2007 Scottish OPen Championship - Challenge Cup retrospective


There was an impressive winner in the Scottish Cup as Campbeltown and Craig Anderson took the honours in true Roman style.

There was an entertaining contest for the Scottish Challenge Cup, which comprised eight bands from the Third and Fourth Sections. 

The domestic tussle saw victory go to Campbeltown Brass conducted by Craig Anderson who delivered a well judged performance of ‘Imperium’ by Bruce Fraser that gave them a deserved three point winning margin over second placed Perthshire Brass and third placed Coalburn Silver.

We are the champions: Campbeltown's rep gets her hands on the cheque
Picture: John Stirzaker

Overall it was a contest that also brought out the best from all the bands too – none of the choices made by the respective MD’s asked too much of their charges although a couple were playing right to the edge at times.

As with Clackmannan in the Scottish Shield there was little doubt that the winners fully deserved to take the title and by such a clear cut margin. Their playing was full of character, good balances and some fine individual contributions from each of the main soloists. 

Campbeltown trio: The winners horn section play their part in victory

Craig Anderson had made the intelligent choice of reprising ’Imperium’ after they had delivered a fine account of it at the Lower Section National Finals in Harrogate just a couple of months ago. This time they added just a bit more gloss to their interpretation and even with just three tubas they made a well rounded sound that was never overblown or harsh, even when the dynamic levels were forced up.

That sound was the outstanding feature throughout, and with some neat touches from the MD in ensuring that phrase endings were clearly defined it allowed the players time and space to enjoy themselves. By the time they came to a rousing end it was clear that even from the number 2 draw it was going to be a performance that was difficult to beat. So it proved.

The band that did eventually run the closest was Perthshire Brass under the direction of George Annan, whose performance of ‘A Salford Sinfonietta’ from the number 1 draw was solid and unpretentious.

Pointing in the right direction: Perthshire claim the runners up spot

They did have a few problems here and there with some nervousness, but the balance in the ensemble was always well maintained whilst the tempos chosen by the MD allowed the detail, of what to be fair is fairly non descript piece, to come through. It was a good choice of music by the MD that really did play to the strengths of his band.

Just behind then came Coalburn Silver directed by Gareth Bowman, who produced a controlled account of ‘Northern Landscapes’. It was perhaps heading for the trophy itself before it just faded away in the final section where stamina and some poor tuning just took the gloss off, but there was much to admire both in the approach and execution.

Shiney, shiney people: Coalburn make it into third place

As with the Challenge Shield the top three bands clearly stood out from the rest of the field, but once again there was a great deal of good playing on show from each of the other contenders.

Fourth place on the day went eventually to Renfrew Burgh conducted by David Hutcheson with a confident performance of ‘A Malvern Suite’ by Philip Sparke, which seemed to suit the band well.

The red stuff: Renfrew's cornet section lead the way to fourth place

It was the quieter stuff that caught them out on occasions though with some poor tuning just robbing them of a few points that could have forced their way into the podium places. A compact and controlled end though rounded off a performance that had many more plus points than minus ones.

So too with Queensferry Community Brass under the direction of James Anderson. They chose another Sparke work, this time ‘Triptych for Brass Band’ and with a nice big sound the first section in particular promised a great deal.

Problems arose in the quieter moments in the second movement where tuning grated at times but it recovered in the up tempo third which had flow and vibrancy. The tuning though was the Achilles heel, but if they can sort that out there is much to be confident about for next season.

Buckhaven & Methil suffered the same problems with their performance of ‘Laudate Dominum’. It was perhaps a touch over ambitious a choice in the circumstances, but they were a band that wasn’t short of confidence under the direction of Gordon Evans MBE. Just the last two sections where they lost focus and consistency of execution cost them, but the various moods were well caught and here was another band full of promise.

St David’s Brass perhaps bit off more than they could chew with Gregson’s ‘The Plantagenets’ – a difficult work even after all these years, and one that bands in higher sections would find troublesome to overcome.

Here the pitfalls were obvious and despite some brave efforts from the main solo lines in particular the inherent difficulties proved too much on this occasion for the band to overcome. Perhaps a touch less ambition in choice would have been better this time around.

That just left Dundee Instrumental and a decent stab at ‘Roman Tryptych’ that had plenty of character despite the high error count but some noticeable tuning troubles. That never defeated them though and the solo lines were well handled. The quieter middle section was where the real problems arose, but the final section was big, bold and exciting right to the end.

No problems for the winners however and Campbeltown Brass and their talented conducted Craig Anderson are certainly making substantial progress. Look out for them next year, as they could well be the one band from Scotland to make a real mark nationally in the Lower Sections on this type of form.

Iwan Fox


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