Co-operative Funeralcare Band won the 10th anniversary West Lothian Festival title in Livingston on the weekend with an entertainment programme described by adjudicator Philip Harper as, 'just what top brass playing in the 21st century should be all about.'
The reigning Scottish Open champion secured the Festival Challenge Trophy and an overall prize package prize worth £1,450 with a thrilling combination of high class ensemble and solo playing allied to inventive entertainment presentation.
Following their semi final victory a fortnight ago, conductor Paul Lovatt-Cooper constructed a programme set that spanned genres and styles to defeat the determined challenge of Kingdom Brass conducted by Andrew Duncan.
In addition to the overall title, Co-op also secured individual prizes awarded by adjudicator Jim Smith for the 'Best Section Piece', 'Best Performance of the test piece March', 'Best New Composition or Arrangement' and the 'Audience Prize' for the most popular item.
The latter award went to PLC’s own sparkling arrangement of ‘Fire in the Blood’ – premiered just a few weeks ago at the International Staff Band 120th anniversary celebrations in London.
An elated MD told 4BR that he couldn’t have wished for his first major championship conducting experience to go any better.
"I've been immensely impressed by all aspects of the band’s preparation over the past few weeks," he said. "The way in which they bought into my entertainment ideas and worked so hard to bring them off does them a great deal of credit. They are a very professional outfit."
On a personal note, the performance of 'Fire in the Blood' sent a shiver down my spine. Everyone connected with the band has enjoyed Paul being hereCo-operative Funeralcare Band Manager, Robert McCorkell
Band Manager Robert McCorkell was equally impressed by the impact Paul had made. "It’s been wonderful to hear the band on such fine form. There was real spark and determination about the performances in the semi final and especially the final."
He added: "On a personal note, the performance of 'Fire in the Blood' sent a shiver down my spine. Everyone connected with the band has enjoyed Paul being here."
Paul was also delighted by the way the band took to his music – especially that finale. "The piece is really 'Vitae Aeternum' — Part 2. It takes its inspiration from three pieces that meant a great deal to me when growing up in a Salvation Army background, and I felt that after its brilliant premiere in London it was right to show case it here in the final."
Co-operative Funeralcare opened their programme with a choreographed reprise of 'Semper Fidelis', which they used in their semi final victory, followed by Leigh Baker’s suave arrangement of the Lionel Ritchie hit 'All Night Long'.
Two variations of genre were highlighted with, 'My Lady Bothwell’s Lament' featuring principal euphonium Alison Bonnar and 'Constellations' by Philip Harper.
Paul meanwhile added an innovative twist to Dan Price’s evocative 'Sunrise over Blue Ridge' by reading an introductory poem to create an extra sense of atmosphere, whilst a reprise of Jim Hayes and Paul Kiernan having a playful five furlongs of fun in 'Post Horn Galop' filled the 'comedy' slot. The finale was provided by the premiere of 'Fire in the Blood'.
The delivery of the programme gained the band a 3-point margin on music added to 2 points of clear water on the entertainment factor, to claim victory.
Energy and commitment
Adjudicator Philip Harper described the winning performance in his written notes as having, '...fantastic energy and commitment in a brilliantly devised programme'. He added: '...just what top brass playing in the 21st century should be all about.'
The winning MD, was clearly just as impressed: "The way in which the band performed the set was brilliant," he added. "The soloists were superb and the band really captured the styles of each of the pieces just the way I hoped they would."
Despite their second defeat in a row in the event’s final, Kingdom’s determined and inventive performance further enhanced their growing reputation as a force in Scottish banding – a point made by Secretary, John Todd.
"It’s been a hectic six months or more for the band, so to get through to the final for a second successive year has been a great achievement and shows the progress the band has made. We are now a consistent force in domestic contests and we aim to build on that for the future."
Kingdom once again provided a packed Howden Hall auditorium with a mix of inventive visual effects to go with their quality playing – starting with a Samba dance 'Coconut Champagne', followed by the reflective baritone solo 'Carrickfergus' played by Anne Crookston.
A reprise of 'When Kingdom Comes' and 'Tonight' led to a spectacular take on the classic film march 'The Dambusters' complete with revving Lancaster bomber engines and a condensed 3 minute version of the original film complete with added big screen titles.
The band rounded their 40-minute set off with 'The Water of the Tyne', 'Ol' Man River' and the Queen rock anthem 'Innuendo'.
In addition, trombone player Helen Douthwaite won the overall 'Best Soloist' prize with her semi final rendition of 'All by Myself'.
Music/Entertainment = Total
Adjudicator: Philip Harper
Individual Prize Adjudicator: Jim Smith
1. Co-operative Funeralcare (Paul Lovatt-Cooper): 95/49 = 144
2. Kingdom Brass (Andrew Duncan): 92/47 = 139
Best Soloist: Helen Douthwaite (Kingdom Brass)
Best Section Piece: Constellations – Co-operative Funeralcare
Best New Composition/Arrangement: Fire in the Blood – Co-operative Funeralcare
Best Performance of the March: Co-operative Funeralcare
Audience Prize: Fire in the Blood – Co-operative Funeralcare