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"The Lowdown 2" - A closer look at the Scottish Regional Championships this weekend in Falkirk.
by Kenny Crookston

The Scottish Championships returns to Falkirk this weekend for the first time since 1998. Defending champions and perennial favourites C.W.S (Glasgow) will naturally approach the contest with confidence. Their terrific consistency of the 90's has taken a bit of a dip lately and they are entering a new era following the departure of messrs Mead and Webster.

They have, however, made some high profile appointments lately and Nick Childs will be doing his utmost to inspire them to the heights of their illustrious predecessors. David Childs needs no introduction to the brass band public and his performance in the band's 6th placed performance at the RAH can only have boosted his already phenomenal reputation. Hedley Benson, on Solo Cornet, has a terrific record in the Scottish - played 1, won 1. This was with Whitburn in 1999 when he also picked up the medal for best cornetist, ironically depriving Roger Webster of his 6th successive such accolade in the process. A number of other personnel changes around the band mean that C.W.S are in slightly uncharted waters but they are always a terrifically strong band, especially in the basses and trombones, and they will be difficult to depose.

Last year's runners-up, UNISON Kinneil have also seen a number of changes since their slightly disappointing performance in London. They will be conducted for the first time by John Hinckley and have the highly experienced Hugh Foster on top man. His lyrical style should be ideally suited to the Eddie Calvert solo and the band's mixture of youth and experience throughout will again put them amongst the likely contenders.

Whitburn have a lot of recovering to do following a disappointing end to 2000. Their European performance last year was outstanding but 17th place at the British Open and a below par performance at Spennymoor has led to a number of changes within the organisation and personnel of the band. Rhodri Thomas makes his debut on Principal Cornet and 17 year old Kay McKenzie is now taking charge of the Soprano seat. There is still tremendous experience around the band and Phillip McCann will be calling upon 60 combined years of service from Chris Bradley (Flugel and Resident Conductor), Iain Fleming (Horn), Evelyn Bradley (Euphonium), Anne Crookston (Baritone) and Mark Boyd (Trombone) to deal with the difficult solo work in Jazz. Whitburn's record in the Scottish over the last 33 years is quite amazing. They have finished 5th twice and have been in the frame on every other occasion, winning 14 times and any deviation from this kind of form would be a major surprise.

Kirkintilloch have been close on a number of occasions since they last won in 1990 and their 4th prize in 2000 was a major shock as many in the audience had them as likely winners on the day. They have made good progress under Resident Conductor Alan Ramsay but Frank Renton will again be at the helm and he will be brimming with confidence after winning the Midlands region with Travelsphere. Richard Bromley is a highly talented cornet player who has now amassed a hatful of solo prizes amongst his many contest wins with Kirky and he will be one of the favourites to win the highly coveted Terris Medal. Alan Wardrope is one of the country's finest horn players, he was in fact the Scottish Solo Champion in 1999, and he will be one of the few who will handle the fiendishly difficult horn part in Jazz.

It is likely that the qualifiers will come from the above four bands but Richard Evans (Dalmellington), Ray Farr (Newtongrange) and Thomas Wyss (Kingdom Brass) are all highly capable of leading their bands into the frame. Kingdom Brass have progressed well since their formation from the amalgamation of Cowdenbeath and Kelty & Blairadam Bands. The new Scottish Solo Champion, Lee Bathgate, will again be on top cornet there and he is renowned for his stylish melodic playing. Another strong contender for the cornet medal.

Colin Hardy has been given the difficult job of sorting this lot out. An extremely close contest at the top is most likely with the two qualifiers probably coming from the usual three - CWS, Kirkintilloch and Whitburn - in alphabetical order !

In Section 1, Bo'ness and Carriden are favourites to make a swift return to the Championship Section. They have worked hard to overcome the disappointment of relegation last year and Tony Swainson has more than enough experience to lead them back to their rightful place among Scotland's finest. Johnstone Silver (Raymond Tennant) have enjoyed good form lately and must stand a fair chance of qualifying for the finals again. An name of note on the conductors list in this section is David James (UDI Aberdeen City) who will be doing his best to get one over his old BBC colleague Tony Swainson. Annan Town (David Shanks) have made rapid progress through the sections and they may be a good outside bet. Ian Craddock will adjudicate.

The 2nd Section has one of the most fascinating line-ups of them all. Kirkintilloch Kelvin and Livingston Brass totally dominated last year's 3rd Section finals in the RAH, indeed they provided Scotland's first ever 1-2. They are head-to-head again this week and along with Kilmarnock Concert and Irvine & Dreghorn will be likely be amongst those fighting it out for the qualifying positions. The adjudicator is John Maines.

The 3rd Section could be a tough test for adjudicator Ian Craddock. Clydebank are fresh from 4th Section success last year and along with North Ayrshire Brass, Tullis Russell and the highly progressive St. Ronan's from the Borders may be the main names in the melting pot.

The 4th Section in Scotland is traditionally a place of quick escape for progressive young bands. Bon Accord 'B' and Drumblade both come into that category and could be expected to succeed. Jedforrest have Alan Fernie conducting and he is no stranger to success, especially in the lower sections. Colin Hardy adjudicates.

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