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2004 Scottish Regional Championships - Retrospective

The Championship Section:
Sunday 14th March

Adjudicators: David Read and Alan Morrison
Test Piece: Tristan Encounters - Martin Ellerby


We said beforehand that this would be a tight one at the top, and in the event it went exactly to form. Defending champions Scottish Co-op were the pre-match favourites and our tip for further success in 2004, after a pretty good 2003. They didn’t let us down at all as they gave one of their finest performances in recent years to take their 27th Scottish title. We had to wait until the last band to hear the winning show, but there is no doubt that the earlier performances of Whitburn and Kirkintilloch meant that there would be no easy victory for anyone.

Bo’ness and Carriden was the unlucky band that drew the number one disc out of the bag and our tip for a top 6 place got events off to a good start. Ian McElligott produced a well-shaped and detailed performance, with pretty strong solo playing around the stand. There were a number of clips from the middle band sounds but dynamics and detail were pretty good for us.

Outstanding cornet and soprano playing were excellent features of the performance and the band sustained a good sound to the end. The flugel was their star player for us though. The judges had them 8th, which was a tad unfortunate. 4th or 5th wouldn’t have been too far out of their reach for us.

Kingdom Brass was our tip for 5th and that’s where they finished. We were slightly disappointed in them in some respects, but overall it was a good show. Sound and balance weren’t absolutely in the top drawer but there was plenty of detail and the soloists handled the piece quite well. The soprano was our star on the day and he was well supported by the solo cornet and euphonium. A bit more dynamic contrast would have served them well as some of it was a bit hard and loud, but there was plenty to commend it nevertheless, with loads of good technique in the faster sections. 7th or 8th for us but they’ll be pleased with the result, which confirms their recent consistency.

Broxburn Public made a secure start but they suffered some difficulties in the lyrical solo passages. They settled down to some good stuff and their solo euphonium was outstanding throughout the piece. There were a few slips in the cadenza section and the accompaniment wasn’t always secure, but although they found technical difficulties throughout the piece, it was always well shaped and musical, as we would expect from Archie Hutchison. They needed to avoid a bad result to survive the drop but 10th place didn’t do them any favours. We had them one place higher.

Whitburn drew number 4 and immediately lifted the standard with a scintillating opening. There was clarity and dynamic contrast all the way and the early solo playing was outstanding, especially from cornet, flugel and horn. Andy Duncan’s reading of the score was expansive and the band played with terrific technique, control and poise throughout. Iain Fleming showed enough class to win the new horn medal and Eleanor Ferguson took the cornet prize with a tasty performance, but Jim Chamberlain on flugel was magnificent all the way though and he was the star player for us. A few slips descended upon them just when we were wondering if they might have put the contest beyond the reach of their rivals, but with the door left slightly open, Whitburn gave us a final treat with an atmospheric build up to a fabulous expansive ending. We tipped them for 2nd beforehand and we were right again. In the end we didn’t disagree with the judges either.

Kirkintilloch and Frank Renton followed, and they made an immediate impression with a very exciting opening. It continued well too, although we found some of the louder dynamics a bit extreme from one or two sections of the band. It perhaps lacked some of the expansiveness that we had heard earlier too, but technically the ensemble playing was extremely good. There were a couple of minor blips in the cadenza section, which again took little away from the big picture, but Steve Stewart on soprano was at his brilliant and eccentric best. The ending was terrific too, so for the adjudicators a decision to make between them and Whitburn. They gave Whitburn the nod and we couldn’t argue with that at this stage.

Bathgate played number 6 and although they opened pretty well the overall sound and balance wasn’t nearly as impressive as the previous two bands. Some slight scrappiness in the ensemble followed and there were intonation problems, but there was some impressive playing from the euphs and baris, and the solo trombone was their star player for us. The cadenzas were well negotiated, if a little forced from a couple of the soloists. They built up to an effective ending to a spirited performance. We narrowly placed them 10th but Messrs Read and Morrison had them 9th and that was enough to keep them in the top section.

Unison Kinneil were tipped to finish 4th and that’s exactly where they finished. It wasn’t plain sailing for them though. We noticed some intonation problems from the opening and there was a lack of overall sound from the cornet section. Some good solo work followed although the band accompaniments weren’t always on the mark, again with intonation playing a part. An excellent soprano solo (and throughout the performance) was the highlight of a good set of cadenzas although there were some minor blemishes. They finished a fairly good performance with characteristic excitement. We had Kinneil 2 or 3 places lower than the 4th place they got, but the overall picture was still pretty good.

Drawn no. 8, Bon Accord was our dark horse and they were keen to do well on their return to the championship section. The opening was very tidy although we could have used some more dynamic contrast. We heard a lot of detail in this performance and it was well shaped throughout. The soloists were all on good form too and the cadenzas presented them with few problems. The euphonium and baritone were terrific but the star on the day for us was the Eb bass player. Overall it was a great effort from Bon Accord and if they could have delivered a greater range of sound they could well have finished even higher than they did. In the event they were 6th. This was at the low end of our expectations.

Dalmellington and Richard Evans had the penultimate draw and they too made a good start. There was a bit of conflict in the early cornet and flugel duet and we lost a lot of the detail in the fast sections. There were good sounds throughout the band though and much of the ensemble was very good indeed. Most of the cadenzas worked well but they will rue a few clips in the cornet and soprano lines, although the solo horn was terrific. Some intonation problems marred an otherwise effective ending. The 7th place they got from the judges was absolutely right for us, but not enough for them to avoid the drop into the 1st section.

The bar was set high for Scottish Co-op and Nick Childs to clear but they opened like they really meant business. Terrific dynamic range and ensemble playing of the absolute highest order were displayed from the start, although we did hear the most minor of slips from the flugel player. If there was anything else to criticise it was a slight lack of expression in some of the slower playing but by the time they reached the cadenzas they sounded in complete control. We were treated to the most sublime soprano playing from star player Alex Kerwin, the Eb bass solo from Jonathon Gawn was fabulous too and the excellent cadenza section led to a triumphant ending and prolonged applause from the packed hall. No doubts from the judges or us. This was the winning performance that confirmed that the Co-op are a force to be reckoned with again.

So to the announcement of results and remarkably our pre-match prediction was almost perfect. We correctly called the top 5 in order and our dark horse, Bon Accord, was 6th. Co-op’s winning margin of 3 points was slightly greater than we had, but no-one could argue with the final placings. We had Whitburn a clear 2nd although the judges admitted that there was a debate about the second qualifying place. There could be no doubt though that the top 3 bands were a long way ahead of the rest.

As Scottish Championships go, this had all the ingredients of an absolute classic. A higher overall standard than we’ve had for a long time, with three outstanding bands, one of which was going to ultimately be disappointed, and a great performance to finish the weekend that will be remembered for a few years.

© 4BarsRest

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