2009 Scottish Open Brass Band Championship - Postcard from Perth

2-Dec-2009

Plenty to enjoy once more in Perth - from hanging out with some NOBBS to Cary Grant in the gents...


Knobbs
Hanging out with the NOBBS - Stevie Stewart leads the big boys on the back row in Perth.  

First the good news: Perth remains a wonderful place to visit and the Scottish Open and Scottish Youth Championships remain a highly enjoyable event to attend. The hall is a cracker, the amenities excellent, and the hospitality warm and friendly.
 
On the other hand: Perth is a bloody cold place in December, the food in local restaurants remains variable to say the least, hotel rooms are not exactly bountiful and this year the organisers opted for a results service for the lower section contests that descended into farce.

Proud

Still, the Scottish Brass Band Association has a great deal to be proud of with this weekend – the increasing numbers in the Youth Championships for instance is now allied to some quite remarkable playing, whilst there is a growing following of support for the main contest from listeners and competitors alike.

SBBA isn’t afraid to try something different too – although this year’s attempt to keep a flow to the contesting day by announcing the results of both the Scottish Challenge Cup and Challenge Shield in the foyer was a disaster. 

Foyer
A bit of a balls up? The Foyer was packed for the results, but no one was taking any notice...

Good idea

The idea was a good one, but having the results projected onto a side wall, whilst simultaneously having the compere try and announce the winners over the din and clamour of the bar, and then present the prizes under a side stairwell some 45 minutes after the end of the contest was never going to work. 

Deserve better

Everyone deserved better, even if you could appreciate the attempt.

So too with the make up of the two lower section contests – although the experiment of using a ballot to decide who gets to compete will surely have to be changed for next year – it become too much of a lottery in all senses.

As for the adjudication process?

Frank
Happy smiley people: Frank Renton and Philip Harper enjoy themselves

Men in a box

Well, given that most people already knew what the top bands were to play at the Scottish Open (the judges included), SBBA may well be inclined to abandon the two men in a box for next year and replace it with something a little more innovative and transparent. 

The Gala Concert was a success and should be persevered with: Fountain City brought a sheen of professionalism to the night and the combination of band and local choir meant that there was something for everyone to enjoy. There is real potential here.

Cary Grant

The hall itself is well worth a visit and could provide a very atmospheric venue for any future Scottish bid to host the Europeans. It’s modern and compact, seats more than enough to meet the contesting demand and even has toilets that have video art installations. The gents showed an amended excerpt of Cary Grant in North-by-North West being chased by an invisible crop-spraying plane. You don’t get that at the Albert Hall now do you?

Girls
Picture of concentration: Liz Haygarth helps out

NOBBS

You also get to hear the NOBBS too (or hang out may be the right way to describe it) - the National Old Boys Band of Scotland (we think) who did a grand job in raising over £1,300 for prostate cancer with their playing at a recent concert. A great bunch of lads, there wasn't even a need for any of them to go off halfway through their set for a quick pee because of any prostate problems. 

Mrs Miggins

Perth is a small city, and although hotel beds are a touch scarce, the outlying districts have more than enough to meet demand. We are sure there are some fine restaurants around too – even if we haven’t found one yet on our visits here.  SBBA’s own Mrs Miggins more than makes up for it back stage though with some wonderful food for the hard pressed volunteers and press brigade.

The Scottish Youth Championships are growing year on year too but are now facing the problems that come with success.

Results
Right projection, wrong place...

Innovative thinking

Some innovative thinking may well be needed to ensure that even such an enjoyable day doesn’t become overlong, and that the current approach to the contesting element is not mistakenly over emphasised to dilute the desire to encourage and develop long term brass talent.

The standard of playing in the Premier Section was stunning at times, whilst at the other end of the scale, the Novice Section was a delight – with great pieces as diverse as ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple being played next to an Edwin Firth turn of the century march.

It is with the Development and Senior Sections where perhaps a bit of lateral thinking could be applied, as there were one or two bands competing that because of the age limits that define participation, meant that they were essentially in the wrong section.

Remarkable achievement

The admirable effort of the teenagers of East Lothian for instance in the under 18 Senior Section would have been more appropriate in the Novice Section. Getting players of this age to take up brass instruments is a remarkable achievement by their conductor Charlie Farren, so perhaps a bit of innovative thinking to help them could be thought of?

Musically the weekend was another overwhelming success, but SBBA will know that having 17 bands playing an own choice pieces will always make for an overlong day. A balance has to be struck somewhere for the Scottish Open if it is to continue to flourish.

Loch Lomond

The Sunday ran like clockwork, but SBBA will know that perhaps a degree of clarity is needed to ensure that the Premier Section in particular remains a contest to be won for the quality of the music making and not just slick entertainment presentation. Even the most diehard Scottish Nationalist can only take so many versions of Loch Lomond with bagpipes!

Still – with so much to enjoy once more, that is the least of Perth’s worries.

Iwan Fox

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