2006 Scottish Regional Championships - Fourth Section retrospective

17-Mar-2006

There may not have been a great number of bands here this year, but there was some encourgement in the performances that better times mat lie ahead for the foundation of the Scottish contesting movement.


The Fourth Section in Scotland is perhaps at its weakest level in living memory – not just in numbers but also in quality.

That must be a great concern to the Scottish Brass Band Association, and although they are trying desperately to try and get more bands to enter the contesting ladder at this level, they are admitting to finding it hard work.

This year there were signs of promise though, with a number of the bands full of youngsters, but the standard of performances, even taking this into consideration, was poor.

It was not the fault of the test piece either. ‘Anglian Dances' by Alan Fernie is a great piece for bands at this level – full of melodies, not too difficult technically and with something to interest each section as well as the main soloists. It has perhaps got one movement too many, but still, it is a fine piece.   

Alan himself was in the box for this one with Colin Hardy and although it wouldn't have been the hardest day's work to pick out the two bands to head for Harrogate, it was perhaps a slightly disappointing one as the standard didn't really rise above the ordinary and a few performances were not that clever.

The first band to take to the stage were Brass Sounds Inverclyde in what was only their second appearance at the contest. They have certainly improved from last year and it is heartening to see that the MD took the sensible approach to both tempos and dynamics to allow his players the chance to express themselves.

It wasn't great playing, with tuning problems in the first section in the horns making way for three good central sections that although at the edge of the bands abilities were bravely met. Again the tuning just robbed things in the last movement, but the sensible tempo was a good choice. 5th place was perhaps a  place too low for us, but it was an encouraging effort and promises much for next year.

Dundee Instrumental also displayed encouraging signs with their performance, but it was the question of poor tuning that robbed them of any chance of coming higher up the prize list. A good tempo in theopening led to some neat work in the three central sections where once again the tuning just let the band down. The sop and solo cornet did well in the fourth movement but a lively tempo in the last led to a scrappy finish. That was a pity and 7th place in such a small was the result for their endeavors whilst Chris Hebenden on Bb bass took the honurs as the youngest tuba player on the day.  

Third band on was Turriff Silver who ultimately went on to win under Frank Cranna. The opening statements really did show that time and care had been taken with tuning especially, whilst there was a nice lilting feel to the second movement and some precise rhythmical playing in the third. They really did attempt to play pianissimo in the fourth section and a lively tempo in the last movement allied to some neat ensemble work gave them a deserved victory. It was a musical approach that won the day – nice to hear we must say, as was the cornet playing of Eric Laidlaw who won the best soloists prize.

Penicuik Silver followed on and it started so well with a clean, neat and tidy opening and a nice approach to the second movement which featured some excellent cornet playing from Harold Wells. This was a performance that seemed to be heading very much in the right direction, but thereafter it just fell away a bit with a few errors in the next sections and a bit of wayward vibrato. It recovered a touch in the last movement but some very poor tuning in the soprano and top cornet line just took the gloss off their chances. We had them just in there with a shout, but you couldn't argue with the final result from the judges on the day.

The very young Queensferry Community Band also started well and in the second movement their solo cornet player was also excellent. There was a fine bit of bass trom playing in the next section, but some of the tuning was now going astray and the good attempt at the dynamics in the fourth section were spoilt by this at times. It really did nip along in the final section but those little prolonged tuning issues may have just cost them the chance this year of booking a place to Harrogate. A promising band though and they will return all the better for the experience next year.

Bon Accord B started very well indeed and for the first time at the contest we heard the correct balance in the first movement and a nice detached style of playing. The lively tempo and good style also enhanced the second movement with some neat trombone playing whist the third section recovered after a dodgy opening statement. The loose ensemble and poor phrasing were a real disappointment in the fourth movement, especially after all that good playing that preceded it and a messy start to the final section may have been down to a lack of stamina and tiredness. This was a good overall show though that just fell away towards the end, but it deserved to get its runners up spot and book the band into Harrogate for the finals.

The final band on the day were the youngsters of Dumfries Town who put up a robust opening that just lacked a touch of control in places. The very young cornet player did a fine job in the second movement and the troms responded in kind, but poor tuning just took the gloss off the third and fourth sections. There were some brave efforts from all of the solo lines with a good sounding soprano catching the ear (but possibly just trying too hard). The lively tempo of the final section just saw them rush towards the end, but overall it was a performance that held much promise for the future.

It was hard to disagree with the judges on this one – the small field meant that it was difficult to suggest any great changes in the final positions. Although the standard wasn't as good as we would have hoped, there was enough promise shown in all the bands to suggest that things are looking up in the Fourth Section, if only we can start to attract more bands here to perform. Turriff and Bon Accord will head to Harrogate hoping to do well. Not quite champions in waiting but worthy representatives nonetheless.

David Crookston

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