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2003 Scottish Regional Qualifying Championships

First Section - Retrospective

Adjudicators:
John Berryman, Christopher Wormald

Test Piece: Passacaglia on a Theme of Brahms - Arthur Butterworth


It was a day of extremes in the First Section with youth and experience, first and last winning out, as Alan Duguid and Tony Swainson respectively won the day and sent their bands on the trip to Dundee for the National Finals.

It was also a day when the test piece once more was found to be an extremely difficult test for the bands at this level and to be honest, not one band came away unscathed. John Berryman and Chris Wormald certainly got the result right for us, but more tellingly made the point that the test piece beat nearly all the bands – some badly.

The two qualifiers though were well deserved and were the only two bands for us that found the right style and had the right amount of musical restraint in their performances. Bon Accord Silver were first band on and set their stall out with a very broad and rounded sound with good bass end tones and a measured approach from Tony Swainson. He has been around a long time at just about every level in Scottish banding and his approach to the music showed that he also had an understanding of what a Brahms piece should sound like. Plenty of little errors, but none that spoilt the overall picture. If they had been drawn a bit later they may have stolen the contest but it was a real marker that the following bands simply couldn’t match.

Dunaskin Doon followed them on and put up a strong performance under Craig Anderson that had lots of good moments but suffered for us with some tuning problems especially in the horns and baritones. It spoilt the picture just enough to place them a point behind Bon Accord, but it was a contest performance of merit – more positives than negatives and third place was bang on the money for us.

Another experienced man in the shape of Raymond Tennant directed Johnstone Silver but their performance was bedevilled by errors and blips that spoilt a good approach and some sections of quality playing. Every time you thought – yes this is good, something came along and just robbed them of marks. Too much of a curates egg, but it showed that the band had quality. It just needed a bit more consistency. We had them down for runners up before the contest but 6th after, so 5th was fair enough return.

Much the same could also be said of Livingston who came 7th and were our pre match favourites. Again there were good moments but the approach for us was a bit on the sturdy side and the errors started to multiply the further the piece went along. It was a bit of a disappointment really as you could tell they had some quality players but they didn’t come off on the day at all. We had them 7th and so did the judges.

UDI Aberdeen certainly benefited from the experienced David James being at the helm, but as much as they tried they couldn’t get over a poor start for us and couldn’t quite make up the ground on the bands above them. Again the style was right but the errors just took the gloss off things too many times. If they could have minimised those errors then they would have pushed higher we thought but it made the task of the judges a bit easier when they were so marked in places. 4th was right on the nail though.

Tayport found it hard going though and the approach didn’t seem to help as it was too aggressive in style and needed much more restraint in quieter dynamics. It had its moments but the band found it hard going and the soloists also didn’t quite play to form. 8th was right we are afraid. Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass were well directed by Chris Bradley, but once more the blips and blobs robbed them of marks whilst the band sounded tired towards the end and a hardness of tone spoilt some of the better work. 6th place from the judges was about right.

City of Discovery Brass came 9th and that was what they deserved from us and the judges – not that they didn’t put in a good effort, but the piece took too many causalities right from the start and they never seemed to recover poise after that. It made for a bit of a struggle from start to finish and although they did prop up the table on a another piece they would have done better. This one didn’t suit them at all.

Finally came the winners –last band on and with the youngest conductor of the day if looks were anything to go by. This was a fine performance though from Bathgate and although there was a liberal sprinkling of blips and blobs the music had a lovely feel and flow. The MD captured the style and the players responded – nearly 100% all the time and that made it a performance that stood out from especially what had gone on before. It was slightly different from Bon Accord – a touch lighter perhaps but it was from a band that had control of the music.

It was a bit of a toss up then for us between the top two and there were no real complaints when Bathgate were announced the winners. Before hand we had opted for a top six of Livingston, Johnstone, Bon Accord, Bathgate, Dunaskin Doon and UDI and in the end our predictions meant we had five in the top six. Not the winners who we had 4th before the day, but still a pretty good return. Well done to both bands who qualified though. It was a very severe test of bands and even though they didn’t come away unscathed both Bathgate and Bonn Accord were more than strong enough to show that they will travel to Dundee with an air of confidence that they could well do very well indeed.


 

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