite a few ups and downs over the years — from First Section to Fourth, but we haven't missed a Welsh League contest since 1989 or the National Eisteddfod since 1992.

Success has come and gone, but the hard work and dedication of the players has never wavered. To be crowned Welsh Champion has given everyone a huge boost of confidence — from my 12 year old son Oliver to 83 year old John Foley who both performed brilliantly with the rest of the players on stage."

Positive remarks

Alan also revealed that he was particularly pleased that the judges had commented on the excellent overall standard of the playing on the day, and that they were very positive in their remarks about his band's performance.

"It was good for Welsh banding that the judge's appreciated everyone's efforts, and it was good to read the positive remarks and constructive criticism made about our performance, which noted our good ensemble sound and our musical style.

We've worked so hard for this, and my thanks go to Huw Thomas who came over from Denmark to lead a wonderful workshop day and to Nigel Seaman came and used his musical experience to help us out."

North Wales joy

There was also joy for Seindorf Arian yr Oakley who produced a rendition of warmly toned balance and rich characterisation under MD John Glyn Jones.

Little wonder their MD wore a smile almost as wide as the Menai Bridge as he led his band, packed with young playing talent to their first National Finals appearance since 2005.

Sensible approaches

With the judges praising the MDs for their 'sensible approaches' to the dynamic and tempo choices, and stating that it was good to hear 'only odd patches' of poor intonation, they also confirmed that there was little to chose between third placed Gwaun Cae Gurwen, as they showed further evidence of their improvement under MD Jeff Hutcherson, and the rest of the field

And in a contest notable for the number of young playing talent taking the lead lines, there was also was much to enjoy in the vibrant, well led top-six finishers of Upper Rhondda (who had the youngest player, 11 year old Brendan Diamond in their ranks), Cwmtawe Youth (with a splendid youngster Lordi Williams taking the 'Best Instrumentalist' award), Vale of Glamorgan and the encouraging performances from debutants Buckley ad Oakdale Silver.

Success has come and gone, but the hard work and dedication of the players has never wavered. To be crowned Welsh Champion has given everyone a huge boost of confidenceMD, Alan Bourne

Results:

Fourth Section:

Test Piece: 'St Andrews Variations' (Alan Fernie)
Adjudicators: Stan Lippeatt and John Maines

1. RAF St Athan Voluntary (Alan Bourne)*
2. Seindorf Arian yr Oakeley (John Glyn-Jones)*
3. Gwaen-cae-Gurwen (Jeff Hutcherson)
4. Upper Rhondda (Jayne Thomas)
5. Cwmtawe Youth (Wayne Pedrick)
6. Vale of Glamorgan (David Short)
7. Buckley (Steve Pugh-Jones)
8. Oakdale Silver (Keri Bowden)

Best Instrumentalist: Lordi Williams (euphonium) — Cwmtawe Youth
Youngest Player: Brenden Diamond (aged 11) — Upper Rhondda

*Top two bands qualify for National Final



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Sarah Groarke-Booth

BA (Hons) MA
Conductor, Adjudicator, Compere, Actor