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Report & Results: 2017 Scottish Open

Whitburn returns to their West Lothian Metropolis after rounding off a memorable year with a successful defence of their Scottish Open title in Perth

Perth concert hall
  There has been a celebration of music from the pen of Peter Graham in Perth today.

Whitburn rounded off the most successful contesting year in their history by retaining the Scottish Open title in Perth.

And as has been the case throughout a season that has seen them victorious at the Scottish Championship and Grand Shield (as well as claim a podium finish at the Open and a stage mention at the Nationals), their rendition of Peter Graham's 'Metropolis 1927' had an unmistakeable stamp of authentic high-class authority, this time under professional conductor Prof Nicholas Childs.

Out of this world

It had to be, as according to adjudicator Steven Mead, the other "magnificent" podium finishing renditions from Co-operative Funeralcare and Fountain City were also "out of this world".

Whitburn's old rivals certainly gave conductor Allan Ramsay a fine send off as he prepares to start a new career in New York, as 'The Co' conjured up their best form of what has been a disappointing year to push them to a single point finish with a finely judged 'Harrison's Dream'.

Meanwhile, Fountain City rounded off their memorable UK tour following their podium finish at Brass in Concert, with a timely reminder of their excellence at the test-piece discipline. Their colourful 'Metropolis 1927' just lacked the accuracy of their Scottish rivals, but it was another very impressive performance from Joe Parisi and his Kansas City band.

Musical homage

The contest paid homage to one of Scotland's finest composers for the medium — with works from the pen of Peter Graham.

He was in attendance with his wife Janey for the six hours of engaging competition, and later told 4BR that he had thoroughly enjoyed the way each of the 15 contenders approached their selections of 'Metropolis 1927', 'Harrison's Dream', 'The Essence of Time' and 'Montage'.

Adjudicators Steven Mead and Alan Morrison also revealed they did too (as did the encouragingly sized audience at Perth Concert Hall), something emphasised in their comments prior to the results — although Steve did add that despite the melodic transparency of the composer's writing, he certainly doesn't make it easy to play.

That aspect was reinforced Alan who highlighted the importance of choosing a piece that allowed MDs to highlight the flexibility and freedom of a band's inherent strengths. The inference that some had bitten off more than they could chew was not lost.

Reflected

Their opinions were certainly reflected in the results, with a delighted First Section Kingdom Brass coming fourth with a neatly delivered 'Essence of Time', ahead of another well-prepared 'Essence ' from Unison Kinneil and Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass with a bold 'Metropolis 1927'.

Behind them, the accumulation of minor errors and basic problems undermined performances that still had a great deal of merit even with their more obvious fragilities.

Uber-confident Whitburn

That certainly wasn't the case with an uber-confident Whitburn, although some technical blemishes did occasionally catch the ear.

With the MD bringing his intuitive understanding of the score (written for Black Dyke for the 2015 Europeans) to bear, Whitburn responded by showcasing their rich tonality and ensemble balance, whilst the main solo lines were played with flair — none more so than 4BR 'Best Soloist' award winner Scott Forest on soprano.

That was something Prof Childs later told 4BR had been one of the most encouraging aspects of not just this performance, but of those given by the band throughout 2017.

"The progress Whitburn is making is down to their attitude to hard work in rehearsals and their commitment levels week in week out," he said, after revealing he was phoned on his way home by the players as they celebrated on stage with the trophy.

"I'm not alone is experiencing that with them this year of course, but it hallmarks their work with me. The excellent preparation undertaken by Anne Crookston meant we could work together on adding that extra level of polish to the performance.

It's been a real pleasure working with such a confident, musically aware band prepared to go that extra mile even at the end of a long year."

Others in Scotland, as well as elsewhere, will now have to up their game if they are to challenge the West Lothian band as they secured a fourth consecutive victory at the event.

Slug it out

Supporters of Co-operative Funeralcare will have left disappointed at not bloodying their old rivals noses, but also encouraged by the signs that they are still able to slug it out toe to toe on the contest platform, whilst Fountain City's domestic rivals will know that Joe Parisi's band is now the outstanding standard bearer for the nation's emerging brass banding community.

Kingdom Brass for one will look forward to 2018 after their performance reinforced their credentials as a band to watch out for in the First Section both domestically and nationally, whilst Unison Kinneil and Kirkintilloch Kelvin ended their years on contesting up-curves under their experienced MDs.

To think again

For others the Christmas break will hopefully offer more cheer than was on show from the judges, although for many they only had themselves to blame with the amount unforced errors and fragilities that pockmarked performances.

The English challengers in particular had a weekend to forget, with Rainford the best of a quartet of Fishburn, Yorkshire Imperial DUT and EYMS that came North but who returned 'to think again' as the old Scottish anthem goes.

Great success

Meanwhile, SSBA's decision to musically honour 'one of their own' proved to be a great success — a popular decision that was sealed with the presentation of the SBBA President's Award to a clearly moved Peter Graham.

His back catalogue of major compositions once again provided stern tests for all the bands, but also made for a contest with a clearly definable communal musical reference point.

To round off a splendid day (excellently organised and presented by SBBA), further awards were also made to Allan Ramsay and to Stuart McNabb, before the announcement of the results saw Whitburn celebrate in familiar 2017 fashion with yet more silverware to add to their burgeoning collection.

Malcolm Wood

It's been a real pleasure working with such a confident, musically aware band prepared to go that extra mile even at the end of a long yearProf Nicholas Childs

Results:

Scottish Open:

Test Piece: Own choice selection from composer Peter Graham
Adjudicators: Steven Mead and Alan Morrison

1. Whitburn (Prof Nicholas Childs) — 195
2. Co-operative Funeralcare (Allan Ramsay) — 194
3. Fountain City (Dr Joseph Parisi) — 192
4. Kingdom Brass (Paul Drury) — 191
5. Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tenant) — 190
6. Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Charles Keenan) — 189
7. Rainford (Gareth Brindle) — 188
8. Bon-Accord Silver (Stephen Malcolm) — 187
9. Dalmellington (Richard Evans) — 186
10. Kirkintilloch (Ray Munday) — 185
11. Fishburn (David Hirst) — 184
12. Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel (Russell Gray) — 183
13. EYMS (Stig Maersk) — 182
14. Tullis Russell Mills (John Wallace CBE) — 180
15. Bo'ness & Carriden (Kevin Price) — 179

4BR Soloist Award: Scott Forrest (soprano) — Whitburn



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