Issue 5970

Egon Virtuosi Brass - An inside story

The Owen Farr Seminar - the first in a monthly series of brass masterclasses by the tenor horn virtuoso

Besses Boys' Band - Celebrating 75 years

Grimethorpe Youth Band feature

LIVE - Welsh Regional Championships - 3rd Section

Friday 17 March, 2017

Adjudicators: Stan Lippeatt and John Maines

Test-piece: Darkwood (Dan Price)


1.Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)*

2. Abertillery and District (Josh Ruck)*

3. Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)

4. Phoenix (Luke Jenkins)

5. Ynyshir (Gary Davies)

6. Severn Tunnel (Grant Jameson)

Dan Price's Darkwood has proved to an appropriate challege for the third section. Here in Swansea, this secition has often been very strong, so I am hoping for some colourful performances of music which depsite its attractive surface needs attention to all its details to project a memorable reading.

The Welsh 3rd section has lived up to expectations, with some strong moments from all 10 bands. Bands and a few very fine accounts. The piece suited the section well, enabling the best bands to make the best of their tone qualities. Newport's technical prowess one the day, with some excellent soloists,  while Abertillery & District's reading really hit the spot with the judges, who were both impressed with the general standard.


In the BB Frame*

1. Phoenix (Luke Jenkins)

2. Abertillery and District (Josh Ruck)

3. Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)

4. Usk (Jeff Jones)

5. Crosskeys Silver (Mike Davies)

6. Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)


*NOT the official result!  



1.Severn Tunnel (Grant Jameson)

2.Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)

3.Ogmore Valley Silver (Alice Jones)

4.Abertillery and District (Josh Ruck)

5.Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)

6.Ynyshir (Gary Davies)

7.Briton Ferry Silver (Jeff Pearce)

8.Phoenix (Luke Jenkins)

9.Usk (Jeff Jones)

10.Crosskeys Silver (Mike Davies)



10. Crosskeys Silver (Mike Davies)

Crosskeys Silver’s characterisation is strong, but not all the details are in place or precise in ensemble. The band makes a warm, generous sound.

In contrast to the previous band, Mike Davies lingers in the transition to make a more deeply felt impact. The pacing here is thoughtful and musical, but not all the details are in place and there were some insecure moments audible from the soloists in the folk dance.

Mike Davies sets a resolute tempo for the finale – slower than some, but allowing time for detail and character. The ending was restrained, but the tuning and tone exemplary.


9.Usk (Jeff Jones)

Not the cleanest start of the day, but  the tempo is brisk.  There are some uncertainties in production, but the band is alive to the contrasting characters. Jeff Jones’ rubato creates intensity in transition to the chorale. The chorale itself could flow more naturally but However, we enjoy a noble climax and the folk dance lilts along. Not perhaps as sharp in articulation as some, but momentum is maintained well and the denouement sounds really well.
The articulation in the finale engages the ear – nice work. The performance is growing in stature and clarity as it progresses towards a terrific blazing finish.

8.Phoenix (Luke Jenkins)

Phoenix is quiet and clean at the tricky bass opening, after which the level of detail and dynamic  control is evidence of a well-coached band. The sound opens up to a strong climax and then horns and soprano (in expressive dialogue) take the music back with limpid sound. The best bass octaves we’ve yet heard at end of the first movement and into the transition – so expressive.
It is a distinctive advantage to have a player of Matthew Jenkins’ class on euphonium. Brother Luke is making a lovely show of the second movement, bringing out the solo detail as required not just from euphonium, which dominates, but also basses and horns. What a resonant climax – majestic. A slight wobble into the folk dance, but the characterful, lilting measure well delivered from top lines and the basses. All flows convincingly to the return of the chorale tune, with firm foundations from the basses and lovely finish, which flows naturally into the finale dance. This is really fast but with a touch of brilliance too. Percussion a touch behind the beat . Easily the best ‘Mars’ moments from euphoniums as well as horns. Luke wound up the ending with aplomb. Could the quality of the soloists give this band the edge today?  

7.Briton Ferry Silver (Jeff Pearce)

The opening this times seemed rather unsteady. Tempo and details could do with more definition and contrast. Percussion is well in the picture – nice glockenspiel and an even better soprano cornet solo. However, overall the details seem a little unbalanced and lacking in projection.
The bridge into the second movement chorale is very fast, so that the tender emotion of the phrasing doesn’t come across. The chorale itself lacks the atmosphere of other performances we’ve heard. It’s also the fastest and most strident climax we’ve yet heard.  The folk dance trips along, but not without the occasional fluff from soloists and inner parts. The same issues about pacing, rhythmic control are heard in the final, some of which is rather too aggressive in this context (for me). A committed performance.

6.Ynyshir (Gary Davies)

Some very young players in this band, not least the young man on repiano. The opening is louder than some we’ve heard and thus safe. Lots of detail going in here at a generally strong dynamic. The quavers at the end of the main theme tend to push a bit. The transition into the second movement is a tad sketchy, as is the opening of the chorale. I’m enjoying the euphonium sounds once again though – lovely solo and a strong build to the climax. The sound isn’t quite as warm or resonant as others – a general tuning issue. The folk dance is quick but could be more poised in rhythm. It tends to push and once again the tuning in the middle of the band detracts from the overall character.

Gary starts off the finale at a steady speed. Thus it’s a bit heavy in style. It could be tighter in ensemble and more balanced generally. Timpani is rather to decisive and there are some ‘togetherness’ issues in the central section. This is robust stuff but not always under total control in the wind up to the end. A performance that started with much promise that wasn’t always maintained.

5.Newport Borough (Robin Hackett)

Clean start, which focuses on percussion. Character and contrast are good but details are not always tight. Robin Hackett is maximizing the contrasts between moments of long phrases and stronger articulation.
A slight fluff disturbs the flow into the second movement. The chorale theme projects with warmth and energy. Another conductor who ‘gets’ this second movement – a real nobility in the climax and then an ear-tickling lilt in the folk dance. The climax is resonant and warm, lovely sounds form the band.
Just a few details in articulation and ensemble that do not always sit comfortably in the finale. Side drum sounds a little behind the beat and the timpani is rather over-enthusiastic once or twice. Another very creditable performance however, full of energy and verve at the end. 

4.Abertillery and District (Josh Ruck)

Very quiet opening, almost creates a problem, but the movement soon opens out to offer decisive impact and bags of contrasting detail and the best sound so far. We hear tuba detail not yet experienced this morning and Josh Ruck clearly knows how to build and maintain musical flow.  

Lovely sounds from cornets and trombones at the start of the second movement – which flows well and maintains a clear sense of purpose through the modal melody. I’m enjoying the way cornet and splendid euphonium soloist provide the building blocks towards the climax – which is full-toned. The folk dance is well-delivered, with clear articulation, lilting rhythm and melodies that don’t meander, but have musical meaning and flow – nice work from the soloists and conductor. Judgement of dynamic level and power is on another level from what we’ve heard thus far.

Bags of life in the finale and dynamic contrast. Muted cornets and percussion are working well. The ‘Mars’ phrases sit well and there is real danger in the stabbing chords. Josh and band wind up the ending brilliantly and powerfully.

3.Ogmore Valley Silver (Alice Jones)

Another slow start, with fluffy articulation. The tempo fluctuates a bit and there are some production wobbles, but once again the soprano cornet player shines. A touch more projection of character would take this to another level, but there are continual tuning issues that detract from the overall picture. The euphonium soloist makes a lovely warm sound, as the 2nd movement builds to its dark hued climax. The little central dance section is effective in its lilt but it’s clear that bands are having a bit of trouble in creating momentum in the build to the final climax, where back row cornets are rather flat – sorry! The ebb and flow of the ‘Mars’ chords aren’t always controlled but Alcie Jones wides the music up to a strong finish.

2.Newtown Silver (Steve Edwards)

A slow, cautious opening which could be livelier and more energetic (for me), but the band makes a strong sound. The contrasts of colour and articulation are brought out well. A generous opening to the second movement. The tutti sound fills the Brangwyn Hall, although some of the solo details not 100percent clean. There is a sense purpose and direction here, with top lines coming across. Nice control in the diminuendo at the end of the second movement and into a lively final dance, which winds up to a dramatic conclusion.

1.Severn Tunnel (Grant Jameson)

Darkwood opens neatly and with an appropriate lift to the rhythm. Grant Jameson is taking it a steady speed, but this allows his band to bring out as much contrast in articulation and dynamic as they are able. It’s interesting to hear minimal vibrato from round the stand and a clean trumpet like quality from the top line.

There is nowhere to hide in the Vaughan Williams inspired second movement, so the occasional untuneful chord can be heard. The modal melodies could be brought out more to give greater sense of purpose.

However, the finale is more energetic and I’m enjoying the attempt to be symphonic in the sound – nice and warm. The Holst Mars section could be tighter with more front to the notes and sense of drama. But band seems well in control of the technical aspects of the music in this well prepared compact performance.