Co-operative Funeralcare rounded off their 2013 contesting season by repelling the challenge of rivals from both sides of Hadrian’s Wall and from across the North Sea, as they retained their Scottish Open title in a degree of comfort at Perth Concert Hall on the weekend.
Directed for the first time by Garry Cutt, they produced a classy performance of Wilfred Heaton’s iconic masterpiece, ‘Contest Music’ to claim the Scottish Open Challenge Trophy for a fifth time, as well as pocket a healthy winner’s cheque of £3000.
It was the band’s third victory in six contest outings during the year — all of which have ended with at least a podium finish, to bolster their bank account by close to £12,000 for the season.
Two of the three open adjudicators in Stephen Bulla and Brett Baker placed them first in their preferences from a field of 17 bands, with Jappie Dijkstra placing them third.
It meant that they eventually finished comfortably ahead of second placed Marsden Silver conducted by Glyn Williams, with Sola Brass directed by Jacob Vilhelm Larsen in third.
Garry Cutt was delighted that his first outing with the ‘Co’ had ended in success, especially on a work that he has enjoyed considerable success with in the past.
“It was great to be able to tackle ‘Contest Music’ once again. It’s a piece that I believe is touched by compositional genius — and one you can never feel that you have totally mastered.”
He added: "I’ve been very fortunate with it over the years, having won the Norwegian Nationals in 2000 and the British Open in 2004, so to claim the Scottish Open title with such a fine band gave me a great deal of personal musical pleasure."
He was also very grateful to be able to call on some close help too, after work commitments had forced Co-op principal cornet player Jim Hayes to step down just before the contest.
"Unfortunately Jim couldn’t play so I was lucky that I could call on the services of Paul Hughes, my principal cornet at Fairey, who is such a wonderful player.
He came in at late notice and did a brilliant job, whilst the band also responded to everything that I asked of them."
In a contest that varied in quality, not one contender, including the winners, produced a performance that was completely without fault, as Heaton’s immense work once again took its toll on bands that were either under prepared or lacked cohesive ensemble confidence.
There to be won
It was a point that adjudicator Brett Baker later told 4BR meant that the title was there to be won right up to the last band of the day.
"No one came out and produced a wow factor performance on the day – not even the winners," he said. "They were very good, but they will also know that not everything was always completely comfortable."
He added: "Too many renditions were blighted by a surprising amount of wrong entries and poor intonation, which from experience spoke of bands perhaps being under rehearsed or not being able to prepare with full ensemble numbers.
‘Contest Music’ is a test piece that can only be delivered successfully with an immense amount of detailed preparation work."
Marsden Silver reinforced their growing reputation as a top flight contender at the second tier level of major championships by coming runner-up.
Their consistent performance gained two second place finishes plus a fourth to pip Sola Brass, and in the process head back to their Yorkshire home with a £1500 cheque nestling in their back pockets.
MD Glyn Williams was delighted that their annual trip north has become increasingly successful over the last couple of years.
"We came fourth in 2011 and third last year, so it shows we are improving all the time. It’s been a decent year for the band with the exception of the Grand Shield, so to round things off with another good result sets us up for the start of 2014."
He added: "I thought the band did very well, and the result reflected our consistency. We hope to be back next year to see if we can go one better and claim the title."
For the second year in a row the Norwegian challenge ended in a podium finish, as Sola Brass claimed third place thanks to a first place preference from Jappie Dijkstra to go with a third and fifth to head back home with a cheque for £500.
The increasingly consistent EYMS came fourth for a second year in a row under the direction Alan Morrison, whilst Yorkshire Imps ended fifth with a performance that varied between second and seventh best preference from the judges.
A little further back came a group of three bands that tied on a combined aggregate of 24 points, with the ‘tie break’ mark from Stephen Bulla seeing Pemberton Old Wigan DW take sixth ahead of the fancied North East challengers Reg Vardy and debutants Rainford.
On a day when just about every principal cornet handled the fearsome top C# solo in the middle section with some degree of aplomb, it was the fine effort from James Fountain, who was guesting with Reg Vardy, which enabled him to win the 4BR ‘Best Instrumentalist’ Award.
It was great to be able to tackle ‘Contest Music’ once again. It’s a piece that I believe is touched by compositional genius — and one you can never feel that you have totally masteredMD, Garry Cutt
Adjudicators: Stephen Bulla, Jappie Dijkstra, Brett Baker
Set Work: Contest Music (Wilfred Heaton)
Bulla/Dikjstra/Baker/ = Total
1. Co-operative Funeralcare (Garry Cutt): 1/3/1= 5
2. Marsden Silver (Glyn Williams): 2/4/2 = 8
3. Sola Brass (Jacob Vilhelm Larsen): 3/1/5 = 9
4. EYMS (Alan Morrison): 4/6/3 = 13
5. Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel (David Nesbit): 5/2/7 = 14
6. Pemberton Old Wigan DW Band (Stig Maersk): 6/10/8 = 24*
7. Reg Vardy (Mareika Gray): 7/13/4 = 24*
8. Rainford (Gareth Brindle): 10/8/6 = 24*
9. Fishburn (Huw Thomas): 14/7/9 = 30
10. Kirkintilloch (Eoin Tonner): 15/5/10 = 30
11. Dalmellington (Archie Hutchison): 8/9/14 = 31
12. Felling Band (Stephen Malcolm): 11/11/12 = 34
13. Kingdom Brass (Lynda Nicholson): 12/12/11 = 35
14. Regent Brass (Alan Duguid): 9/15/16 = 40
15. Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Charles Keenan): 16/14/13 = 43
16. Clackmannan & District (Paul McKelvie): 13/16/15 = 44
17. Dalkeith & Monktonhall (James Chamberlain): 17/17/17 = 51
*Tie break position given by Stephen Bulla
4BR Best Instrumentalist: James Fountain (Cornet)- Reg Vardy