The inherent, almost timeless difficulties of Dean Goffin's 'Rhapsody in Brass' were clear to hear in the Second Section — where eleven hard working contenders gave their all to try and claim the two Cheltenham qualification places on offer from adjudicators Mike Kilroy and Sheona White.
In the end it was Arbroath Instrumental led by Michael Robertson and Dalkeith & Monktonhall directed by James Chamberlain that came through what has been the most daunting of tests of banding basics and style of perhaps all the regional set-works this year.
Both Mike and Sheona fully sympathised with that fact; with Mike speaking with heartfelt honesty in his pre-results remarks. It came as little surprise that he therefore talked about the need for style, control and consistency of execution — although highlighting each was not necessarily an overt criticism of what he heard given the severity of the test itself.
The top three bands in particular had given them 'performances of merit' he said, and whilst still 'not technically secure' had brought a level of musicality to each movement that spoke of understanding and appreciation by the MDs and performers.
That was certainly the case they later told 4BR with the eventual winner Arbroath International under the experienced Michael Robertson. They rounded off the contest with a rendition that grew in confidence after a slightly shaky start to head to the National Finals for the first time since they won this title back in 2009.
Loved the music
And those demands of a 70 year old piece were certainly not lost on principal cornet and Vice President, Ann Ness when speaking with 4BR. "That was a tough, but we enjoyed working on it so much. Michael also loved the music and although he told us it was going to be a hard, he felt we had the ability to do well on it. And he was right!"
Michael is also the inspirational conductor of the Carnoustie & District Youth Band, and it was great to see so many youngsters from that ensemble enjoying their senior contesting debuts on the weekend.
Ann added: "We purposely don't do too many contests a year as the youngsters have their academic studies to concentrate on, but when we do compete we want to include as many as possible. Our rehearsals are intense and focussed and Michael works us very hard, but the reward for us all — both young and old is being crowned Scottish Champions!"
Joining them in what will be a strong duo in Cheltenham will be Dalkeith & Monktonhall, after they produced a confident account off the number 2 draw under Jim Chamberlain that repelled all but that final challenger.
Meanwhile, there was also a highly encouraging account from Shotts St Patrick's, who led by Christopher Mansfield posted their best return at the contest for well over a decade.
As expected, behind the podium finishers it was very much a case of consistency — or lack of it, as some well thought out accounts from MDs just found Goffin's subtle stylistic nuances and testing technical clarity stretching their bands to their limits.
The final top-six places were eventually taken by Renfrew Burgh, Broxburn & Livingston and Campbeltown Brass whose fine horn player Amy Paterson took the 'Best Instrumentalist' award, although on the day every band deserved a great deal of credit for the way in which they approached one heck of challenge.
Our rehearsals are intense and focussed and Michael works us very hard, but the reward for us all — both young and old is being crowned Scottish Champions!Arbroth Instrumental Vice President, Ann Ness
Test Piece: 'Rhapsody in Brass' (Dean Goffin)
Adjudicators: Mike Kilroy and Sheona White
1. Arbroath Instrumental (Michael Robertson) — 186*
2. Dalkeith & Monktonhall (James Chamberlain) — 185*
3. Shotts St. Patrick's (Christopher Mansfield) — 183
4. Renfrew Burgh (Mark Good) — 180
5. Broxburn & Livingston (Chris Shanks) — 179
6. Campbeltown Brass (Gordon Evans MBE) — 178
7. St Ronan's Silver (Alan Fernie) — 177
8. Croy Silver (Kenneth Blackwood) — 176
9. Jedforest Instrumental (Phil Rosier) — 175
10. Selkirk Silver (Stuart Black) — 174
11. Perthshire Brass (Jason Blyth) — 173
*Top two bands qualify for National Final in Cheltenham
Best Instrumentalist: Amy Paterson (Campbeltown Brass)