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Report & Results: 2017 Welsh Regional Championships: Championship Section

A fascinating victory on a day of disappointments sees Cory fill the trophy cabinet with all available silverware — as Tredegar and Tongwynlais join them in London

Cory
  Philip Harper and Cory reclaim the Welsh Regional title

Any rival bands throughout Europe, let alone the UK, that are looking for even the slightest sign of weakness in Cory's relentless pursuit of elite level silverware, may have been given a morsel or two of encouragement at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.

In what was a fascinating victory in a head to head battle between the world's number 1 ranked band and the defending champion Tredegar, it was not the closeness of the result that would have raised hopes that Philip Harper's all-conquering outfit was finally showing signs of infallibility, but the opinions of the judges who told the world that they were 'a little disappointed' by the way in which they did it.

Forthright

Derek Broadbent's forthright pre-results remarks (on behalf of himself and Mike Kilroy) were greeted in respectful silence by a rather stunned audience — as if they were being informed about an unexpected serious infirmity in much loved relatives.

It certainly came as a surprise to those who had sat through an engrossing contest, where the two heavyweights produced almost diametrically opposed interpretations of 'Pageantry', that although not without error, were of a very high class.

Opposed

Tredegar's defence under Ian Porthouse, came in a precisely constructed, traditionally inspired approach to the score, whilst Cory followed with a much more malleable approach by Philip Harper, bolstered by a magnificent ensemble timbre and some measured risks in terms of interpretation.

And with a resurgent Tongwynlais Temperance claiming the additional qualification place with a refined take of substantial merit under Michael Fowles, the sense of self-esteem seemed well-founded — or so the partisan audience believed.

Behind them though came a top-six from City of Cardiff (Melingriffth), Llywdcoed and Burry Port, as well as Northop and Goodwick that were beset with inconsistencies and unforced errors that blighted engaging interpretations.

Collective pride

Victory gave Cory their 32nd Area title, with the MD also receiving the winning conductor trophy. In addition, their outstanding solo horn player Ailsa Russell took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award, with the tuba team retaining their grip on the John Trotman Memorial Trophy as 'Best Basses'.

And in a nice touch of collective Welsh pride, Philip Harper was also presented with a special certificate from the Welsh Regional Committee in recognition of his band's outstanding achievements in recent years and in 2016 in particular.

A little disappointed

However, any lingering feelings of celtic supremacy were soon ended with an admirably straight talking pre-results analysis from Derek, who certainly choose his words with specific intent when revealing that both he and Mike were 'a little disappointed' at what they had heard.

The compliments went to the test-piece; 'one of the finest' — and although in his words, 'not a tour de force' it was still 'a minefield' that had 'taken prisoners in all areas', and 'had taken a few scalps today'. The set-up (accompanied by warm applause) was every bit as considered as the punch-line that came next.

"We were a little disappointed at what we expected to hear," he said, as the collective atmosphere in the hall turned to a funereal silence.

"The bands missed the point. It's called 'Pageantry' for a reason. Each bar is marked specifically — and lots of detail and style was missed. The 'King's Herald' is based on a series of fanfares; the 'Cortege' is a funeral procession but must also be regal. That was lost today. It leads into 'Jousts' that isn't a battle, more a show of majesty."

Head and shoulders

With the results announced, Derek spoke to 4BR. "Yes. We were a little disappointed today," he said. "The top two bands were head and shoulders above the rest, with a clear winner, but in their different ways they both missed the point of the piece.

There was a maturity in the sound of the winners that we really liked, but quite a bit we didn't — and the same went for the band in second place that had their moments of unease. Both disappointed though. The quality was there but so were the errors and problems with the approaches."

He added: "It was the same with the other bands but at a different level. I'm sure it doesn't happen often in Wales, but it did today for us."

Reinforced

The duo's opinions were certainly reinforced by their written remarks, with Mike Kilroy summing-up Cory's account by stating: 'Overall a very good performance but not without its issues. Some technical, some balance and some musical. However I enjoyed most of it.'

Derek ended his written remarks by adding, '...a forceful and convincing ending to a good performance is made. Not spotless! — but lots of good things.'

Meanwhile, Mike Kilroy summed up his thoughts on Tredegar with: 'Overall a good performance that could have delivered so much more', whilst Derek called it, '... a performance that had much to commend — but not all was safe and secure'.

No faint praise

There was no faint praise however about Philip Harper's approach to his players as they joined him on stage to celebrate with the Welsh Regional Trophy.

"They are a wonderful band made up of superb performers and people. To claim the Area title and give Cory the complete 'Grand Slam' of all the trophies that can be won is a magnificent achievement by them," he said.

"It sets us on the road to try and top what we did last year, which is something we are all determined to do."

Respect and repair

And asked about his approach to 'Pageantry' and the risks he took with his interpretation, he smiled back and said with a chuckle. "That was me being reserved! I can go 'off on one' now and again, but not with this piece — it demands respect.

It's all about the performance on stage though — and my added congratulations go to Ailsa (Russell) and the basses who were both superb. We will now enjoy this moment of having all the trophies at our bandroom, and then start the preparations for the European."

And with the MD sure to note the opinions of the judges in Swansea, any hopes that rivals in Ostend, Birmingham and London later this year (not forgetting Utrecht in 2018) may harbour that there is now a chink in Cory's otherwise pristine contest armoury, could find out to their cost that it has already been expertly repaired and made stronger than ever before.

They are a wonderful band made up of superb performers and people. To claim the Area title and give Cory the complete 'Grand Slam' of all the trophies that can be won is a magnificent achievement by themCory MD, Philip Harper

Results:

Championship Section:

Test Piece: Test Piece: 'Pageantry' (Herbert Howells)
Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent and Mike Kilroy

1. Cory (Philip Harper)*
2. Tredegar (Ian Porthouse)**
3. Tongwynlais Temperance (Michael Fowles)**
4. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) (Nigel Seaman)
5. Llywdcoed (Chris Turner)
6. Burry Port Town (Tom Davoren)
7. Northop (Paul Hughes)
8. Goodwick (Matthew Jenkins)

Best Instrumentalist: Ailsa Russell (horn) — Cory
Best Basses: Cory

*Cory pre-qualified for National Final and will represent Wales at the 2018 European Championships
**Qualified for the National Finals



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Conductor, composer, arranger, tutor and pianist