With the British Open just a couple of weekends away, Whitburn gave themselves a massive boost to their collective confidence as they retained their title at the Land O Burns Contest.
Conducted by Steven Mead, the band pipped fierce rivals, Co-operative Funeralcare, directed by Michael Fowles, who played before them in the draw, to claim the £2,500 first prize and to impose their domestic bragging rights ahead of Birmingham.
There was a shock for fellow ‘Brum’ bound Kirkintilloch however, as the final podium place was taken by the delighted First Section Johnstone Band, who beat the British Open contenders under Selmer Simonsen into third place.
The current Scottish Champions, Co-operative Funeralcare had to make do with the £1,000 prize for second place ahead of their trip south, although picking up both the individual flugel horn and trombone prizes on offer will have given encouragement.
I was delighted with the way the band responded to a difficult programme, with both individual and ensemble playing of real qualityMD, Steven Mead
It was Whitburn’s day, for a sixth time at the contest, with a programme that started with Howard Snell’s appropriately named ‘Bank Holiday’, Gilbert Vinter’s ‘Challenging Brass’ (each band had to pick a Vinter piece in their 20 minute programme), the trombone solo, ‘Stardust’ played by Alex Phillip and ending with ‘Entry of the Gods into Valhalla’.
MD, Steven Mead told 4BR: "I thought we really played exceptionally well. There was a real sense of commitment and confidence about the playing from start to finish, and I was delighted with the way the band responded to a difficult programme, with both individual and ensemble playing of real quality."
That individual quality was shown by the band picking up the ‘Best Principal Cornet’, ‘Best Euphonium’ and ‘Best Basses’ awards.
Eye on Birmingham
Steven though has already got an eye on Birmingham – even on the day of the contest.
"As soon as we played we went back and started a full rehearsal on the British Open test piece," Steven added. "Unfortunately that meant we weren’t in the hall at the announcement of the results, but the confidence of the band was immediately boosted when we heard the result. Now we are really looking forward to Symphony Hall."
It was the announcement of Johnstone in third place however that caused the sharpest intake of breath, although the experienced Raymond Tennant drew a wonderfully committed performance from his band that saw them claim the £500 third prize and the award for the ‘Best Percussion’ section.
There will been some anxiety however at Kirkintilloch after their brand of entertainment failed on this occasion to find favour with adjudicator David Horsfield, and the band who came fifth at last year’s British Open will know they will have to up their form if they are to reassert their domestic authority south of the border once again in a few weeks time.
They left with £500 and the award to Steve Stewart as ‘Best Soprano’.
With Johnstone taking third place, the best placed First Section Band award and £300 went to Newtongrange in 6th place, whilst other section awards were won by Downshire Brass (£300), Irvine & Dreghorn (£250) and Brass Sounds Inverclyde (£250).
1. Whitburn (Steven Mead) — 194
2. Co-operative Funeralcare (Michael Fowles) — 193
3. Johnstone (Raymond Tennant) — 191
4. Kirkintilloch (Selmer Simonsen) — 190
5. Easington Colliery (Roy Curran) — 189
6. Newtongrange (Nigel Boddice MBE) — 188
7. Dunaskin Doon (John Boax) — 187
8. Downshire Brass (Michael Alcorn) — 185
9. Lochgelly (Paul Drury) — 184
10. Broxburn & Livingston (John Boax) — 183
11. Shotts St. Patrick’s (Gavin Lindsay) — 180
12. Brass Sounds Inverclyde (Gareth Bowman) — 178
13. Irvine & Dreghorn (David McKellar) — 177
14. Annan Town (David Shanks) — 176
Bass Trombone: Downshire Brass
Best Principal Cornet: Whitburn
Best Soprano Cornet: Kirktintilloch
Best Flugel Horn: Co-operative Funeralcare
Best Tenor Horn: Irvine & Dreghorn
Best Trombone: Co-operative Funeralcare
Best Euphonium: Whitburn
Best Bass Section: Whitburn
Best Percussion Section: Johnstone
Dress & Deportment: Downshire
Highest Placed Ayrshire Band: Dunaskin Doon
Adjudicator: David Horsfield