Open letter to Welsh brass band colleagues (No.2)

Dear colleague,

I hope that you and your families are safe and well and are surviving these strange times. Please forgive the long post so you might want to get a coffee and settle down to read!

Owing to the pandemic, brass banding has, like many other activities taken a huge hit due to lock-down and the restrictions on playing brass/wind instruments indoors. It is now coming up to 5 months (March 22) since I tried to arrange a gathering of interested parties to meet in Cardiff, to discuss the formation of a unified Welsh brass band organisation. Sadly lock-down was implemented just before we were able to meet therefore we initiated Plan B and met online through a Zoom Meeting. This was admittedly with limited success owing to technical issues and was met with some scepticism and even derision from certain quarters.

Music For You

A unified Welsh brass band organisation. Can we turn a dream into reality?

 

My reason for writing is that since then, absolutely nothing has happened in moving this proposal forward and I don’t think I’m over-egging the pudding by saying that the movement is in a significantly more precarious position, than we were 5 months ago, with the prospects of “normal” banding as we know it a distant dream as things stand. There is also the concern whether players (particularly the younger ones), conductors  and officers will return to the fold, having now discovered other activities and interests to occupy their time and attention. Concert/Contest venues may not even be in existence for us to perform anywhere decent in the future and with further public spending cuts highly likely, to cover the huge costs of the pandemic; music in education will be non-existent. We are also approaching the Autumn months, meaning our potential activities will be curtailed even further, further affecting revenue and membership retention/recruitment.

I have been “encouraged” by a few colleagues (some who were a part of that initial meeting in March, as well as some new faces) to once again ask the question whether now is the time for action and get the ball finally rolling, before it gets too late to salvage what is already a serious situation for brass banding in Wales. The meeting on March 22 was the warning call that an “iceberg” was on the horizon and action was required. Covid-19 happened and I believe we have now truly hit that “iceberg” and if we don’t act now, then with no representative body the “ship” WILL eventually sink, with almost all hands on board.

The response following the last meeting was to wait until restrictions and lock-down etc. had ended and then to have a face-to-face meeting to discuss the matter. Great, who’s going to suggest an appropriate central venue in Wales and then jump in the car for a potential minimum 2-3+ hour drive, plus the drive back, plus to agree a convenient date to wipe off their schedule, so that we can discuss things? It was a minor miracle that I got 20+ people to agree to meet initially in Cardiff. Yes Cardiff, not central I grant you and I got it in the neck for that too, but the geographical spread of respondents able to attend meant that it was the BEST place for those to attend.

So, is there anything really wrong, now that people are so much more tech-aware and receptive to Zoom or Teams, that we can’t meet once again, being older and wiser with it all and get things moving finally?

OR DO WE INDEED LOOK AT PREFERRED PLAN A?

PLAN A

Are you truly happy to invest in the future of Welsh banding? To invest your time, money and energy by jumping in the car and driving to Newtown or somewhere similar in order that we can discuss these matters face to face? I believe the Welsh Regional Council met this week (observing social distancing of course); therefore it seems people are prepared to get out and about in the name of Welsh banding! Either way, the choice is yours.

The “encouragers” who have prodded me to write to you have also added that as nobody else has initiated any progress do we need to wait for the approval or blessing of others? Frankly, no we don’t and as long as we can gather a decent sized cross-section of the banding world in Wales to get things started in a democratically and constituted manner, then why not? The detractors will continue to detract, the whingers will whinge and the cynics and critics will be ever cynical and critical. In fact the cynics probably won’t bother turning up because “what’s the point, nobody else will?”!!!! We are no longer a brass band movement as the hand-brake is well and truly up. We need action and fast!

This is a massive undertaking; however change can only be implemented by drawing a line in the sand and making that first step, followed by one more step, followed …… I hope you see where I’m going with this? But, yes it is really as simple as that!

We may well be looking at the long term goals, where a Welsh Brass Band Organisation is able to; organise the 2025 Welsh Youth Brass Band Festival, to provide online resources for member bands covering a geographical area from Ynys Môn to Chepstow to Pembroke Dock, to secure funding streams from Arts Council Wales on behalf of member bands or to send a Welsh Representative to the next European Brass Band Association AGM however, if we have no central organisation with proper governance, these will be just “dreams”.

If there is a majority agreement from you to have another go and make a fist of things, great, then let’s crack on with it. If not, that’s fine too, as I’m not claiming to have all the answers or any magic spell to make things right, however to sit back and suck our thumbs whilst watching the ship go down, in my view is a dereliction of duty to the pastime that we so love. By the way, did anyone ring the coastguard to say we’re sinking? Perhaps we should have a vote as to who rings? No, let’s wait until we can meet face-to-face!

This is not intended to be a “join me or I’ll have a hissy fit, throw my toys out of the pram” letter, but it is to encourage you to do SOMETHING. If I’m not your cup of tea to do something, fine, just find someone who is and who will take that first step in making some progress and I will be happy to pitch in and help them if asked.

Canva - White tablet and cup of coffee (1)

So let’s do something and get things started!

 

So after all that sabre-rattling, I will close by inviting you to take action and join me and other willing participants for a meaningful and productive discussion:

When: Saturday 12th of September 2020

Time: 11.00am – 4.00pm

Where: Plas Dolerw

Milford Road,

Newtown,

Powys,

SY16 2EH

Or Online where we hope to live-stream the meeting for those who can’t travel.

Yes, I bit the bullet in an effort to appease everyone and it’s provisionally booked!

The venue can safely accommodate a maximum of 12 people observing social-distancing. “But that’s limiting how many can attend!” I hear the whingers and nay-sayers immediately cry! I’ll counter that with “So what if I book the Royal Albert Hall and only 8 people turn up ….?”

I’d be delighted if we were over-subscribed, but on current track-records, people won’t be queuing round the block!

So if you’re ready, willing and able to commit, please respond ASAP to andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com or call 07973 869621 or easier still, fill in the contact form below.

The clock is ticking! Tick-tock, tick-tock ……..

Yours optimistically.

Andrew Jones

 

A new challenge. My story could be your story!

As I write this latest Blog, we are in some form of lock-down, due to the Corona virus. Our daily routines and activities have certainly changed beyond all recognition and many people have used this enforced spare time, to invest in projects and activities that they’ve often thought about doing, but never really got round to, due to lack of time or inclination. Attics, gardens and garages everywhere have never been so tidy!!! It’s also been an opportunity for people to re-evaluate what is really important to them in their lives e.g. friends and family, good health, the ability and freedom to come and go as you please, job satisfaction and career choices, as well as hobbies and pastimes. Having something that is precious taken away from you only highlights how much we value it.

Lock-down has also given people time to think and assess what they want from life post Covid-19, when we can return to some semblance of normality and this period of reflection will perhaps ignite a desire for change and the pursuit of a new challenge?

I had one of these “Saul on the road to Damascus” moments some 14 years ago, at the grand age of 39, I decided that I needed something new, something different and something that would kick-start my enthusiasm for life in general. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t doing too badly for myself. I had a nice house, a job that I really loved doing and was managing to pay the bills each and every month. So what was the problem? The answer was, that I simply needed to be doing something that I’d never experienced before, that took me away from the “same old, same old” and perhaps out of my comfort zone, to where I couldn’t put my feet on the bottom of the pool and had to swim a little harder to stay afloat.

From a somewhat pessimistic and negative viewpoint, I felt I had ticked as many boxes as was possible in terms of my music-making experiences (particularly on a professional level) and that there were no more “Everests” remaining that I was capable of climbing and that I should be happy with what I’d already achieved. “So what changed?” I hear you ask.

Following a chance encounter with a friend I was encouraged to consider joining the Army Reserve as a Musician. I’d always been interested in all things Military ever since I was young, but the concept of playing in a Military Band – no change that to a Military brass band (as at the time it was the ONLY brass band in the British Army! – and getting paid for it fried my brain somewhat. Over the years, I’d been used to the concept of attending band twice a week (increasing in the run up to a major competition) and getting zilch for doing it, other than the huge amount of pleasure of performing at a high level and at some of the top venues around Europe.

The Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Having done my research and then attending a few rehearsals at the Barracks (to get a feel of what I was potentially letting myself in for) and asking hundreds of questions such as “what if…?”, “how many…?”, “will I have to do this….. will I have to do that?”, I was reassured that this was a good move and would be a decision that I wouldn’t regret.

Fast-forward 14 years and I now can say that this was one of the best decisions that I ever made. I discovered not only a new “Everest” to climb, but my “K2”, “Kilimanjaro” and many more peaks, with new ones still emerging even now. This new challenge brought a new dimension to not only my musical world, but to my personal and life experiences too and at the same time, I got paid for doing it and it brought me new career pathways too, as all these years later, not only am I a Sergeant and a musician, I am now the Recruiter for that Band – the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh.

Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team – Uganda 2015

Words cannot begin to describe the new horizons that I’ve encountered over these 14 years, but suffice to say that if you’re currently bored, feeling unfulfilled, craving something new or just plain curious to know “what if…..?” then go for it! Ask the question and see whether it is for you.

Whether it’s learning a new language, deciding to do a triathlon or joining a Regimental Band in the Army Reserve, then follow your dream and see where it takes you!

WW1 Commemorations, Thiepval Memorial – France 2016

For more information about the Regimental Band and Corps of Drums of The Royal Welsh, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/royalwelshband/

Last Post – Belgium 2019

Thanks for reading the Music for You blog.

An Open Letter to the brass band movement in Wales

The Blaina Band based near Brynmawr was formed in 1817 and it was claimed to be the first band in Britain to become ‘all brass’. In the intervening 203 years, the brass band movement in Wales has successfully produced some of the movement’s best and most successful players, conductors, ensembles, educators and teachers, composers and arrangers, administrators and commentators.

Welsh banding is firmly on the international contesting map

Ebbw Valley Brass – 2013 National Champions (Section 4)

Names such as; David, Nicholas and Robert Childs, the Cyfarthfa Band, the Cory Band led by Philip Harper, T.J. Powell, Bram Gay and Philip Morris, Iwan Fox and 4barsrest are just a handful of names recognised not only within the Principality, but across the world. These are luminaries who have successfully put Wales on the “musical map”, and through their work have ensured that the movement has grown and flourished.

In 2013 no less than 4 Welsh bands were crowned National Champions of Great Britain in all but the Third Section. This was a truly remarkable achievement for such a small nation; however these successes, along with significant contest successes by Tredegar and the No.1 World-ranked Cory Band before and since, have masked the underlying decline of fortunes for Welsh banding at grass-roots level.

Demise of brass banding in Wales

With the demise of music in education due to austerity and the reduction of funding for the Arts in general, and with music services having to introduce charging for instrumental tuition in schools, the number of young player either joining, or being retained in the movement has reached extremely worrying numbers. More than ever, bands are relying on a small group of (mainly unpaid) volunteers, who are struggling to keep some semblance of a production line going in terms of young players. Bands in all sections are struggling to fill seats, with the pool of players ever-diminishing.

The administration and governance of banding in Wales, has to date lain with the respective BB Associations in West Wales, South East Wales and North Wales, with additional tiers added for the Welsh Regional Contest and the National Eisteddfod. These however, (with isolated exceptions) have almost exclusively existed in order to organise and oversee competitive banding in the Principality, with no clear structure or pathway mapped out to develop and nurture new projects and initiatives to benefit the movement in general.

Lack of a single unified voice to benefit from Arts Council Funding

Thus far, funding for any new projects has always been as a result of the diligence and initiative of hard-working individuals who have secured money from a variety of sources, usually benefiting an individual band, or small cluster of bands. Arts Council Wales have not been receptive to approaches for such funding, as the contesting tag has always been inextricably linked with most of the ideas presented and more importantly, the movement does not have a single unified voice to make those representations in the first place.

 One representative body for Welsh banding

Surely the time has now come, before it is too late, to introduce a model similar to the Brass Band England organisation and have one representative body, speaking on behalf of the interests of ALL brass bands in Wales. This organisation would oversee ALL Youth and Senior Bands, ALL Competitive and non-competitive Bands and its primary function would be to nurture and encourage some “joined up thinking” across a wide range of stakeholders, including;

  • All Bands
  • Conductors
  • Arts Bodies and Administrators i.e. Arts Council Wales, the 3 Welsh Brass Band Associations, Tŷ Cerdd
  • Music Services and Hubs
  • Schools and Colleges (including Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama)
  • Peripatetic teachers
  • Educators
  • Composers & arrangers
  • Industry suppliers – i.e. instrument manufacturers, repairers, insurance providers, publishers
  • Arts and Concert venues
  • Influencers i.e. 4barsrest, Brass Band World, British Bandsman & others
  • Arts Festivals
  • Other Arts organisations e.g. Choirs, Folk Music, Theatre, Dance

These stakeholders could all contribute their knowledge and expertise and assist in the following areas:

  • Administration – help with running a Band on a day-to-day basis, access to template documentation, running a library, contracts for engagements
  • Governance – e.g. ensuring bands had a proper Constitution, Safeguarding & GDPR policies in place, advice on DBS checks, returns to the Charities Commission, Health & Safety and Risk Assessments
  • Funding advice – where to access funding, assistance with completing applications
  • Finances – accessing the best deals for; insurances (such as Public Liability or instruments), utilities, travel and accommodation
  • Artistic and Creative Development – Encouraging collaborative work amongst bands, new commissions, workshops
  • Education – developing new conductors and teachers, sharing good practise, collaborative projects

The new organisation would NOT be involved with;

  • The organising or promoting of any competitions

Many of these suggestions are not new ideas and this concept has been attempted once before, when Brass Band Forum Wales was launched in 2012. Sadly it did not achieve the traction and impact that was hoped for, however nearly 8 years down the line, the banding movement is in a much more precarious position and things needs to be revisited – and fast!

The need to promote Welsh banding interests

This is also not an attempt to reinvent the wheel and for sure, Brass Bands England fulfils many of the above issues, indeed there is no good reason why Welsh bands shouldn’t be encouraged to join BBE, and make use of many of the resources already available. BBE however doesn’t promote Welsh banding interests specifically. We need an organisation to be run by Welsh banding for Welsh banding.

Until the Welsh banding movement has one unified voice to represent the interests and promote the movement for ALL participants, I fear that the very existence and future of our wonderful movement is in grave jeopardy.

I have no mandate from any banding organisation to initiate or promote this venture, just a deep love and passion for a form of music-making which has given me so many opportunities and experiences over the last 40+ years and sincerely wish to see it flourish and bring the same joy to others for many years to come.

If you agree or have thoughts to add to this letter, please feel free to e-mail me at andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com or call 07973 869621 and together, see if we can formulate a plan of action for the good of Welsh banding.

Returning to your roots and giving something back.

Going back to your roots, whether it is researching your family tree (as I have recently started doing), visiting your old school or driving past a former home, I always find to be a rather surreal experience. It doesn’t matter whether some or all of the people have long gone, there still remain some sights, sounds and even smells that that can trigger a myriad of deep-seated memories, which have lain dormant for countless number of years, transporting you in an instant back to a bygone age.

My “blast from the past” has been a return to both my spiritual and musical roots. One might argue that they are one and the same, as they are inextricably linked.

I was brought up in the small village of Llangyndeyrn in the Gwendraeth Valley – a very rural part of Carmarthenshire, Wales. So rural in fact, that the last bus into Carmarthen (5 miles away) and any semblance of civilisation, left the village at 5.05pm. Even worse was the last bus back left at 5.45pm, thus curtailing any potential fun and nighttime revelry, before it had even started!

Bearing in mind that the local Primary School only had a total – yes total! of 14 pupils at the time I attended it, one had to be fairly creative as a result, when it came to childhood “recreation” and “entertainment”.

My good luck and salvation was music. Both my parents were extremely musical with my Mum having sung in the London Philharmonic Chorus, under the great maestros such as Beecham, Boult and Barbirolli. Dad meanwhile was a keen singer too, having sung on the Eisteddfod circuit, with a certain degree of success too. In addition to this, he also played in the local brass band – Crwbin Silver Band (The difference between Silver and Brass I hear you ask? Silver was deemed posher, as it was a more valuable commodity than brass, therefore gave the band a tad more credibility).

So at the age of 7 and with a limited number of friends in the village to fulfil any meaningful sporting activities – cricket or rugby played by 3 people has its limitations you know! – and with a suitable number of trees climbed (and fallen out of), one looked to new horizons and took the obvious choice of learning to play an instrument in the local band. I was given a cornet to play. Like Father, like Son.

Lessons commenced, with my first teacher being my Uncle Stan, who also conducted the Band. Although I viewed him more as a grandfather figure, he was certainly no soft-touch and ensured that all who attended behaved and put in some hard work each rehearsal. Hymn tunes were the first melodies attempted once we had “mastered” enough notes and my first public performance was on the hymn “Hursley”, quickly followed by “Whitburn”.

Opening new bandroom

Stan Jones (pictured left) who was my very first brass teacher. He is pictured at the opening ceremony of the new band room in Crwbin.

Much practising and hard work followed over the next couple of years and this was eventually rewarded with “promotion” to the full senior Band. Now things got serious as rehearsals were held 3 times a week – Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons if memory serves me correctly. Hard to imagine a Championship Section Band attempting that sort of commitment nowadays, not to mention a Fourth Section Band, but it certainly beat 1-a-side cricket and falling out of trees, so this was my pathway to a lifelong musical journey. No chance of getting bored now!

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Yours truly sat in front of the Bass drum. Stan and my Dad are either side of the Drum, with my Cousin Julian in the back row (6th from right).

So, back to the reason for the blog. Having started my musical journey some cough, splutter, ahem years ago – okay, okay it was 45 years ago, happy? It was a huge privilege, buzz and pleasure to be asked back to the Band as a guest conductor a couple of years ago, with the working relationship getting stronger especially over the last few months, as the previous Musical Director had moved on to pastures new.

The return to the old band room where it had all started did indeed reignite all those memories with a sensory overload to boot. Apart from many friends who are still members in the Band, my cousin Julian (Stan’s son) also still plays, so a stronger link from past to present you couldn’t wish for. Pictures of family and friends (and one or two of me) on the wall, as well as memorabilia from times past, the view of the Gwendraeth Valley down to my home village, not forgetting the “Welshness” of the surroundings, where Welsh is still the main language spoken most of the time. Something I rarely get a chance to do even though I still live in the Principality.

Crwbin 3

Crwbin Silver Band c. mid 1960’s. (Back row 4th from left is my cousin Julian, centre front row in the bow tie is my Uncle, Stan Jones (Bandmaster) and on the right hand end of the front row is my Father, Morley).

Imagine my delight then last weekend (03.08.19) when the Band were crowned 2nd Champions at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Llanrwst. This was a true return to my roots in every sense, allowing me the opportunity of giving back and thanking the organisation and some of the people who helped nurture me into the person that I am today.

Diolch Seindorf Arian Crwbin.

Thank you Crwbin Silver Band.

National Eisteddfod Llanrwst 03.08.19

Crwbin Silver Band – 2019 National Eisteddfod 2nd Section Champions

For more information about Andrew Jones and Music for You, please visit http://www.andrewjonesmusic.com  Contact andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com or 07973 869621.

Music for You – it’s just that!

 

Is there any point in attending networking events? Assume at your peril!

Music for You – Networking

My point then? Well, apart from an impassioned, informative and extremely enjoyable speech by Tim, who spoke of his own difficult personal journey (dealing with prejudice and bullying) and his love for the Creative Arts, here are a selection of  people who I met that evening:
Person A – I already knew and had done some business with previously, where he had provided my marketing materials
Person B – was an accountant who used to play a flute and was a prospective player for the Royal British Legion of Wales, whom I conduct
Person C – A Chartered Surveyor who previously played a brass instrument and we shared mutual friends and colleagues
Person D – was MD of a Commercial Finance Company, who had financed a fleet vehicle for a band that I have worked with and we shared a number of acquaintances
By the way, Tim, as well as being a singer and conductor also used to play a brass instrument with  brass band that I used to conduct!
So, next time you ask yourself whether attending a networking event will be worth it, or whether you will have anything in common with anyone in the room, think hard before answering! Remember the old saying “To assume, is to make an ASS of U and ME”!
Music for You provides quality live music for all types of Corporate Events. For more  details, please contact Andrew on 07973 869621 or andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com

Farewell and hwyl fawr to a National icon

He made the headlines, not only in Wales but all over the United Kingdom and beyond.

He was one of the most well-known and much-loved icons of Wales and his face was recognised by all wherever he went.

His appearances at the Millennium Stadium, (later to become the Principality Stadium) were legendary and caused England Rugby Manager Eddie Jones to name him as one of Welsh team’s added threats. His performances on the field were first class.

He was on first name terms with Royalty, politicians, celebrities and the average man and woman on the street. Children loved him and everyone wanted to have their photograph taken with him.

He was a true figurehead and represented his “Team” with great pride and was the first person you saw leading his Comrades out on public engagements.

He did have a tendency to smell at times and would give you a fair bashing (if he was feeling grumpy) and even though he was only with us for just seven and a half years, he will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

Rest in Peace Lance Corporal, your duty is done!

Lance Corporal Shenkin III (Regimental Mascot of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Welsh)

 

Why, in the world of music, does mediocrity win over genuine talent and skill?

Its been a while since I last wrote a blog, but I’ve been inspired to put cursor to screen having witnessed music-making of the very highest order this week. Both events were polar opposites, but the levels of skill and talent on display were never in question.

First up was my brass band  “Fest” watching the live streaming of the European Brass Band Championships from Oostende, where 12 of Europe’s finest (including the Cory and Tredegar Bands from Wales and Brighouse & Rastrick Band representing England) were vying for the coveted title.

Tredegar Town Band, 2002 European Brass Band Championships, Belgium

The  24 performances – each Band performed a set-work (Kevin Houben’s “Where Angles Fly”) plus an own-choice work – over the 2 days was quite frankly astounding. I’ve been privileged to have performed at the Europeans on 8 different occasions and the standard of playing since I first appeared in 1990 has risen year on year, to a point where you’d be hard-pressed to say that these weren’t professional ensembles.

Cory Band, 2015 European Brass Band Championships, Germany

Wales once again were at the forefront come results time, with Cory (defending Champions) being placed third and Tredegar coming in fifth. The winning Band this year were Eikanger-Bjorsvik from Norway, led by their inspirational conductor Ingar Heine Bergby, who won following a near 30 year gap since the last time they lifted the trophy. Their stunning own-choice performance of “Fraternity” by Thierry  Deleruyelle will live long in the memory.

Following the Europeans, my next source of inspiration was at Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall, where the wonderful, zany, jaw-dropping, breath-taking etc. etc. “gentlemen” of Mnozil Brass wowed the audience with the mastery of their art. Musicality, power of recall – playing everything from memory, humour, timing, stamina (where do they develop that staying power?), diversity, subtlety and innuendo and so much more. A sheer joy to hear and watch, leaving the audience shell-shocked and spellbound in equal measure. Superlatives are often over-used, but each one I have used was hugely earned and justified.

So, the point of today’s blog is, why do the general public get pawned off with rubbish on television and radio and the publicity given in column inches in the press/social media, when there is so much REAL talent out there? Admittedly, the European Brass Band Championships is very much a niche market, but when Cory Band last year (2016) won the “Grand Slam” of European, National, British Open and Brass in Concert titles (an amazing achievement), they barely made a mention in the local paper. Eikanger’s win at the Euro’s last weekend earned them a massive welcome reception at the airport on their return, with TV and media crews in attendance! Says a lot for what we think of our Champions doesn’t it?

Mnozil however, is an ensemble that could easily be featured on mainstream TV, or at very least on one of the Arts-focused stations. But no, we are subjected to performing dogs or yet another 11-year-old bashing out a Celine Dion hit and being told she has “amazing talent” and will go far etc. etc.

As “defenders of the faith”, perhaps we need to be more pro-active in demanding that the TV companies and media do cater for the more discerning audience and not settle for the rubbish that is often forced down our throats.

A small ray of sunshine in this gloom of mine, was Cory’s invitation to appear on ITV’s ‘Tonight at the London Palladium’ programme hosted by entertainment star Bradley Walsh.

Their performance was recorded live in front of a packed audience of 2,200 people and subsequently broadcast to an estimated audience of over 5 million people last night (03.05.17). Perhaps this is a significant step towards redressing the balance and highlighting the TRUE talent that can and should be presented to audiences the world over.

Here endeth the Lesson!

Stomvi Piccolo Trumpet

Dydd Gwyl Dewi – St. David’s Day

Today (March 1st) is the National Day of Wales – St. David’s Day or Dydd Gwyl Dewi.

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To all my fellow Welsh compatriots “Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus i chi gyd, ble bynnag yr ydych yn y byd!”. Happy St. David’s Day to you all, wherever you are in the world!

(Picture – The Welsh Dragon Memorial is at Mametz Wood in France, erected to remember the lives lost of soldiers from the 38th Welsh Division during the Battle of the Somme).

 

The National Youth Orchestra of Wales is 70 years old today.

Happy Birthday to the oldest National Youth Orchestra in the world!!! Yes the National Youth Orchestra of Wales (affectionately known to its Alumni as “The Nash”) was formed 70 years ago today and since then, thousands of young musicians have come through its ranks and gone on to forge hugely successful careers in the music industry, both here and all over the world.

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Over the years, the orchestra has been led by  such names as Clarence Raybould,  (1945–1966), Arthur Davison (1967–1990), Elgar Howarth (1991–1995), Christopher Adey (1996–2002), and Owain Arwel Hughes OBE (2003-2010). 2011’s concert series was conducted by Takuo Yuasa. Carlo Rizzi (2012), Grant Llewellyn (2013), Jac Van Steen (2014) and Paul Daniel (2015). This year’s course, starting today in Lampeter University will be led by Carlo Rizzi, where the programme will include works by Gareth Wood (himself a former member of the Orchestra), Bartok and Richard Strauss.

I was privileged to have been one of those lucky members back in the days when it was led by the inimitable Arthur Davison and I benefited from specialist tuition from trumpet legends such as John Wilbraham and Bob Walton. These were fantastic mentors and the tutoring, experiences and grounding I had during those courses were invaluable in helping me become who and what I am today.

Long may the “Nash” continue for many, many more years and I urge you all to try to get to one of their Concerts if you can, but if you can’t here’s the Orchestra in action back in 1989. It just so happens that I was playing too!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W163b4FAmiI

NYOW 2016 CONCERT TOUR:

CONDUCTOR: Carlo Rizzi

CONCERT DATES:

National Youth Orchestra of Wales:
2 August 7.30pm St Davids Cathedral
4 August 7.30pm Venue Cymru, Llandudno
5 August 7.30pm St David’s Hall, Cardiff

REPERTOIRE:
Gareth Wood A Fanfare for Our Youth
Bartok Concerto for Orchestra
Strauss Ein Heldenleben

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Happy Birthday/Pen-blwydd hapus to “The Nash”!

Andrew Jones is a freelance trumpeter and you can find out more about him at: www.andrewjonesmusic.com

All in a day’s work. The things we musicians sometimes take for granted, but shouldn’t!

On Friday night, I will once again join my colleagues from the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh for an engagement that we undertake some  6 or 7 times each year . It’s a particular job that has been in the Band Diary for around 30 years or more and the players are now seasoned veterans – excuse the pun! – in carrying out their duties.

Within approximately an hour of the job finishing, I will join my friends in the local pub to become a part of the Welsh Nation’s passion and some might say, obsession, in watching our brave “Warriors” go head to head with other “warriors” from other countries.

The job I refer to of course, is the Welsh Rugby International fixtures at the Principality Stadium (formerly Millennium Stadium) and this Friday, Wales take on “Les Bleus” – France, in the latest round of the Six Nations Championships. In addition to this tournament, we also perform at the Autumn Internationals.

The Band is honoured and privileged to perform the pre-match music, accompanying the guest choirs in the old pot-boilers such as “Cwm Rhondda”, “Delilah” and “Hymns and Arias”, before leading the 72,000+ crowd in the singing of the National Anthems prior to the game kicking-off.

There is no prouder moment for a Welshman or Woman, than to sing “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” at the Stadium, but to be able to perform it on the hallowed turf (well hybrid turf now) stood just feet away from sporting legends, like Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Williams, Martin Williams, Scott Gibbs and many more over the years, it is hugely special.

Millennium Stadium 2

 

Most of the locals in my pub know me (mainly because I turn into a raving lunatic, shouting at the TV for the duration of a game) and that I play in the Regimental Band, however there is never a match day that goes by, without a visitor to the pub, interrogating me to the last detail to try and prove that I “couldn’t possibly have been standing on the pitch just under an hour ago”! The security wrist-band on my ummmm……. wrist, usually clinches the deal and for the next few minutes I am quizzed with great zeal about who I saw, who I was stood near, did I get to speak to the players, what was the atmosphere like etc. etc.

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Like most members of the Band, I regard playing at the Stadium with a fairly casual “just another gig” approach, but when I see and hear other peoples’ enthusiasm for what I have just been a part of, I have to stop and take stock of how very lucky we are, to have experienced that thrill – not just once – but some half a dozen occasions each year.

We are truly blessed as musicians, to have jobs that bring opportunities, amazing experiences and memories that last for a lifetime. Just anther gig? Maybe not!

Millennium Stadium

 

The Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh performing the Welsh National Anthem – “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”/”Land of My Fathers” prior to the 6 Nations fixture versus Scotland (February 2016).

https://www.facebook.com/BBCWalesSport/videos/10153876944407114/

For further information about joining the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh, please contact (07973) 869621 or (02920) 781293