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Report & Result: 2018 Welsh Regional Championship: First Section

Ebbw Valley notch up another Area title success to head to Cheltenham with Burry Port Town at their side.

Ebbw Valley
  Ebbw Valley add another Area title to their CV with their win in the First Section

The latest variation on a 'consistency' theme that has been heard time and time again this year from adjudicators around the country was not surprisingly repeated once more at the conclusion of this First Section contest.

On this occasion it was laid out with clarity by Alan Morrison and Mark Wilkinson to leave no-one in doubt that 'Brass Metamorphosis' had proven to be a stern and at times rather humbling test of potential top-flight aspirations at the Brangwyn Hall.

Severe examination

And whilst the winner, Ebbw Valley and fellow qualifier Burry Port Town were bands with recent Championship Section experience to fall back on, both will have known that they had secured their places at Cheltenham only after a troublingly severe examination of their credentials.

"There are plentiful challenges and pitfalls in the piece," Alan said before the announcement of the results. "There were mini disasters waiting to happen, and not one band came through unscathed. There was not one definitive performance. Everyone was caught out.

Some were better than others, but the faster tempos needed clarity. 'As fast as possible' did not mean 'as fast as MDs could conduct'. Three words came to mind; layers, links and lines — the basics of playing. Some were more successful than others. It was competitive today but those at the top were simply more consistent."

Hammered home

Mark Wilkinson eloquently hammered the point home. "Overall the standard was good with the top three standing out. Some performances lacked dynamic range and intonation did rub though. This was a good challenge both technically and musically, but its pitfalls were clear to hear with everyone."

Those opinions were reinforced by their written remarks even for the winners, with Mark summing up Ebbw Valley's performance by saying that it contained, "lots of good playing", whilst Alan added that it had, "So much good work to admire...and a musical reading that had power and control."


However, the winning MD, Gareth Ritter was not disappointed that the stage remarks seemed somewhat downbeat, as he believed it was a realistic appraisal of his band's performance and current level of aspiration.

"I prefer to hear a realistic explanation, rather than one that glosses over things," he said, as he enjoyed yet another title winning triumph for the band he created in 2011.

"We knew this was a real test for us, so to come through it and still be crowned Welsh Champion is a fine achievement for the players who gave me everything once again.

We enjoyed working on the piece and it's certainly improved us as a band. Cheltenham is another step towards long term Championship Section status, as is the Senior Trophy at Blackpool, so we are realistic about our aims and ambitions."

Same feelings

Those may well be the same feelings of runner-up Burry Port as they produced a confident performance, neatly directed by Christopher Bond to secure the runner-up slot ahead of a robust account from third placed Tylorstown.

The slightly lighter dynamic approach of approach of Deiniolen saw them produce the contest marker (aided by the super soprano playing of 'Best Instrumentalist' Arwel Williams) off the number 1 draw to end a slightly unlucky fourth, with Lewis Merthyr and BTM filling the remaining top-six places.

Increasingly variable

However, the overall standard was increasingly variable, with a number of bands finding considerable problems in overcoming the technical challenges of James Curnow's work.

And whilst Ebbw Valley did have their moments of unease, the clear understanding of the musical structure of the work by Gareth Ritter and the confident approach of his team of soloists allied to a richly hued ensemble sound will surely hold them in good stead as they look to complete the 'Grand Slam' of Cheltenham National titles in September.

Three words came to mind; layers, links and lines — the basics of playing. Some were more successful than others. It was competitive today but those at the top were simply more consistentAlan Morrison


First Section:

Test Piece: Brass Metamorphosis (James Curnow)
Adjudicators: Alan Morrison and Mark Wilkinson

1. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)*
2. Burry Port Town (Christopher Bond)*
3. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)
4. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)
5. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)
6. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)
7. Markham & District (Matt Rowe)
8. Llanrug (Gavin Saynor)
9. Thomas Coaches Mid-Rhondda (Graham Sheppard)
10. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

*Qualify for National Final

Best Instrumentalist: Arwel Williams (soprano) — Deiniolen

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