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Jazz tournament sees all Welsh final

The Welsh National Indoor jazz competition returns this month and sees an all Welsh final.

On 20 November, Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre will host one of the biggest annual jazz competitions in the UK and for the first time in history, all 8 of the finalists are Welsh.

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Merthyr Luminaires preparing for the upcoming competition

The competition brings jazz bands from across the UK to compete to impress the judges, who mark choreographed performances based on marching and musical quality. Each band can lose half a mark for every mistake they make; the team that wins is the one with the highest score by the end of the day.

Garfield Bishop (MBE) is the founder and president of the movement. The 87-year-old joined his first jazz band aged four and says most band members have been involved since they were children and so it becomes a “part of you”.

Teams are charity funded and recently entrants have decreased due to a shortage of financial support. Garfield said that at one stage there was over 600 jazz bands in the UK compared to just 50 today and believes this is because children are more technically interested these days. Even though jazz bands seem to be becoming less popular, Garfield said, “All the close knit communities keep the movement alive.” In fact, 12 of the 50 remaining bands are Welsh.

The Merthyr Luminaires – a jazz band formed in 2013 – came 1st place in their division at the World Championships in August, which was hosted in Newcastle. The band, consisting of 26 people of all ages, also won their most recent charity competition in Trecco this month. Ieuan Harris, who formed the musical group with his wife Linda, says he is confident this year after winning the World Championship. He added, “It’s great. We have a lot of single mother’s and children here who just love the band, that’s why we do it.”

Merthyr Luminaires practice once a week from 6-8pm, or twice a week when preparing for a competition.

The competition starts at 11am Sunday and will finish around 1pm. Garfield said that most watchers are family and friends but everybody is welcome and they will, “Enjoy themselves and see some great music.” Spectators can expect to see “jazzy versions” of pop songs and colourful jazzy outfits, says Garfield.

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