Snell to write set work for Scottish Open

A major new work from the pen of Howard Snell, entitled, 'Gallery' will test the bands at the Scottish Open Championship this year.

Howard Snell

The Scottish Brass Band Association has announced that Howard Snell has accepted their commission to write the test piece for the 2015 Scottish Open Championship.

Entitled, ‘Gallery’, the work will be performed by competing bands at Perth Concert Hall on 28th November.

Pleasure and trepidation

Talking about the composition, Howard Snell remarked: “Having been asked for a contest piece a couple of years ago, I accepted the invitation with pleasure, yes, but also with trepidation.

But in the same way I have discovered in writing books, if the plan is right the book or the piece writes itself.”

He added: “I have always been in love with painting in much the same way as I am with music and my eventual plan for the piece has happily united the two.

So it was that I settled upon the idea … not the first person to do so, of course of linking separate sections of the piece to pictures. The choice turned out to be wide and not at all like a planned exhibition, but more of a random selection of images that raised a musical response in me.

Because the piece was for a Scottish contest, my mind turned in that direction quite naturally because I had lived in the West of Scotland between the ages of 9 and 16, and had many formative musical experiences there, before going on to study in London.”

Various sources

The former Wren Orchestra, Foden’s MD and principal trumpet of the LSO, found inspiration for the composition from various artistic sources.

“Not all the pictures are Scottish in origin or in Scottish galleries or are even 'great' pictures, but it gave me a thread that I found convincing and fruitful,” he said.

“It took me back to times in my schooldays when my school entered several of us to take part in the annual painting competitions at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.

I didn't mind being consistently unsuccessful in these competitions because my eyes were always too much taken up with the treasure trove of pictures … and sculpture … and statuary … in that wonderful Gallery.

It contained everything that one could wish: small paintings and objects the size of a plate, large paintings the size of a small lorry, and everything in between. The Gallery itself, set in its gracious park, with the River Kelvin winding around it against the rising background of the University, was in itself an uplifting sight.”

Strong emotions

The composition title, 'Gallery', refers to various pictures, four of them by Scots artists, which raised in him strong emotions.

“One of Scotland’s best known paintings (3) by Henry Raeburn is there. A further 2 are by another artist depicting two views from Ben Lomond (7).

In this case it is a very famous Scottish name: John Knox, born in Paisley. However this John was not also a preacher! To my taste he is a magnificent landscape painter who stands with the best.

Caitriona Campbell, a contemporary artist with a very human eye, presents number 5, while the 3 others are an American (4) John Singer Sargent, whose large picture 'Gassed' is from World War 1, a Frenchman (6) Henri Matisse, with a bundle of cut-outs that decorated a book entitled 'Jazz', and an Englishman, Paul Cox (2) whose affectionate watercolour 'snap' is of the Barrowland Market.

Each of these pictures raised in a me a strong but obviously very different emotion that I have tried to paint in music … sometimes descriptive sometimes not, and sometimes from my memories of half a century ago.”


Howard Snell stated that the first part of each title given below is his own, although the second part is of the picture's actual title with its painter:

1: Entrance — no picture — the visitor strolls up to the Gallery
2: Street Market — ‘The Barras’ by Paul Cox
3: The Skater’s Waltz — ‘The Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch’ by Henry Raeburn.
4: The March Back to Camp — ‘Gassed’ by John Singer Sargent
5: Love Story — ‘Old Couple’ by Caitriona Campbell
6: Cut-Outs — ‘Jazz’ by Henri Matisse
7: Landscapes — ‘Two Views from Ben Lomond’ (looking South-West and looking North-West) by John Knox

Not all the pictures are Scottish in origin or in Scottish galleries or are even 'great' pictures, but it gave me a thread that I found convincing and fruitfulHoward Snell


Howard Snell concluded: “I first must thank the Scottish Brass Band Association for entrusting me with this commission; particularly Peter Fraser, and the initiator of the idea, Alan Edmonds.

I dedicate ‘Gallery’ to two Scots musicians who were very important to me as a boy: one was a Salvationist from Paisley, Bert Mackay, who taught me determination, and the sheer pleasure of hard graft; the second was my piano teacher at the Royal Scottish Academy, John Erskine, with whom I took once-a-week lessons for two years while still at school in Paisley.

He opened my young ears to the great composers, and what they are still trying to say to us across the years...if only we are capable of teaching ourselves to listen.”

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