2008 Scottish Youth Brass Band Championship - retrospective

3-Dec-2008

There was so much to enjoy on the Sunday in Perth as the Scots showed just what a mixture of forward thinking and talented youngsters can achieve...


Champions
How good will this lot be in 20 years time? West Lothian celebrate another win
Picture: Alan Edmond


If in 20 years time, the brass band scene in the UK is dominated by hordes of Scottish bands packed out with talented twenty somethings winning every major prize there is to win the length and breadth of the country, then you will be able to trace back through time to the very moment that it all started - Sunday 30th November 2008.

Why so precise you may ask?

Easy really.  This was the date when Scottish Youth banding came of age.

Prosper

The initial sowing of the seeds was achieved when SBBA sought to gain funding for a Youth Development Officer, who not only knew what the brass band scene in Scotland needed, but had the knowledge and contacts to ensure that he succeeded in the stated aims of the parent body.

The gestation period wasn’t as long as many had thought because once funding was on board that seed corn was sown far and wide, nurtured through hard graft, intelligent use of resources and a commitment to the cause that has seen something of a banding revolution north of the border.  Everyone sings off the same hymn sheet - from government funders, educationalists, voluntary bodies and private organisations are now enjoying the rebirth that in the next two decades could see Scottish banding prosper like no other region in the UK. 

No one knows what the future will of course bring – the interminable appetite for governmental reorganisation and restructuring will see to that, but crucially, the Scots do appreciate that long term planning is the key to future success.

Initiatives

The Youth Music Initiative may well be coming to the end of its three year period to be replaced by something called ‘Creative Scotland’, but the good news is that whatever the name, the provision of brass music to youngsters plays an integral part in it.

Speaking to Petrea Cooney from the Scottish Arts Council, it was obvious that they were delighted at what Alan Edmond (Scottish banding’s Youth Development Officer) and SBBA had achieved in such a short space of time – and having 21 bands from Novice to Premier level take to the stage in Perth on the weekend, you couldn’t argue.   Next year they are looking to host up to 30 bands on the day.

Secret to success

The secret of the success lies in the fact that the message that has been brought to so many bands is simple - Invest in young players and you can secure your future.

Add to that an enlightened approach to the contesting day itself (no test pieces, judges who young players know and find inspiring, relaxed rules on instrumentation, music and player numbers, sensible age ranges in the sections etc, etc, etc) and the results were plain for all to see and hear.  The day was an absolute delight.

Novice Section

The Novice Section was open to bands with players up to the age of 14. Help was allowed with the inclusion of two players above this age, with parents welcome, especially if they themselves had just started playing with their own children. There was no minimum or maximum numbers of players who could take the stage, and all they had to do was to play the music they wanted to and enjoy the whole experience.

The seven bands played in alphabetical order with Buckhaven Brass Beginnings, appropriately enough starting off the proceedings. They were followed by Dunfermilne Youth Brass, Kingdom Brass Youth, Levern Valley Community Brass, Loanhead Brass Roots, Newtongrange Junior Band and Peebles Junior Band.

Novice winners
Novice winners: Loanhead Brass Roots take the honours
Picture: Alan Edmond

The standard of playing was inspiring, with each of the bands taking the opportunity to play the type of upbeat clever arrangements from the likes of Jock MacKenzie and Alan Fernie that have revolutionised the enjoyment factor for young players learning to play a brass instrument. 

Loanhead Brass Roots (with Alan Fernie taking one of his three bands on the day) took the main honours with a programme of well crafted performances that included the Rocky theme, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (which was played more times than Rocky had world title fights on the day in different guises) and the clever ‘Hoots Mon’.

As always there were plenty of budding future stars with feet that didn’t touch the ground, and it was great to see all the conductors giving winks and nods, smiles and thumbs up to the players as they worked their way through their programmes.

Loanhead were the eventual victors, but each of the bands were winners – as Lynda Nicholson so accurately put it at the announcement of the results.   

Development Section

The Development Section that followed was for bands with players below the age of 16.

That extra two years of playing experience was obvious for all to hear with five excellent performances from the competitors, Abbey Brass Jedforest, Arbroath Instrumental Youth, Inverclyde Schools Brass, Perthshire Youth and St Ronan’s Futue Band.

Arbroath
Development winners Arbroath get their hands on the cup
Picture: Alan Edmond

The growing maturity of the players was starkly presented with some wonderful solo playing, with the performance of Callum Tonner from Arbroath a real eye opener to say the least. The young man had the previous day produced a stunning bit of soprano cornet work on ‘Rienzi’ and here he was as equally impressive. 

The eventual Gold Award and the title went to Arbroath themselves with a performance of real credit, but the other four bands were not too far behind them in terms of musical standards. 

Senior Section

The Senior Section (for players under 18) proved to be just as memorable an event with all six bands producing playing of a very high level.

It was led off with a cracking performance by Carnoustie & District Youth that gained them the eventual title. A fine opening ‘Gaudette’ was followed by ‘A Little Prayer’ before Eoin Tonner delivered a stunning ‘Slaviche Fantasy’ on cornet.  ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Summon the Heroes’ ended a programme that quite literally took the breath away.

Carnoustie
Very nearly a Platinum Award: Carnoustie pick up a pretty impressive cup for their impressive efforts
Picture: Alan Edmond

No wonder Lynda Nicholson told the audience that if it had been possible she would have given the band a Platinum Award for their efforts.

Not to be outdone however were the rest of the contenders with Fife Youth Next Generation in particular featuring a fine tenor horn soloist in Rachel Neil on ‘Feelings’.  Elsewhere, Dalmellington Juniors, Midlothian Schools, Perth & Kinross Seniors and Queensferry High School all delivered programmes of neat technicality and mature musicianship. 

Premier Section

That just left the whole climax of the weekend and the startling abilities of the Premier Section.

Here three bands took to the stage, with Carnoustie & District adding a few extra players to their ranks (the section is open to players under the age of 21) to reprise their Senior Section programme once again. The soloists in particular were equally as stunning as they were first time around, and although the stamina did wane a little it was a quite outstanding performance.

West Lothian
Scotland's best - West Lothian become Premier Champions
Picture: Alan Edmond


That left the two heavyweight youth ensembles to battle it out for glory and the prize as Scotland’s Premier Youth Ensemble. Aberdeen City Youth and Eric Kidd were excellent, with some lovely individual contributions from the likes Richard Kidd on euphonium backed with warm balanced ensemble playing, especially with their final item ‘Glorifico Aeternum’.

However, it was not just enough to pip the superb West Lothian Schools Band, directed by Nigel Boddice, who drew inspirational playing out from his young charges.

The ‘Olympic Spirit’ opener was terrific, whilst it was followed by a lovely bit of cornet work by Susannah Downs with  ‘In Heaven’. ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Maleguena’ show cased the bands technical proficiency before they closed the whole weekend in almost frenzied Scottish style with the all bells and whistles, ‘Loch Lomond’.

Gold Awards went deservedly to all three bands, with West Lothian just edging things to claim yet another Scottish Youth Championship title – much to the delight of the young players as they took to the stage to celebrate.

It rounded off what was a quite inspiring day of music making.  

Iwan Fox

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