Review of Burry Port Town Band and A Choired Taste concert in Carmarthen
Review: Burry Port Town Band, A Choired Taste, Sophie McLaughlin in an ‘Audience with Burry Port Town Band’ at QE High School, Carmarthen.
It was the night ‘Girl Power’ met the ‘Best of Brass’ at QE High School, Carmarthen.
Burry Port Town Band’s status as one of the best brass bands in the UK is well known – and they lived up to top billing in stirring concert which deserved a bigger audience.
They shared the stage with the 70 ladies of A Choired Taste, the Carmarthen choir led by one of the winners of the BBC’s Unsung Hero Award for Music, Sarah Kirby.
They provided the ‘razzle’ to the band’s ‘dazzle’ – or was it the other way around? Whatever it was, it worked a treat and the razzle-dazzle went down a storm.
Band Burry Port Town Band opened up with Men of Harlech, All Through The Night, Myfanwy and a storming Delilah, which was something of a tribute to the winning Welsh football team!
A Choired Taste started their set with a Happy Mash-Up (Sarah Kirby loves her Mash-Up medleys, by the way), followed by Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Can't Help Lovin' That Man and the Karl Jenkins classic, Adiemus.
Burry Port Band member Sophie McLaughlin took the solo slot for the evening, swapping her tuned percussion for the flute. The youngest flautist in this year’s National Youth Orchestra of Wales, she showed that she is a potential future star with Moderato Assai from Rigoletto Fantasi, Gounod’s Ave Maria and the Allegro from Rigoletto Fantasie by Wilhelm Popp.
Burry Port Town Band paid their own tribute to the famous Brassed Off film (starring Pete Postlethwaite) with four pieces from the movie - The Floral Dance, Londonderry Air, Adagio from Concerto De Aranjuez and the Clog Dance.
After the interval, Burry Port Town Band took us soaring into outer space with the Imperial March from Star Wars. This was followed by Out of Africa, Born Free, The Royal Airforce March Past, Amazing Grace, and a joyous Salute to Sinatra.
A Choired Taste concluded their set with Hero Mash Up, Electricity, I Dreamed A Dream, Cry Me A River and Pure Imagination.
The encore was a stirring Girl Power Mash Up, complete with dance moves.
Those of you who stayed at home to watch the football, you missed a treat.
Special mention must be made of Burry Port Town Band soloists Paul Evans, Jane Stredwick and Gareth Trott.
Nils Richards doubled up from band duties by playing piano accompaniment to Sophie McLaughlin.
Soloists for A Choired Taste included Caroline Griffiths, Angharad Maynard, Rhian Owen, Joanne Phillips and Julia Williams.
The compere for the evening was a chap called Robert Lloyd.
Burry Port Town Band
Welsh Open Champions 2015
Eisteddfod Champions 2014 & 2015
Royal Albert Hall National Finalists 2014
Welsh League Champions 2012, 2013 and 2014
2015, 2016, 2017 British Open Grand Shield Qualifiers.
Burry Port Town Band has a long and colourful past, with the first historical mention of the band, originally named the Elliots Smelting Works Band, found in 1896. The band grew from this humble, industrial beginning and established itself as a community favourite, playing at local fetes and marches and raising money to support both itself and worthy causes. One such worthy cause came at the turn of the century when the band organised a march for the destitute and unemployed of Kidwelly, which raised the princely some of £8. However, the band had wider ambitions than its local stage, and during its first period the lifeblood for the band quickly became the contest stage. Indeed, a major highlight during this time was the band’s performance at the Crystal Palace in London.
Sadly, just before the outbreak of the Second World War the band’s fortunes took a turn for the worse and it disbanded. Gone but not forgotten, decades later in 1972 a group of local enthusiasts held a meeting with the aim of re-establishing the band. Old instruments and a library of music were discovered, and these, together with some new purchases, a place to rehearse and a keen group of volunteers, sowed the seeds of the band’s renaissance.
The band continued to grow in terms of its level of performance throughout the 80s and 90s winning a host of prizes in 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Sections and in 2000, the band was promoted to the elite Championship Section. Since 2001, the band has six times claimed the title of “Champion Band of Wales”, four times won the National Eisteddfod of Wales and three represented Wales at the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain at the Royal Albert Hall in London, competing against the country’s top 20 bands. In 2005 the band also claimed victory in the British Open Senior Cup competition at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, beating off the challenge of 20 other bands from across the United Kingdom.
In 2010, after 11 consecutive years competing as a Championship Section band, the band was relegated to the First Section. However, following a sustained period of building, 2012 saw the band being promoted back to the Championship Section following their victory in the First Section at the Welsh Regional Championships. That victory formed part of a purple patch of success between October 2011 and February 2015 which saw the band awarded 20 overall performance prizes, 14 “best instrumentalist” prizes and promotion to the British Open Grand Shield. The band were delighted to start their 2015 campaign with victory at last year’s Welsh Open Entertainment Championship at the Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl.
The band also remain very active on the concert stage and over the past 18 months have enjoyed performing alongside Paul Potts, John Owen Jones, Richard Allen, Cor Meibion Llanelli, Lleisiau’r Cwm, Cor Curiad, Twrw Tawe, The Tenovus Cancer Care Swansea Sing With Us Choir and S4C Cor Cymru Champions Parti Llwchwr.
Sophie has been playing the flute for 11 years and has been a keen contributor to many county ensembles. As well as playing with the Six Counties Orchestra, with whom she shall be principal flautist this year, she will also be the youngest flautist in this year’s National Youth Orchestra of Wales. She is currently studying for her final exams as a student of Ysgol Bro Myrddin and hopes to go on to study music at Cardiff University in September. In addition to her main instrument, Sophie also plays tuned percussion and the piccolo for Burry Port Town Band .
A Choired Taste
A Choired Taste was established in September 2014 by Sarah Kirby. From the first rehearsal of just 35 ladies, the group has gone from strength to strength and now boasts a membership of over 90. The female choir have performed regularly over the last two years and are honoured to perform with Burry Port Brass Band tonight. A Choired Taste rehearses every Monday from 7.0pm to 9.00pm at Christ Church Hall, Carmarthen - all newcomers are welcome!
Sarah is Assistant Head of Music at Q.E High School. She studied music at Cardiff University gaining a BMus, focusing on performance and composition. Sarah accompanies regularly for a number of groups throughout the county including, Cor Meibion Llanelli Male Voice Choir, Carmarthen and District Youth Opera, SA15 and many soloists. She also runs her own piano school called 'Kirby's Keys' teaching more than 40 pupils each week from the age of 5. Sarah has recently won the BBC Unsung Hero Award for Music. She was featured on The Steve Wright Show on Radio 2 recently.
Jessica Bowen (Accompanist)
Jessica is 18 and is currently sitting her A Level examinations for Music, History and English Literature. Jessica is a talented musician having achieved Grade 8 on piano, saxophone and clarinet. She has performed with a number of groups in Carmarthen, including Carmarthen & District Youth Opera and Forge Drama. As well as being an accomplished performer, Jessica also has a passion for composition and was a finalist in the 2015/16 Young Composer of Dyfed.
Michael joined the Burry Port Junior Band in 1978 and a few weeks later progressed to the senior band. At school, he was taught by Haydn Phillips, a brilliant teacher and exceptional musician, who helped and encouraged Michael to become passionate about music and explore the various careers that it offered. After a few years he became principal horn of the National Youth Brass Band of Wales where he was further inspired by world renowned tenor horn soloist Gordon Higginbottom who was horn tutor on the course and later became Michael’s teacher. They have remained friends ever since and it was perhaps fitting that in recent years Michael enjoyed a stint as tenor horn tutor for this incredibly talented youth brass band. The band’s conductor at this time was composer Edward Gregson who became another pivotal figure in Michael’s musical career as he was senior lecturer in music at the University of London, Goldsmiths College and was the main reason why he chose to study there – and in fact became Michael’s conducting tutor. Whilst at Goldsmith’s, Michael turned his attention to the French Horn and enjoyed a spell as the college orchestra’s principal horn player. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in music and PGCE from Goldsmiths, Michael decided to return to Wales and further his musical life through teaching, playing and conducting.
Michael first became musical director of Burry Port Brass Band in 1992 and enjoyed the thrills and spills that this association provided. Under his direction the band has won many admirers through their concert and contest performances. They also become an established championship section band rising to a top thirty position in the world rankings for brass bands. Around this time, Michael joined the world famous Cory band from the Rhondda and was proud and honoured to become their principal horn player and resident conductor; this partnership lasted for a little over 8 years when the rigours of 16 hour days and treacherous mountain roads finally took their toll.
As a player and conductor Michael has performed at prestigious concert venues such as the Albert Hall, Symphony Hall, Bridgewater Hall, St David’s Hall, Wales Millennium Centre, and has toured extensively in Europe and parts of North America. He has played in nearly all, and conducted in some, of the major brass band championships such as the British Open, National Championship finals, European brass band championships, Brass in Concert, Grand Shield, Senior Cup (winning conductor 2005), Senior Trophy and of course the National Eisteddfod of Wales (winning conductor 1998 (Cory), 2002, 2006 & 2014 (all with Burry Port). He has worked with and played under some notable musicians over the years, for example James Watson, Robert and Nicholas Childs, Frank Renton, Major Arthur Kenney, James Shepherd, Steve Sykes, Philippe Schartz, Martyn Brabbins, Grant Llewellyn, Gregory Rose, Adrian Sutton, Shân Cothi and John Owen Jones.
Michael has recently ‘retired’ from full-time playing but looks forward to returning to the world of conducting in his new tenure as Co-Principal Conductor of the band. As well as teaching music with the Carmarthenshire Music Service, Michael owns and runs his own psychotherapy practice, Harbour Light Therapy, having qualified with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a foundation degree in counselling, and a diploma in psychotherapy.
Future events -
A Choired Taste's next concert will be with Carmarthen Male Voice Choir at Christ Church on June 24.
Burry Port Town Band calendar -
23rd July - Annual Summer Concert, Memorial Hall, Burry Port, also featuring Lleisiau’r Cwm and Burry Port Junior Band.
10th December - Christmas Gala Concert, Memorial Hall, Burry Port, also featuring Cor Aelwyd y Waun Ddyfal and Burry Port Junior Band.
Short video clip of A Choired Taste doing their Girl Power Mash Up -