2006 Scottish Regional Championships - Third Section retrospective

17-Mar-2006

A real test, but an enjoyable one that brought the best out of the bands here. Gilbert Vinter's Entertainments saw victory go to the papermakers of Tullis Russell Mills, who celebrated in fine Fife style!


Gilbert Vinter's Entertainments provided Scotland's Third Section bands with an interesting challenge last Saturday. The bands responded positively to the various technical and musical difficulties posed by this endearing work and they just about won over the piece and the small but enthusiastic audience who were well entertained throughout by some excellent music-making.

Tullis Russell Mills
Start writing out the invitations: The papermakers make their mark - first class

The judges found enough divergence in the quality of the twelve performances to reach agreement on positioning all the way done the line.

The well-deserving prizewinners could head off home through the Scottish arctic-freeze conditions well chuffed at their efforts. Sounds like a good day out then - and we did enjoy the experience.

What then of the current strength of Scottish banding at this level? Drawing direct comparison with 2004 when the same hall and a similar test-piece (Vinter's Vizcaya) were used there is much to be positive about. Our recollection from two years ago is of being somewhat under-enthused as there were some pretty awful efforts back then. Not so this time round and virtually all the bands put up well prepared and worthy performances of Entertainments.  In addition, the field has strengthened in number from 9 to 12 - surely another good sign.

In summing up at the conclusion of play, adjudicator John Maines said that Raymond Tennant and himself had enjoyed the contest tremendously and that both judges felt that the qualifiers would represent Scotland fantastically well at the Finals. John recalled meeting composer Gilbert Vinter shortly before his untimely death (which, incidentally, was announced on the morning of the 1969 National Finals). He remembered Vinter as a quiet, reserved gentleman who nonetheless spoke with great passion.

This quality lives on through his music that requires great expressiveness and use of rubato. The adjudicators felt that not all bands on the day had been able to capture the essential Vinter style and this was reflected in their markings.

Tullis Russell (The Papermakers) Mills playing number 8 did impress the judges. Conductor, Alan Morrison, opted for a controlled approach and set a bright tempo in their opening Caprice. There were some occasional inaccuracies in the semi-quaver passages although, overall, this was pretty tight.

The Afetuoso section was affected by some mispitching in the solo lines, but the solo cornet opened the Elegy with a lovely sound and was well complemented by the Bari/Euph/Flugel/Horn accompaniments. We felt, however, that the musical climaxes to this movement were somewhat understated and lacked much of the passion the adjudicators were looking for.

Trombone inaccuracies in the opening fanfares to the March detracted from some otherwise good work whilst John Cotton on flugel caught the judges ear with some super work and was rewarded with the Best Instrumentalist prize. Overall we thought this a strong contender but not quite best on the day. 3rd for us. Top spot from the judges sparked off a Fifer's mega-celebration in the hall at results-time though!

Broxburn Silver drew number one for the second successive year and very nearly pulled off a double, having taken the Fourth Section honours 12 months ago.

After years in the doldrums, this band has been revitalised under Colin MacKenzie's expert guidance. A happy combination of youthful enthusiasm ably supported by a few ‘auld heids', this really is a band on the up and they got the contest off to a cracking start with a bright, vibrant style in the Caprice.

A very high standard of play was disturbed by only a few minor blemishes and occasional rushing in the semi-quavers and all the soloists did well in the Afetuoso section. The young solo cornet player and accompanying parts dovetailed beautifully in the opening to Elegy but this movement did start to sound slightly strained in the Tranquillo section but recovered to a well controlled close. The March was presented in a confident manner with all sections of the band excelling. We thought this was a super opening show and did not hear better on the day. 2nd from the judges and another trip to Harrogate in September was very well deserved.

Last on, Coalburn Silver under the promising Gareth Bowman opened well. The Euph did not come over clearly in the first of the difficult semi-quaver solo passages, but made a good recovery, but the Afetuoso, captured the right style but was spoiled a bit by individual errors.

We heard an excellent solo cornet throughout the Elegy and this performance was gathering momentum and continued this into the March with, in particular, some super bass sounds at the opening. This was an enjoyable performance for the listener with good sound, control and balance throughout. We thought 2nd, the judges 3rd.

Campbeltown Brass with Craig Anderson at the helm took to the stage 2 basses light although this did not adversely affect their performance as the 2 in situ performed magnificently.

This is a powerful band who put up a forceful performance here. They made a tidy opening but were caught out by what were common problems in the execution of this piece  - notably the awkward intervals semi-quaver features on Euph and mispitching by soloists in the Afetuoso section. The Elegy had a nicely handled opening, progressed well with an excellent soprano and a good climax to the movement whilst the March flowed along well but did sound a shade overcooked at times in the upper cornets. We agreed with the 4th place from the judges.

Dunfermline Town made a decent opening although there was some scrambling in the semiquavers and the soloists did well in Afetuoso although we felt they were not all on the same wavelength stylewise. The Elegy worked pretty well for us with a really good solo cornet lead. Some inaccuracies from solo cornet and soprano affected the March but the flugel did well in their featured part. We liked the overall style of this performance and thought there was a really good show in there had they maintained their best play throughout. 5th place, we thought 6th.

Peebles Burgh were not together in the opening semi-quaver passages and we felt this band was having difficulties overcoming the technical demands. The music had a lumpy feel to it and lacked dynamic contrast although there was a very good effort from the Euph though. The Elegy did not feel settled and sounded strained in the upper parts whilst the March was better played but suffered from individual lapses. 6th from the judges, we had them 12th.

Perthshire Brass gave a good old-fashioned brass band performance with bright sounds, some excellent solo work and 100% commitment to the music. Lots to enjoy here, but unfortunately the error count was high and the upper dynamics a bit overblown at times. 7th was about right.

Irvine & Dreghorn Brass started encouragingly although all was not well rhythmically and there was some mispitching in the solo passages. The band was not always balanced whilst the trombones sounded a touch weak at times. We thought a promising show rather petered out. 8th place was bang on the money.

MacTaggart Scott Loanhead were conducted on this occasion by Davie Spence, not the versatile Alan Fernie who turned up in the bass section. We felt they didn't quite capture the Vinter style and although not a bad show, there were too many slip-ups for this to figure. 9th from both ourselves and the adjudicators.

Renfrew Burgh were perhaps a shade unfortunate in their placing. We thought they put up a pretty solid show, with tight ensemble play and good style. The soprano encountered difficulties in the Elegy and March but we thought 10th a bit harsh. 5th for us.

Meanwhile Newland Concert Brass made a bright opening although the Euph toiled to keep pace and the Elegy opened well but was then rather rushed through. The March needed more trombone to balance the opening fanfares and it seemed to have parts missing.  A respectable show but with too many slips. We placed them 10th, the judges 11th.

Finally, Buckhaven & Methil Miners who set off reasonably well but rocked  a touch in the running semi-quavers. This was one which didn't really capture the essence of Vinter's style and suffered accordingly in the results. A healthy sounding band but too high an error count on the day. We had 11th place, the judges 12th.      

Although there were plenty of errors and blips and blobs from all the bands on thed ay, it must be said there was so much encouraging playing and the approach from the majority of the MDs was excellent. Alan Morrison will have enjoyed his trip north of the border, and both he and Colin MacKenzie must be congratulated for their efforts in bringing out the best from their bands. All in all this was a most enjoyable contest and Scotland will send two bands to Harrogate who will do the nation proud. It was a pity it couldn't have been more.       

David Crookston

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