2005 Regionals: Scotland - Retrospective: Fourth Section

21-Mar-2005

A retrospective look at the Fourth Section where Broxburn Silver and Coalburn Silver took the top spots and booked their tickets for Harrogate later in the year.


The Fourth Section started over an hour late here in Dundee, but it was still a wait made worth it by the standard of the playing from the bands here once the contest started.

The winners were Broxburn Silver conducted by Colin McKenzie, and they produced a little gem of a show on the difficult ‘Divertimento' that was clear winner, and would have been up and around the top prizes at any of the regions we have been to this year.

The test piece was of course from the pen of a Scot, but unlike the drunken inspiration behind ‘Tam O'Shanter' this one owes its inspiration of the youth of early 1970s Scotland – all Celtic and Rangers winning in Europe, North Sea oil and the Bay City Rollers. The four movements asked a lot of players way back then, and today some 30 plus years later it is still asking questions again.

The winners though were excellent value for their victory. Neat and tidy, with a fine consistent sound, good technique and the ability to make something of the music written in the score. The MD, Colin McKenzie should also take a great deal of credit as well, as he allowed his players the time and the space to perform – no rushed tempos at all and plenty of encouragement in the form of little nods and winks. In fact, it was a little masterclass in how to perform at this level and the four point winning margin was well deserved indeed.

The soprano cornet player was a star, the flugel excellent in the Intermezzo and the cornet and euphonium had a real stamp of authority about them. All off the number 1 slot as well.

Making the trip to Harrogate to join them will be Coalburn Silver, who were directed in fine style by Gareth Bowman. This was another fine performance – although not in the same class as the winners and well deserved to take second place and the qualification place it had to offer.

There were a lot of little errors throughout the four movements as a whole, but the shape, the time and space that the MD allowed meant that they didn't really spoil what the player were trying to achieve and as a result it didn't detract too much. The flugel was very good in the Intermezzo, whilst troms recovered after a poor start in the opening to display a nice full an fat sound later on.

Just missing out where Bon Accord Silver B who could count themselves a little unlucky they didn't get the all important nod from the judges, David Read and Ian Brownbill, as they produced a well balanced sound that was a touch on the light side perhaps, but gave things a neat and tidy appeal. That was the approach also in the March and in the Intermezzo, where the flugel player was on excellent form, whilst the finale had the right Scherzo feel but just needed a bit more oomph to have made it come off. It was a nice approach overall though and it was also nice to hear a band well controlled and playing with real intelligence.

Behind them came a group of bands who were possibly very much of the same standard, and were hard to separate for us.

Queensferry Community took to the stage with 5 basses, and produced a bright sound, but just with a hint of rushing in too many places. A good soprano was a feature throughout, as was that bass end which grew in confidence as the piece progressed. A fine close hinted that they might well feature, but it was that rushing in tempo that cost them we think even in the Intermezzo where unlike the three bands that beat them, the tempo was not relaxed enough to allow the soloists to play with freedom.

Dundee Instrumental were bright and breezy to start and displayed a fine bass and trombone sound, but the problems arose more with the intonation in the cornet section, which took a while to settle. It got better as it progressed, but some wrong rhythmic playing in the Intermezzo and a bit of a ponderous Scherzo may have cost them. It just needed a bit of a rocket launcher in the final movement, although it was great to see a young man with a very big future ahead of him called Chris Hebenton to take the prize as the youngest Bb bass player on the day. It is not often the basses get a mention, even at this level, and this was a wonderful prize to give out. Banding in general needs young bass players, so this was a real boost for someone who has taken on one heck of an instrument to play. 

Brass Sounds Inverclyde also suffered with poor intonation which robbed them of points, as the structure of the piece in all the movements was pretty secure. It became a little wobbly a bit too often in the Intermezzo as nerves played a part in forcing errors, but it recovered well enough to close.

The final three bands didn't quite mange to overcome the musical or technical problems the piece imposed on them, but still gave it their best shot. All will surely return next year stronger for their efforts here, and there was a lot of young and talented raw material on show to give them real heart and encouragement. A note of caution though to the MDs. Let the young players develop their own style of playing and try not to encourage them to overblow, and there were one or two in each of the bands who were giving it for all they were worth, but in the process were blowing from their upper body and not supporting the air column properly. 

Penicuik Silver opened a little scratchily and there were a few mundane slips as nerves played a role, but a confident soprano and horn made the most of their chance to shine in the March. The flugel gave it a good go in the Intermezzo, whilst the sop once again showed real talent, before a final Scherzo just ran out of steam and it became a bit hard and harsh. Plenty of good stuff to work on though for the MD in the future.

Much the same can also be said of Stranraer Brass conducted very neatly by Iain Munroe. It seemed to be going along very well after a decent enough opening, but the intonation went AWOL and thereafter it was a little bit of a struggle on the ear. Everything was in place, except the tuning it seemed, and a nice sop was left high and dry in the March which ended with a dropped mute just knocking a bit of confidence from the band. The Intermezzo didn't really come off, but a spirited close ended things off with a sense of style and brio and they could take a great deal from their effort. Just get that tuning sorted and there is a good little band in the making here.

Finally, Dysart Colliery brought up the rear with a performance that got better the longer it went along. A very poor opening undermined them for a while, but a fine soprano shone in the March and the Intermezzo featured some excellent solo lines. However, the sloppiness crept back in with the Scherzo, and it all ended on a bit of a flat note (literally) to close. It was a performance that may have come last here, but in comparison to the other areas it would have come about halfway.

Congratulations though to the winners who were excellent and who will head for Harrogate confident after this display of doing very well indeed, whilst the runners up can also be proud of their effort as well. In fact, all the bands can take something away from them at this contest – and there are not many occasions when you can say that.

Information supplied by Dave Crookston

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