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 - 1st Section

Friday 17 March, 2017

Adjudicators: Stan Lippeatt and John Maines

Test-piece: Land of the Long White Cloud (Philip Sparke)


1. Parc and Dare (Leftfield Environmental) (Capt. Paul Collis-Smith)

2. Llanrug (Paul Hughes)

3. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)

4. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)

5. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)


6. Markham and District (Matthew Rowe)

7. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)

8. Mid-Rhondda (Thomas Coaches) (Alan Gibbs)

9. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)

10. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)

 Best Instrumentalist: Flugel horn (Parc and Dare)



In the BB Frame*

1. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)

2. Parc and Dare (Leftfield Environmental) (Capt. Paul Collis-Smith)

3. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)

4. Llanrug (Paul Hughes)

5. Markham and District (Matthew Rowe)

6. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)


*NOT the official result!  



1. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)

2. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)

3. Markham and District (Matthew Rowe)

4. Llanrug (Paul Hughes)

5. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)

6. Mid-Rhondda (Thomas Coaches) (Alan Gibbs)

7. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)

8. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)

9. Parc and Dare (Leftfield Environmental) (Capt. Paul Collis-Smith)

10. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)


This section got off to a terrific start with Ebbw Valley. Will the others match or exceed their quality?

At the half way point, Ebbw Valley is still at the top for me, for a sure sense of style and tutti sound especially, although Llanrug's soloists have the definitely edge. Towards the end of the session we had two performances that for me are also in the mix. This is very close at the top. i wonder how the judges will view it?

10. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)
The cleanest opening of the day – we hear the little rest. Note lengths are well sustained and we hear all the lines and sections in spite of a strong dynamic – volume sustained by breath not just loud. There is a big audible glitch somewhere just before the close harmony section, which is a little under-weight in comparison with others. A huge surge into the climax is followed by some ‘iffy’ close harmony under the cornets’ muted bell section. There are a few smudges here and there, but overall an impressive opening.

Allegro begins well too – fast and light – but detail is lost later on when the volume button is turned up. The filigree details are a tad messy, yet again.  The jazzy moment following is full of intent, but it is beginning to strident under pressure.
The  soprano soloist does well, and the cornet following is even better. There have been some tasty flugel solos today – I love this moment in the score – this one is not as accomplished as the best in terms of tuning and confidence. Indeed there are some lapses creeping in round the band now.

A nicely controlled bridge to the reprise restore confidence.
Terrific lines from the basses in the fugato, which bristles with energy. The syncopated section is a touch ‘smash and grab’ this time round, but the ending brings the section to an end with vigour.
Nice work all round!



9. Parc and Dare (Leftfield Environmental) (Capt. Paul Collis-Smith)

A richly toned opening, impressively heroic and mature in delivery. It sounds like an experienced band in  capable hands, There is very little wrong with the opening in terms of flow and judgment of pace and dynamic range. The close harmony moment works well
It articulation of the Allegro could have been crisper, but it’s one of the cleanest performances of the day, perhaps not quite as precise in rhythm as band number one, and the percussion is certain over enthusiastic, but the filigree details are well captured in effect as well as notes. A soulful soprano solo, with one minor lapse at the end. Captain Collis-Smith is talking this slowly, but he is sustaining the dark mysterious character of the flugel horn solo – beautifully done.
The processional begins rather tentatively and is slow to build, but does so with power. Only Ebbw Valley has got close to this- with better tuning.
The clarity of the reprise of the Allegro impresses, the voicing of the fugato likewise. For me it is perhaps a touch too robust, just needs slightly lighter approach. The pay off provides a grandstand finish to a commendable account.


8. Pontardulais Town (Paul Jenkins)

A very loud, rather active start, in which the band, I feel, is being encouraged to play too loud, so that we lose control, detail and above all tuning. The music needs to be much broader in conception, so that it flows in an appropriately nautical manner.
The Allegro is sensibly paced, but the conductor it too is at full bore – the detail is going in – but the volume button is well up. I’d like to hear more playful detail than this over-blown approach, because the quiet moments will suffer, and indeed he filigree detailing was very approximate. The flugel solo moment has more character – loving the euph/bari/bass ensemble, but then the processional begins with smudges and lack of crisp articulation. This is definitely a mixed offering as the big climax is simply too raucous for context. Why is the band being encouraged to play like this, when it is clearly capable of much more subtlety and agility?
The Allegro is so much more efficient second time round – not less ’in yer face’ however. Full of brio at the end. I admire the playing but would question aspects of the reading.

7. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)

After an encouragingly musical display in the second section last year, I was looking forward to this performance from Lois and her band , and apart from one fluff at the start, I was not disappointed by the heroic intentions of the opening – full sound, if not really flowing. Thereafter, there was some unease when the going got tough – a sense of strain on soprano and a lack of balance in the close harmony chorale. It’s a determined effort however, as the bell section demonstrates, but it just needs to flow more and be rounder in tone.
The Allegro is lightening fast, for me too fast for stability and firm control, and making space for the filigree details – indeed the music slows. The second solo details are placed well. The soprano soloist (good!) is well-supported. Sub-principal plays the solo cornet one – she has a strong lower register -  and the flugel also sounds confident and expressive. This band is doing more than just playing the notes. There is meaning too- especially in the intensity of the big climax and its aftermath.
The reprise of the Allegro is also quick. The fugato is more controlled, but the syncopated dance music less so. Very loud (too loud?) recap of the opening and a truly express pay off. Risky but the right thing to do musically.


6. Mid-Rhondda (Thomas Coaches) (Alan Gibbs)
A smaller sound from this newly promoted band but how gratifying to see Alan Gibbs beating in three and the sound flowing appropriately. It really makes an audible difference, especially in the build through the close harmony middle section. As for the playing, there are ensemble, tuning and accuracy issues in quieter music. The band is at the limit.
Not everything is in place, but some of the crucial elements are – like the filigree solos and the three big soprano cornet solo. The style is sensitively captured. The processional picks up the pace, but resources are fully stretched.
There are some uncomfortable moments in the reprise, none more so that the return of the opening music, but the lack of power at key moments was telling.


5. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)

A stately opening, not free from fluffs, leads to a solemn middle section. We need to action to hot up a bit – this ready could get stuck in the low-tide mud. It’s rather low in tension and flow but largely accurately played from BTM today.
The Allegro is not express paced, but pretty clean and energy levels have certainly risen. But the syncopated section suddenly takes off faster and the filigree horn and flugel moment is fluffed. The Allegro rushes towards the finish.
Of the soloists, the cornet and flugel are pleasing on the ear, but overall this performance lacks the character and swashbuckling style of a couple of others.
After the fugato the reprise threatens to skate out of control. The return of the opening music comes just in time. But the finale payoff is no faster than the allegro

4. Llanrug (Paul Hughes)

The first band from the north of Wales in this section. A full sound from this young band, with sense of forward motion and surging seas not far away. No one yet has captured the upward sweep of the opening gesture, with its quaver rest. This one almost had it. The close harmony section plays well but needs to flow more smoothly. The sea is a bit choppy! I’m enjoying the clarity of texture however.
The scherzo opening splashes in the shallows! But once the dancing gets going the steps are cleaner.
the filigree detailing was right ‘on the money’.
Soprano solo sails out into the hall – the best one so far- poignant moment answered by solo cornet and exquisite flugel horn – a highlight of the section so far for me. Admiring the warm resonance of the big climax and the careful dovetailing of the final ensemble bars.
The fugato is energetic but clean and the tricky ‘corner’ where solo cornet and trombone move us on was secure. It finds many out. A minor blemish in the reprise of the opening doesn’t detract from
this is a well prepared performance, delivered with style.

3. Markham and District (Matthew Rowe)

Plenty of heroic style to open this account – touch stiff in pulse. No one has risked conducting three in a bar yet, but the character here is attractive and the heart on sleeve close harmony is engaging. The bell sounds are a little tense but the more distant moment – muted cornets – works well.
The scherzo begins full of promise and then takes off with great energy and precision. The little details from soprano and horn are pretty good. Matthew Rowe is holding our attention despite some pretty loud percussion. Well done horn in the transition. Not bad from soprano cornet in her big moment, but the lapses in chording below her clearly disturbed. Loving the soulful close harmony under the flugel – nicely done. The big climax is a touch more strident than band 1. Markham is really giving its all. The striding bass in the fugato comes over cleanly, but the band is beginning to lose some control. The swift finish cuts a dash to the end; a hard working performance with many good moments.

 2. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)

Craig Robert’s second band of the day. The tutti sound at the opening of Long White Cloud is dramatic in a cinematic way, but lacks the definition and brilliance of the first. It’s a tad heavier in tone, and not quite as in tune in the close harmony, which needs to keep moving in a slow dancing lilt.

A robust scherzo section – could be lighter on its feet to be honest, and not all the little details are going in cleanly. Second time round the held chord is very shaky and very little of the little filigree stuff goes in from any one. Soprano cornet is really tested in her solo. The band is revealing how hard it is to sustain this middle ravel-cum-blues inspired section is to sustain. The processional fanfare need to join up and flow to the big climax, which doesn’t quite come off. The horns play well through the bridge to the reprise. A few rogue notes escape into the fugato, which isn’t that clear in voicing. The band is audibly tiring now and, sadly, the band almost comes to a stop when the opening music returns. Hard day at the office!

1.Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)

An opening full of power and rich warm sound immediately engages the ear in this fabulous acoustic. This is broadly conceived and appropriately heraldic with so much of the detail carefully placed. The central close harmony section is a delight to the ear.
Things are not quite so efficient in the scherzo, although Gareth Ritter takes a careful speed given the hall’s resonance. We lose some details and there are some occasional tuning wobbles, but the solos in the filigree section are carefully presented. The soprano soloist doesn’t sound 100% comfortable – quite lot of air escaping. The hamonies under the flugel are really tasty – this band has strong well-blended basses, euphs and baris and a good flugel. player.
The processional fanfares section starts out of nothing and builds well the big tune sails out into the hall – lovely! The pacing is well judged too from the conductor. There is a fluidity and continuity to the reading which I’ve rarely heard in other performances this spring.
The reprise is light on its feet and the fugato builds a terrific head of steam – details crisp and clear. We are swept along by the energy and lift. The ending is at full bore but nothing is over done or too loud for context. Terrific ending.

It’s been so satisfying to hear this band grow through the sections, and now being able to put on a show that would not be out of place in a championship section.