The magnificent CISWO Challenge Cup returned back over the River Severn as Filton Concert claimed the honours at the Welsh Open Entertainment Championship for the second time in three years in Porthcawl.
Led by Tom Davoren, their solidly delivered 20-minute set of five stylistically complementary pieces claimed the £1,000 top prize from adjudicator Steve Sykes. He described their performance as 'good music very well played' as the band from the outskirts of Bristol secured a clear two-point margin of victory over Welsh League titles holders Llywdcoed with welcome visitors Wantage Silver in third.
Spring Festival qualification
The London & Southern Counties top flight outfit certainly left for home delighted after their podium finish also secured the invitation to compete at the British Open Spring Festival Senior Trophy event in Blackpool in May, whilst Ebbw Valley Brass claimed the prize for the 'Highest Placed First Section Band not in the Prizes' as they came fourth.
The final top-six spots went to Midlands visitors Jackfield Elcock Reisen with Goodwick Brass from West Wales in sixth, whilst the separate £300 'Best Stage Presentation' award went to Tylorstown's slick 'World Tour' set.
Although there was much to enjoy and celebrate for all the prize winners on another excellently run contest day, personal thoughts of those listening and taking part at Porthcawl's Grand Theatre were also focused on Ian Williams, the former principal cornet of Cory Band, who is seriously ill in hospital. The wishes for a speedy recovery were sent by everyone at the event.
Despite the late withdrawal of one competitor, there was still a great deal of quality music making packed into the day, aided by the excellent compere work of David Hayward, with just one piece duplicated throughout the 11 performances.
Steve Sykes later gave a witty address that cleverly detailed just what he was looking for and what he found — congratulating all the bands on their efforts.
However, he did note that not one performance was entirely '100% clean' (he wryly apologised to the band that had to perform through what was later revealed to be a 4.3 magnitude earthquake in the Welsh valleys!), although he felt that the top three bands 'played well' with the winner 'really satisfying'.
Filton certainly set out its stall from the first notes of the pulsating 'Brass Machine' opener, whilst contrast came with the fine baritone soloist Philip James on the ABBA pop hit 'Slipping Through My Fingers', followed by a rapid fire, 'Gypsy Dance' and melancholic 'Glow' by Eric Whitacre, before closing with Robin Dewhurst's exciting 'Flight of the Wild Geese'.
Aided by their 'Best Percussion' section, it proved to be a marker that could not be matched by later rivals, and a delighted MD Tom Davoren later told 4BR that the victory was the first ambition met in what will be a very busy few months for the band.
"2018 is an important year for us," he said. "We've set out an intense rehearsal schedule to take us up to our first overseas trip to perform at the Lithuanian National Championships in April, and which also included this event, the West of England Area, the Spring Festival and a CD recording."
And after qualifying for the National Finals and gaining qualification to the Grand Shield in 2017, Tom revealed that further hard work will be the key.
"This is the first aim of the year met and it's been down to the excellent commitment of the players and the desire to keep improving.
I know everyone will enjoy the victory, but then it's back down to more hard work for the Area contest in Torquay in just a few weeks time. Everyone wants to top what we did last year, and this has been a great start."
The solid performance of Llwydcoed under Chris Turner will also have given them optimism as they look ahead to the Welsh Area contest in Swansea next month. A set based around a James Bond suite core saw their excellent 'Best Horn Section' shine to help bag the £500 runner-up prize.
Meanwhile, Paul Holland and Wantage will head to Stevenage boosted in confidence after their Senior Trophy qualification success was aided by the excellent contribution of 'Best Cornet' Sara-Jane Wallbridge's contribution to an inventive set that encompassed physical, metaphorical and religious endeavours that saw the band pick up the Eifion Rogers Trophy and £300.
Ebbw Valley's outstanding trombone soloist Robin Hackett was a suave lead as he took the 'Best Soloist' Rosebowl for his classy rendition of 'Feeling Good', whilst Tredegar's Ian Roberts took the 4Barsrest 'Best Soprano' accolade for his 'dep' work with City of Cardiff (Melingriffith). A thrilled Tom Hoof of Jackfield Band, and just turned 12, was presented with the Rosemary Deere Shield' as the youngest player on the day.
With the organisers of the Welsh Open keen to encourage further cross-border links that now sees bands from the West of England, the Midlands and London & Southern Counties attracted to Porthcawl, and with an important link to the British Open Spring Festival, next year's date has already been pencilled into the diary for February 16th.
Contest Controller Dean Evans told 4BR: "We are indebted for the support we receive for the event and will work hard to ensure that the contest continues to flourish.
Our thanks go to all the helpers and volunteers as well as the contest day team and especially the bands, which we hope to welcome once more next year."
I know everyone will enjoy the victory, but then it's back down to more hard work for the Area contest in Torquay in just a few weeks time. Everyone wants to top what we did last year, and this has been a great startTom Davoren
Welsh Open Entertainment Championship
Adjudicator: Steve Sykes
Stage Entertainment: Sarah Hayward
1. Filton Concert (Tom Davoren) — 189
2. Llwydcoed (Chris Turner) — 187
3. Wantage Silver (Paul Holland) — 186
4. Ebbw Valley Brass (Gareth Ritter) — 184
5. Jackfield Elcock Reisen (Simon Platford) — 183
6. Goodwick Brass (Matthew Jenkins) — 182
7. City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) (Dewi Griffiths) — 181
8. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson) — 180
9. Burry Port (Christopher Bond) — 179
10. Tylorstown (Gary Davies) — 177
11. Markham & District (Matt Rowe ) — 176
Withdrew: Abergavenny Borough
Highest Placed First Section Band not in prizes: Ebbw Valley Brass
Most Entertaining Stage Presentation: Tylorstown
Best Soloist: Robin Hackett (trombone) — Ebbw Valley Brass
Best Cornet Player: Sara-Jane Wallbridge (Wantage Silver)
Best Soprano: Ian Roberts — City of Cardiff (Melingriffith)
Best Horn Section: Llwydcoed
Best Percussion Section: Filton Concert
Youngest Player: Tom Hoof (aged 12) — Jackfield Elcock Reisen
British Open Spring Festival qualification: Wantage Silver