HITTING NEW HEIGHTS - Glenn Van Looy talks exclusively to British Bandsman

Issue 5977

FRANKLY SPEAKING - The first of a new series by Frank Renton, this month focusing on musical education

THE GREAT TRIUMVIRATE - Tim Mutum looks at the life and times of John Gladney 

Welsh Regional Championships - 1st Section LIVE!

Saturday 17 March, 2018

1st Section

Test-piece: Brass Metamorphosis (James Curnow)

Saturday 17 March

Draw: 2:00pm (commences 4.00pm)

Adjudicators: Alan Morrison and Mark Wilkinson

Paul Hindmarsh reporting 

 

Result

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 and District (Matt Rowe)

8. Llanrug (Gavin Saynor)

9. Thomas Coaches Mid-Rhondda (Alan Gibbs)

10. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

Best instrumentalist: Arwel Williams (soprano, Deiniolen)

 

In the BB Frame

1. Burry Port Town (Christopher Bond)

2. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)

3. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion) 

4. Markham and District (Matt Rowe)

5. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)

6. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)

 

This is a very close call. No band had a clean run and approaches to the music varied a good deal depending on the capabilities of the bands. It will be interrsting to see how the judges rank the bands,  but for me Barry Port and Ebbw Valley producd the most conststent technical perormances, and that is how the judges heard it, but with greater consistency from Ebbw Valley. Deiniolen's soprano, Arwel Williams, received best instrumentalist - very well deserved.

 

10. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)

A superb start – accurate, burnished. This makes you want to listen. After three hours of listening this band is revealing it afresh to us – so much vigour, life, character and time. There is one slight blemish in the horn to set against some fine detailed playing. The countersubjects in the first slow variation are revealed without losing focus on the horn solo. The soprano glitches a touch – pity – but poise shown by the euphonium soloist makes up for that. Dynamics are well controlled as the variation falls back to a quiet finish. Gary Davies takes he scherzo at a lick – but it is played – and we hear the xylophone for nearly the first time in the session. There is so much variety here, with most of it going in. Terrific ending which lead directly into the second slow melody variation – solo horn is retrained yet it comes across. The basses phrase well, but an audible glitch in the euphonium’s answering phrase might be costly.
Band and conductor turn the corner into the reprise as tightly as we’ve heard – the wheels hug the road! And the build to the final climax really come off – we know we are nearing the ending, so the final slow finish doesn’t come as such a surprise – very good show.

9. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)

An enthusiastic start and bags of youthful energy on display here. The tonal quality here is impressive in this context as is the detailing of Variation 2 – strong showings from flugel and soprano cornet. The variations ends beautifully. Variation 3 is not as fast as we’ve heard, allowing all the notes time to speak. The throw away ending was more of an underarm bowl – didn’t quite reach the target!

Not the most elegant start to the next variation either, but it did improve. The accel into the reprise of the opening was one of the most effective of the session – real intent and purpose.

 

8. Markham and District (Matt Rowe)

One of the more incisive openings of the day – with time for the gesture to be placed within the bar accurately. I’m hearing some details that no one else has found – highlighting the trombone trio is a interesting touch. The articulation of the cornets is sharp but the notes have time to speak properly. The sense of purpose here is making a mark. The music is flowing and soloists feel comfortable. Flugel horn is super and we hear all the dovetailing parts before the soprano delights us with his high-wire solo. The understanding of the mechanics of the music is being conveyed by the conductor – very good job from Matt Rowe. The good work continues into the scherzo – easily the best of the day so far, for the judgement of tempo, character and stability of the pulse – it sits really well on the beat.
The tempo set for Variation 4 is also measured to keep the music flowing. If the basics are right – production, tuning, tempo, style – the piece will speak. The ensemble writing here is confident and the thematic workings of the music come across really well. The ending comes off a treat because the tempo variations are kept to only some really poor intonation in the final bars detracts from a very satisfying musical display.

7. Thomas Coaches Mid-Rhondda (Alan Gibbs)

An exciting opening – pacey, and not the most detailed perhaps – but the band is finding some life and vigour in the music, especially the 6/8 – light on its feet, although the quaver patterning loses some coherence. The tuning is a bit iffy at the start of Variation 2, although the horn and flugel soloists are sounding well in control, soprano and euphonium less so.
The scherzo is also pretty fast, perhaps slightly too fast for the little playful solos (horns and cornets) to sound cleanly. The soloists find problems in sustaining the counterpoints and melodies in Variation 4 and the tempo and details in the transition are rather approximate. Overall – a spirited performance with very good musical intentions that were not fully realised in the technical aspects of the playing. 

 

6. Burry Port Town (Christopher Bond)

This one starts off with some authority in the sounds and gestures – with poise and time to make expressive sounds in the slow moment of the introduction. The preparation for the 6/8 dance is not overworked – just enough to take the ear on. The level of detail across the band is the best we’ve heard – percussion comes through too- really liking this! – The dance was delivered in a single organic span.
The muted cornets in variation 2 sound consistent and the interjections form trombones have a proper musical intention. Soloists are confident – solo horn and especially trombones. The music is being delivered in expansive spans under Christopher Bond’s creative baton. The music isn’t static, as we’ve heard from some and there is always something to catch he ear.
Variation 3 isn’t too fast, so we catch all the notes and it’s still light on its feet. Well done horns who outshone the sol cornets in the high playful line.
The mood in the Variation 4 is rather melancholy – interesting take on this rather objective music. The counterpoints and solo lines dovetail elegantly to create a beautifully, but complex sonority before the accel towards the short finale, which was well done overall.

5. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

A solid enough start from Abergavenny. The cornet sound cuts through but once the going gets tough, the texture get rather untidy – a few wrong entries as well – pity. I liked the open sounds of the soloists, but they did seem rather robust for piano.
The band is stretched to the limit in the first slow variation – soloists putting everything in to producing the notes. It does sound rather effortful as a result. The scherzo has more life - exciting and played with some efficiency until the playful tune catches out one of the soloists.
In the second slow variation there are balances issues – the accompaniment is rather loud for the soloists, and there are lots of uncertainties. The players run out of steam towards the end.

4. Llanrug (Gavin Saynor)

Neat start – not too loud and well focussed. In more exposed corners the error count is quite high, but each movement has a well-defined character and there are impressive solo moments from euphonium, and soprano cornet in particular. The high cornet line in the scherzo has just the right playful character. Speeds are well judged throughout, to give the players the best chance to make something of the piece. The transition into the finale didn’t quite come off – the speed of the finale was a touch under, making it harder to play. Admirable effort from this dedicated North Wales team.

3. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)

A muscular start, full of intent – terrific energy – intelligently balanced solos on the safe side of piano! The first Allegro dances along, drawing the listener – its loud but we can hear the question and answer patterns across the band – efficient and with touches of brilliance in the tone.
The second movement needs a touch of mystery about it and here the active percussion gave us the colour. This isn’t blemish free, but the euphonium excels and the momentum is sustained when the horn soloist enters…lovely job all round.
The scherzo is light on its feet, crisp articulation and the horn soloist and solo cornet bench in unison, trip across the virtuoso tight-rope will apparent ease. A pity about the end - someone fell off!
It’s easy to let the momentum drop during the second slow variation, which isn’t the most eventful episode in Curnow’s music. We don’t lose too much intention here and the build to the finale is efficiently negotiated. The climax packs a serious punch, but it has to to make the ending work conclusively enough. Much to commend here, not lest the excellent euphonium and fine solo horn.

2. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)

In piece like this without conventional test piece complexities, it’s crucial to hear all the detail projected in balance and in tune. In this performance a lot of the inner detail got lost (from my vantage point) swallowed up in percussion and low brass throughout the opening section. The second variations had some atmosphere, and a well-played euphonium solo (one of many in this work, which was originally a concerto for euphonium and symphonic band. There was a telling contribution from solo horn, but some jarring tuning to set against that.

The scherzo variation was lighter on its feet than the opening, but a lot of the inner detail (the easy stuff) went by the way – the ending was super, a ‘throw away’ but controlled. The second slow variation was well paced, if a little lacking in dynamic nuance, but it built effectively to the reprise and the finale variation. Well done euphonium throughout!

1. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion) 

A solid start from the North Wales contenders. There were bags of technique on show; strong sound but also range aplenty in dynamic and articulation. The long lines form the soloist impressed. This band plays with super control and confidence under Lois Eifion. The tone opens out in an efficient way and all the soloists follow the same interpretative approach. Lovely sustained counterpoints in the slow variation and control in repeated accompaniment figuration. Excellent soprano cornet solo

The balance and blend of the exposed cornet line at the beginning of the final variation was impressive. The reading was well-judged, balanced and paced. This isn’t work where a story or emotions are to be portrayed so it is all down to the playing and from first note to the resounding finish this was a very creditable effort.

Draw

1. Deiniolen (Lois Eifion)

2. Lewis Merthyr (Craig Roberts)

3. Ebbw Valley (Gareth Ritter)

4. Llanrug (Gavin Saynor)

5. Abergavenny Borough (Sean O'Neill)

6. Burry Port Town (Christopher Bond)

7. Thomas Coaches Mid-Rhondda (Alan Gibbs)

8. Markham and District (Matt Rowe)

9. BTM (Jeff Hutcherson)

10. Tylorstown (Gary Davies)