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!
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.
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.
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!
Today (March 1st) is the National Day of Wales – St. David’s Day or Dydd Gwyl Dewi.
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).
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.
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!
NYOW 2016 CONCERT TOUR:
CONDUCTOR: Carlo Rizzi
Gareth Wood A Fanfare for Our Youth
Bartok Concerto for Orchestra
Strauss Ein Heldenleben
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
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.
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.
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!
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).
For further information about joining the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh, please contact (07973) 869621 or (02920) 781293
For those of you who read my Monday Morning Mention post a few weeks ago , praising the efforts of the Welsh brass bands who became National Champions, I’m going to risk sounding repetitive now, I’m going to risk sounding repetitive now – sorry! – and reiterate my sentiments, but with one slight, but significant amendment.
Whilst the focus of discussion at the photo-copier this morning, will undoubtedly be on the Welsh rugby team’s inability to see off 13-man Australia in the Rugby World Cup and the wonderful achievement of the national football team in making its first major championships in over 50 years, I will champion the cause of our wonderful brass once again and highlight the fact that Wales also starts the week with not three, but FOUR National Champions now.
Congratulations to the Cory Band who, under the baton of their conductor Philip Harper, have once again won the National title at the Royal Albert Hall, performing Thomas Doss’s fiendishly difficult work “Spiriti”.
Having been privileged to have performed on the Contest platform as a guest player with the Band earlier this year, I have had an insight into the effort that it takes to perform at the highest level and believe me, it borders on being scary! During that intense period of rehearsals, my Wife said to me “This brass band lark is a bit obsessive, isn’t it?” Perhaps there was more than an ounce of truth in that statement, but it goes to show how much effort and commitment went in to trying to win that competition!
It would be remiss also not to acknowledge the achievements of another Welsh outfit and my former Band – Tredegar Town Band – who came 5th at the same competition. A great day for Welsh brass bands indeed.
(Tredegar Town Band at the Royal Albert Hall, London in the 1990’s.)
So, yet another big shout out this Monday morning for the unsung heroes of Usk, Ebbw Valley, Goodwick and now Cory, who are now National Brass Champions of Great Britain, in Sections 4, 2 ,1 and Championship Sections respectively.
Rugby? What rugby match?
(The Cory Band performing at the 2015 European Brass Band Championships in Freiburg, Germany.)
On Sunday 4th October, Music for You made its début as an exhibitor in the world of Wedding Fayres.
The venue was the lovely Miskin Manor Hotel, near Llantrisant (which is on my door-step as it happens), however getting to the point where I was ready to bite the bullet and “go public” as an exhibitor had taken an extremely long time. The main worry was that I didn’t have snazzy enough marketing materials, glitzy banners and corporate wear and all the things that makes a self-employed sole-trader feel small and inadequate amongst all the established “bit-hitters” in the wedding industry.
My fears thankfully were unfounded, as all my fellow exhibitors were very helpful and generous with their compliments and advice, with lots of top tips to take away for future events – yes, to paraphrase Arnie “I’ll be back!” For a first time out, I felt I managed to “keep up with the Joneses” and the feedback was extremely positive, both from the exhibitors and visitors to the Fayre.
Once I had finally set up the stand, it was then down to the serious business of engaging, pardon the pun, with future brides, grooms and extremely worried looking parents (seeing their savings being rapidly blown by their daughters!) to try to persuade them of the merits of live music for their Wedding celebrations.
My main focus, was to try to promote the brass quintet, as this has so much versatility on a number of levels, particularly the musical repertoire it can offer. The quintet comprises two Trumpets, a French Horn, a Trombone and Tuba. What struck me instantly, was that the people I spoke to instantly assumed that brass instruments were either loud, brash, “in your face” and rather uncouth for a wedding and that the “noise” would be rather unrefined to say the least.
Thankfully, I was able to persuade all of the doubters to invest 30 seconds of their time and listen to some You Tube samples, notably Pachelbel’s Kanon performed by the quintet. My reward? My reward was the look of total delight and surprise on the faces of the future brides, quickly followed by “Mum, listen to this – it’s beautiful!”
So, the as the old saying goes “Don’t knock it, until you’ve tried it” rings true and I hope that my maiden voyage at a wedding fayre, will produce some new “converts”, who at some point in the near future will actually book us for their very special day! Even if they don’t, they will now be aware of the wide range of colours and timbres that brass instruments can produce.
For more details about Music for You and our wedding music, please visit our web-site.
The Welsh Nation will start another working week and the hot topic around the water cooler and by the photo-copier, will be the win against Uruguay and the massive upset caused by Japan against the South Africans in the Rugby World Cup.
Whilst on a totally different “playing field” – sorry couldn’t resist that – Wales also starts the week with THREE, yes 3 National Champions , from the world of brass bands.
Big deal huh? Yes, it was a massive deal, as each band had to qualify from it’s respective Region in the UK (typically a field of 10+ competitors) and then beat around 18/19 other bands in the Finals.
The amount of personal preparation, hours of endless practice and self-sacrifice, including financial, might not be on an exact par with the rugby players -it’s certainly a lot safer, that’s for sure! – but the achievement is just as hard-earned and means the world to those involved. This is all the more remarkable, given the standards of performance achieved and the fact that brass banding is an amateur pastime.
So, a big shout out this Monday morning for the unsung heroes of Usk, Ebbw Valley and Goodwick who are now National Brass Champions of Great Britain, in Sections 4, 2 and 1 respectively. This was their Rugby World Cup and if you’re from their area, tell everyone at the water cooler and by the photo-copier, because you’ll have something extra to smile about this morning!
For those of you interested in reading more, go to 4barsrest to see what goes on in the world of banding.