2010 Scottish Championships - First Section: retrospective

22-Mar-2010

A top drawer performance took the title in Scotland and took Lochgelly back to the top tier of banding via Harrogate in September.


Lochgelly
Number 1: Lochgelly celebate their win

There were encouraging signs in the First Section that Scotland is now producing genuine contenders for honours at Harrogate for the first time in over a decade.

Lochgelly’s winning performance on ‘A Moorside Suite’ was out of the top drawer, whilst Bo’nesss & Carriden was not too far behind them in taking the second qualification place.

Highly competent

These two bands delivered highly competent renditions on a piece that caused all sorts of mayhem around the country on the same weekend, bringing that essential sense of folk inspired bucolic ‘Englishness’ right into the heart of Scotland.

In fact, it couldn’t have been made to sound more at home if it had been written by Sir Walter Scott and renamed ‘A Midlothian Suite’.

Intelligence

Paul Drury and Steve Sykes instilled a sense of thoughtful intelligence to their interpretations, which placed an emphasis on cultured tonality, delicacy of articulation, security and artistry in solo and ensemble lines – very Edwardian English traits with a Scottish musical accent.  

In return, the performers of both bands played wonderfully well, with a confidence in their own abilities that was the sure sign that they had been very well rehearsed.

Horn
Best horn player: Laura Mullen of Johnstone Silver

Unfortunate


In most other regions Johnstone’s performance under Ray Tennant may well have found its way to North Yorkshire without too much of a problem, but it was unfortunate that on this occasion their well structured account of breadth and tonality came up against two real crackers.

They can find a bit of comfort in the fact that theirs was arguably the best performance to gain a podium finish anywhere around the country on the weekend.

The adjudicators seemed more than a little surprised as well as pleasantly impressed by what they had heard from the 10-band field.

David Barringer described ‘Moorside’ as ‘…very difficult’ and whilst he suggested he and David Thornton were looking for ‘musical performances,’ he knew that there were also a number of quite treacherous technical problems to overcome to start with – notably in the ‘Nocturne’.

David Thornton concurred, stating that whilst they were seeking to hear a ‘flowing melodic line’, the traps in the music were self evident, with the choice of tempi crucial in the outer movements and the control of tone and flow in the second.

Potential

There may have been the potential for more pitfalls than a blind collier could manage with a sack over his head, but surprisingly, very nearly all the bands came though the ‘Nocturne’ with just the odd nasty bump and scrap.

Paul Drury opted for a relaxed opening ‘Scherzo’ with Lochgelly that skipped along neatly, whilst the ‘Nocturne’ was shaped with a subtle appreciation of style. They did get a little edgy in the final ‘March’, when the trombones found it hard to keep up the brisk pace, but by its close there was a feeling that this was the marker for rivals to beat.

Lochgelly will now head south for the finals in September buoyed by the additional prize of gaining championship status for the first time in over 20 years.

Bo’ness & Carriden rounded off the contest with a real flourish – one that gained them their second Harrogate trip in three years.

Steve Sykes laid out a structured reading that featured a jaunty opening ‘Scherzo’, followed by a ‘Nocturne’ that despite a few nasty individual moments, had a lovely serenity about it, and a ‘March’ that bristled with understated pomposity.

It could in fact have been the winner, but those silly errors just cost them the title.

Fine effort

With Johnstone producing their fine effort to fill the final podium place, the remaining bands delivered solid efforts to fall into a predictable order behind.

Michael Robertson and his young band at Arbroath produced a vibrant account that had a classy opening ‘Scherzo’ and bravura ‘March’, (with superb trombone).

They found too many difficulties in the ‘Nocturne’ to really push for a qualification berth, whilst Newmilns & Galston just got off to an untidy start with a over zealous tempo in the ‘Scherzo’.

Thereafter Alec McCutcheon’s metronome seemed 10% faster than anyone else’s, and whilst there was much to enjoy about the playing, it was all done in too much of a hurry to bring the real character out of the music.

Homework

Bathgate
took the final top six place, and whilst the individual errors were costly, Eoin Tonner had certainly done his homework, bringing a relaxed feel to the ‘Nocturne’ and jauntiness to the ‘Scherzo’ in particular.

Broxburn & Livingston meanwhile may well be a little puzzled why their solid performance failed to resonate in the box under the thoughtful direction of Andrew Duncan.

Although there was some insecurity in individual lines, the overall picture was one of stylish lyricism, although the last note was perhaps the worst chord played by the band in the entire piece, to leave the final impression of sloppy tiredness.  

Bottom three

The bottom three bands struggled somewhat with Campbeltown’s youngsters not really sounding if they enjoyed the music, despite some neat playing throughout (especially from the trombone).

Dunaskin Doon and Annan never quite got to grips with the technical challenges found in the score, despite a neat skipping style to the opening from Dunaskin and a lovely cadenza from the cornet and a fine bit of horn playing in the ‘Nocturne’ for Annan.

No such problems with the winners and runners up though, and come Harrogate both Lochgelly and Bo’ness may well hope that the Music Panel decides to ask them to play something just as old and just as English once more.

They both seem to love it.

George Black

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