2005 Regionals: Scotland - Retrospective: First Section

21-Mar-2005

4barsrest looks at the First Section where Johnstone Silver and Gavin Lindsay stormed to a three point victory to claim a 'finals' spot in Harrogate later this year.


It is quite rare for a band to win a regional contest by the margin of three points, but that is what happened here when Johnstone Silver took the honours in the First Section with a performance of ‘Comedy Overture' that really found favour with the two men in the box, David Read and Steve Pritchard-Jones. 

It was a deserved win as well, but it did raise a few eyebrows when they were announced as champions by such a margin. Two points usually indicates a clear cut victory (and that was what this certainly was), but three points can be an indication of a bit of a belting (and that was what this certainly was not). Perhaps the two judges were feeling in a generous mood, but regardless of the winning margin, it was a victory that had a real stamp of control and discipline about it.

MD Gavin Lindsay certainly knows a thing or two about winning at the highest level (he was the fine soprano player for Scottish Co-op in their two National Finals victories in the 1990's) and he has certainly brought that experience to bear with Johnstone.

That was apparent also in this winning performance that although it did have a number of little blips and blobs, had that sense of discipline right to the very end, and crucially had the right stylistic approach – light and breezy when required, dark and mysterious when required, sensitive and restrained when required. You can't ask for much more than that can you?

On a day when the overall standard wasn't the highest we have heard on this piece around the country, it did make it stand out somewhat from many of the others. Not perhaps three points worth, but still a worthy winner nonetheless.

Joining them in Harrogate will be Kirkintilloch Kelvin, conducted with great brio by Alistair Orr. This opened in great style and contained some excellent cornet and euphonium work, and it promised much. The cornet work on the famous ‘…dilly, Picadilly,' lines wasn't in the same class though (something that effected nearly all the bands on the day) and some of the effects were a little overdone for such a period piece as this, but a fine hymn section towards the close and a neat reprise made for a good ending.

We had them down for third place, but the two judges had them second, and that is all that counted.    

We had Dalmellington as runners up, after they gave a nicely shaped performance under the baton of Archie Hutchison that benefited from some quite outstanding cornet and euphonium work in the opening section. Thereafter there were a few too many annoying errors that may have cost them the chance of victory, but we still thought it had enough about it to claim a place in Harrogate. It wasn't to be though, and we think they can count themselves a touch unlucky.

The one other band that did really capture the right style of the period of pre war London was Clackmannan District. Not surprising really, as they were directed by James Scott (who actually played as a youngster at the National Finals at the old Crystal Palace in the 1930s).

This had style in spades, but it also had errors as well from both the individual lines and the ensemble, which just got a little too scrappy towards the end, and which may have just cost them a few too many valuable points.  Another day, and a few less mistakes, and they could have made it to Harrogate. It wasn't to be though and this may be the very last time Scotland will see the great Mr Scott conducting. It wasn't a bad way to make a swan song.

Behind these top four, the standard did drop away somewhat, and although there were performances here that technically just about met the challenges laid out in the John Ireland work, none really got the musical approach right as too many forced and unforced errors spoilt their shows.

Dunaskin Doon under John Boax started well enough, but almost immediately things started to go astray and once more it was the scrappy cornet work that perhaps lost them too many points to force their way in the top prizes. It recovered here and there, but the aggression in the approach became apparent and by the time it closed, it sounded tired and a little harsh. We had them in 7th place, the judges had them in 5th, but really it wasn't a good performance.

Arbroath Instrumental and Kilmarnock suffered the same fate – too much aggression in the cornet work in particular mixed in with a plethora of individual and ensemble errors that resulted in too many mistakes and which robbed the music of its feel. It says something though that both didn't come at the bottom of the prize list, as the bands they beat were not up to the mark.

Broxburn and Livingston suffered with terrible intonation right from the start (perhaps it was nerves, but it was too far out at times just for that) and that grated in the quieter sections to such an extent that even though they did out in some eat and tidy work later in the piece, it was never going to be enough to reclaim all that was initially lost. It wasn't a performance of First Section standard in tuning terms for sure.

Finally, Barrhead Burgh, under Brian Keachie who really struggled to meet both the musical and technical challenges, and who also failed to come up to standard in the tuning stakes. Nerves certainly played a part in some of the individual parts, but the ensemble work also suffered as well and by the end it became a bit of an ordeal for both the players and the audience. It wasn't a good one at all, and they will ant to put it behind them for certain.

No such problems for the winners though, and well deserved it was too, whilst both qualifying bands will head for Harrogate confident of doing well. That is another day, and they will we think be up against a much higher standard of bands, but to get there you have to win here first, and Johnstone certainly did that with more than a bit to spare.

Information supplied by David Crookston

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