2005 Regionals: Scotland - Retrospective: Third Section

21-Mar-2005

A retroespective look at the Third Section where Shotts St Patrick's and MD Alan Duguid took the top prize from Selkirk Silver and Richard Duff in second.


The bands who kicked off the 100th Scottish Championships were those in the Third Section on the Saturday morning, and it proved to be a great start to the Centenary Championships with a winning performance off the number 1 draw by the young (busy and talented) Alan Duguid and his Shott's St. Patrick's band.

Adjudicator's Andrew Duncan and Allan Ramsey must have thought they were going to be in for a real musical treat given that this was the first performance they heard of the difficult test piece, Tam O'Shanter's Ride', but that early promise didn't quite materialise, and even though there were a group of three or four performances that gave it a real go, the majority found it to be a very difficult work to master.

Even though of course you would have thought that the Scots would know exactly how to approach a work that takes its inspiration from a night on the tiles, it came as something of a surprise that so many approached it in such a sober manner. Perhaps the Presbyterian Scottish spirit is alive and well in the bands here, or that many of the players were in fact under the age of 18 and therefore still strangers to the delights of a few too many nips from the old Scotch bottle whatever. 

The judges had it right when they said that the piece was still too difficult for bands in general at this level, and the evidence was here for everyone to hear. Perhaps that realisation was the reason therefore that just the four really captured the right spirit of the piece jaunty and carefree to start, slightly comic, then leading into a more darker and sombre section, before the manic return to home with the Devil in pursuit. 

Shotts set the mark for the others to follow, and even though three made a good stab at it, none could quite match the control of the opening section and the quality playing from the solo cornet and euphonium in particular and a fruity and inebriated (sounding, not in reality) bass trombone. The Chorale section was a touch lumpy, but a fine reprise of the 8/8 section really generated the excitement required and it all finished in fine style. It was a winner all right (although the judges did take a very long time indeed to come to their final decision), and one that showed a band of talent and musicality. Harrogate cannot come soon enough.

Joining them there will be Selkirk Silver conducted by Richard Duff, who also produced a fine account that captured the story of Tam and his travails very well indeed.

It just lacked a bit of bite in places, but the neatness of the ensemble was excellent. There were a few little blips and blobs, but they didn't detract too much as what was trying to be portrayed was both musical and descriptive of the story. By the time they rounded things off with a good ride for home, it had enough about to beat off the challengers, although we felt it was a good two points behind the winners. 

Tullis Russell Mills just missed out on a place at the Finals, and they can count themselves very unlucky indeed as theirs was by some way the best overall performance in terms of approach and style, but which was undermined by too many nasty errors in a couple of individual lines. It would be hard to blame any individual, but if one or two had played to form instead of having off days they would have surely made it through to the Finals. We had them down for second, but they came third by a point and on such small margins are places in Finals decided.

The only other band really to come through relatively unscathed on the day were Newland Concert Brass who had a lovely warm sound and control to open, but who then for some reason became ponderous and under tempo. The bass trom had a fine day, even doubling up on the top part on one occasion, whilst the baritone was also excellent at the close. It was a performance that you felt could have benefited from a bit more urgency in places, as they seemed to be a band who could more than meet the technical challenges laid out before them. A good one though from both the players and the MD, but perhaps a touch more ambition was needed.

That was it really in terms of the bands who mastered the piece, as the rest of the field fell foul of the obvious pitfalls and problems in terms of intonation and lack of technique. This is though a very difficult set work for this level, and so it was perhaps expecting too much to think that all the bands here would conquer it. They were brave efforts though.

Peebles struggled a bit throughout, but never gave up the ghost and were striving to make the most of the music right through to the last note. It was a lack of technique that undermined them as the error count was very high, but the approach was excellent and much of that credit must go to the MD, Derek Broadbent who marshalled limited resources very well indeed.

Campbeltown Brass also approached the piece in the right manner: lots of nice sounds, lots of slips, lots of splendid trombone work and lots of character from such a young band. We don't know what they feed them on in this neck of the woods, but they certainly produced a performance that had the right character, even though the errors were liberally sprinkled all round the stand. It was a very encouraging performance though.

Perthshire also put in an encouraging show, but some rhythmic uncertainty and a tendency to rush spoilt a persuasive picture. They did have the best flugel player on the day, but a bit of overblowing towards the end lost them too many points. Meanwhile MacTaggart Scott Loanhead Silver give it a good lick and the quicker stuff was very well handled (especially the tricky little link passages before the 8/8 sections), but the slower work lacked warmth and expression.

Dunfermline found life a bit tough, and after a poor start it took a while for things to come together. When it did it lacked rhythmic certainty and warmth, although they did make it to the end in one piece. Much the same could also be said of Buckhaven and Methil and the final band Irvine and Dreghorn.

Both found the work just a bit too difficult and as such never felt comfortable from the start, but both were brave efforts nonetheless and if there were prizes handed out for strength of character, both would have been up there come results time.

This was a good contest in many ways: all the bands approached the music as best as they could and made the most of their resources, whilst the MDs on the whole took things at a sensible tempo and tried to engage the band in the storyline of the music. Some did it (the top three bands in particular) whilst others tried their best, but fell short because the technical aspects of the piece were just beyond them. Well done to the winners though to win off the number 1 slot at any contest is a fine achievement, and that was just what this was.  

Information supplied by David Crookston

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