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 - 2nd Section

Saturday 18 March, 2017

Adjudicators: Derek Broadbent and Mike Kilroy

Test-piece: Rhapsody in Brass (Dean Goffin)


1. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

2. Penclawdd (Tony Small).

3. Melingriffith 2 (Andrew Wareham)

 4. Royal Buckley Town (Brett Baker)

5. Blaenavon Town (Lynne Turner)

6. Seindorf Arian Crwbin (Craig Roberts)

 Rhapsody in Brass is proably too hard for the section. That's clear from performances round the country. All seven bands here found it a stern challenge for different reasons - technical, style, tempo, consistency. I'm not sure all the conductors took the wisest choices of tempo, but there were some strong musical moments in a number of performances, with the final band providing the broadest range of colours and gestures and also the best soprano soloist.
The judges agreed that Abergavenny was the best band on show in this section, while Penclawdd gave a thoroughly musical performance, which kept going to the end.

In the BB Frame*

1. Penclawdd (Tony Small).

2.Blaenavon Town (Lynne Turner)

3. Royal Buckley Town (Brett Baker)

4. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

5. Melingriffith 2 (Andrew Wareham)

6. Seindorf Arian Crwbin (Craig Roberts)

*NOT the official result!  



1.Blaenavon Town (Lynne Turner)

2. Ammanford Town Silver (Andrew Jones)

3. Melingriffith 2 (Andrew Wareham)

4. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

5. Royal Buckley Town (Brett Baker)

6.Seindorf Arian Crwbin (Craig Roberts)



7. Penclawdd (Tony Small)

The best start of the section – this conductor knows how to contrast lightness and finesse with projection and power at the start at least. There is more going in accurately than other bands too. Side drum is far too loud, but the delicacy of the soprano soloist moments catches the ear. This has energy and more precision than others today. Well done.

A fluffy start to the second movement from the horns, but the soloist does OK.  I’m hearing some expressive playing here. Soprano cornet excels again,. This isn’t much quieter then Abergavenny in the first climax but is a little less strident. Nicely done cornets towards the end. Tony Small holds the final chord on for an eternity and no one falls off – nice job.

 Once again the details of the finale find some of the players. The second section is playful and resonant. Soprano soloist is first class in his solo, while the solo cornets’ answer is less secure. Trombones sound suitably noble at the start of the chorale and throughout. Cornets match well and the whole band maintains stamina right to the end.

You can tell this conductor loves this piece!

6.Seindorf Arian Crwbin (Craig Roberts)

The basic sound of the band is full. The tuttis sound well. The speed is on the fast side so some details are sketched in, but the conductor is sensible to let the band relax a little. The music is light on its feet, but not always under complete control. Musically very attractive.

 The second movement is comfortable in dynamic and pace at the start. Horn sounds expressive and naturally phrased – an appealing sound too. HI like the fact that there so many different readings of the piece. Craig Roberts, for example is much faster than others in the central section. The euphonium solo sounds rather strained. The speed doesn’t relax enough for me in the reprise – everything sounds rather active.

 The finale is rocking a touch at the start and details are once again sketched in. We are on firmer ground in the second section – nicely done euphonium and horns. The twists and turns and placement of the semi-quaver detail at the end of the rhythmic bars continue to cause problems for the bands. The chorale not balanced effectively. The three solo cornets are feeling it I think, and the accident count is rising as fatigue sets in towards the end.

5.Royal Buckley Town (Brett Baker)

 A strong start, but full toned and not strained. There are some accidents but only minor so far as we hit the second section. Dr. Baker is going fast but the solo cornet squeezes his details in – just. The tempo relaxes a bit in the development section. The trombones smudge their entry a tad, but energy and excitement I maintained to the end. This is decently played but I missed the subtle nuances that a slightly steadier tempo would have made possible.
A few more serious smudges at the start of the second movement. Solo euphonium has the stand-out moment so far - stylishThere is some engaging ebb and flow towards the end, which a little more space would have made even more effective.
A very fast finale – too fast for this listener and for the band to feel comfortable in the twists and turns of detail. In fact the tempo relaxes towards the second section, which is nicely played. Soprano can’t quite get his detail in, sadly; neither can other later on. The bottom of the band is pretty good however and this is fast and furious at the end.

4.Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

A ferocious start and really fast speed from the MD doesn’t quite get the mood of the first movement for me, but the band is clearly very able. Why does it need to be so fierce in the fortes? Plenty of energy and the best playing of the section so far, but it misses the musical mark for this listener.

That’s more like it, at the start of the second movement – calm and relatively poised in the horn solo – but as soon as we hit the faster second episode, we get aggressive again! Troms and euphonium are not quite in sync. E flat tuba and euphonium are delicate in their final gestures and the ending is controlled well – thank you soprano!

The finale is fast and furious – the filigree twists and turns find the soloists out; the overall picture is energetic. From where I’m sitting – near a mains plugs and not the most ideal listening position – the trombone chorale doesn’t wound together, but I’m not sure whether that’s an acoustic matter in the hall.

If only tempo and tone choices from the podium had been more appropriate to the musical style and this hall…..a very good band this.


3.Melingriffith 2 (Andrew Wareham)

A steady speed allows the quavers to sit comfortably and more detail is going in, although not all. There is much that is attractive in the reading, which flows organically from first note to last. The reading from young Andrew Wareham is convincing. The horn solo is not quite as well placed as the previous band, but the overall impression is more convincing (for me) in the flow. The central scherzo isn’t quite as efficient in details, but the band is giving this a real go, especially in its expressive phrasing.  The players lack that extra gear of resource for the big climax, but I’m admiring the expressive intent. A tender finish.
The finale is controlled at the start, but then gathers as the quaver details become crushed – a rather bumpy ride this one. It’s to the band and conductor’s credit that they are resisting the temptation to overblow. Concentration and stamina levels must be flagging as the trombones and the rest of the band are not together in the chorale. This is flagging markedly now as we approach the final wind up of excitement. What a pity after such a promising start.


2. Ammanford Town Silver (Andrew Jones)

I.At a slightly slower speed the music sits better. There was poise here and an attractive lilt. Not all the cornet and other solo details are accurate, but there are compensations in the warmth of the sound. A determined effort.

II. The horns sound well in unison at the start but there are some intonation issues elsewhere. The solo horn is lovely – just the right level of vibrato for me – so to the euphonium, the solo cornets not quite so secure. A few stumbles towards the end, and a comfortable dynamic.

 III. In the ample acoustic of Brangwyn Hall, the generous tutti sounds can lull the listener into an appreciation of the overall effect, but gloss over the details. The first half of the movement is rather sketchy in the latter! The trombones are rich and noble in the chorale episode, but the band is finding the negotiation of a clean path rather a challenge. The promise of the opening was perhaps not maintained in the finale.


1.Blaenavon Town (Lynne Turner)

I. A brisk tempo, very lively and agile for the most part. This was more dashing than refined perhaps, and quite alot of the finessed detail wasn’t clean. The overall approach – admirable.

II. This is elegant at the start and also rather fast and furious in the second strain. The horn notes didn’t all speak in the pressure of the moment, but the expressive nuances displayed by the euphonium were right on the money (for me). My overall impression is that a slightly slower speed would have provided greater opportunities for some expressive playing and cleaner detail. However, the ending was lovely – well done soprano.

III. Again a brisk temp. The vigour and energy is very impressive. Not every note goes in once again however, especially the semi-quaver detailing. The music seemed on the edge of running away until the second episode – the chorale, which was nicely done, expressive and noble. Mrs. Turner wound up the end with great energy. I’d have like to hear more security in the syncopated chords, but an enjoyable and enthusiastic start to the section.