The recent Whitburn Band Virtual Festival has been hailed as an overwhelming success, after 37 Scottish bands and ensembles demonstrated their innovative entertainment programmes to a worldwide audience across a weekend of celebratory music making.
The contest was presented by the band's professional conductor Prof Nicholas Childs and produced by the band's multi-media star Ryan Bradley.
In the end, there were victories for Unison Kinneil, Kingdom Brass, Lochgelly, Whitburn Heartlands, Kilmarnock Concert Brass and Riverside Youth Bands which took the top awards in each section from the in-house Whitburn Band judges.
The event was certainly packed with musical and visual treats from each of the competitors — from the enthusiasm of the youngsters in the Youth and Percussion sections to the fantastic 'Olympic' qualification efforts of the likes of Broxburn & Livingston and the polish of top section winners Unison Kinneil.
Their Championship Section victory was secured by a programme that opened with the swagger of William Rimmer's march 'The Cossack', whilst flugel player Caroline Tennant claimed the 'Best Instrumentalist' award featured alongside trombonist Graeme McGregor in the 'Lament' from Peter Meechan's 'Macbeth'.
The band rounded off their set, which secured first place preferences from all three judges, with the upbeat big band drive of 'La Suerte de los Tontos'.
It was classy playing in all three items, something which the judge's certainly picked up on with their "great band sound"with the "highlight"the playing in the 'Lament', featuring "stunning playing"from Caroline, which was "well balanced"by the fizz of the finale.
Second place went to Kirkintilloch with Bo'ness & Carriden in third.
In the First Section there was also a clean sweep of the first-choice judge's preferences as well as the 'Best Instrumentalist' award for winner Kingdom Brass under the baton of Paul Drury.
They opened with the sprightly sounds of 'Belford's Carnival March' before trombone soloist Alex Philip gave a suave prize-winning account of 'Stardust'. They closed with the rousing sounds of 'The Dam Busters'.
The judge's felt "there was no doubting the quality of this band", whilst their winning soloist giving "a really musical performance".
Second place went to Johnstone Band with Coalburn Silver in third.
Fan packed Lochgelly
In the Second Section, Lochgelly's fun-packed winning programme, based on their own 'Pandemic Story', was introduced by their MD Paul McKelvie (who had more wardrobe changes than the iconic children's cartoon character Mr Benn).
Produced by their xylophone soloist Keven Anderson, it saw them open with the sights and sounds of 'The Wellerman' sea shanty, before Kevin literally let the 'Sparks' fly with a welcome outing on Kenneth Alford's tuned percussion feature. They closed with the bombast and OTT delights of the glam-rock group Europe's 'The Final Countdown'.
No wonder the judges felt the programme "had a lot of thought"and that the presentation showed "a high level of skill".
Second place went to Annan Town, whose horn soloist Sylvia Campbell claimed the 'Best Instrumentalist' award with her lyrical rendition of Peter Graham's, 'A Time for Peace'. Third spot went to St David's Brass.
Whitburn Heartlands took the Third Section title off the number 1 draw with a polished performance of Alan Fernie's 'Music from the 16th Century' suite, with the playing every bit as stylish as the innovative graphics and presentation.
The judges felt the "overall it was a great performance"and a "fantastic all round programme".
Second place went to Langholm Town with a set that had a super opener of 'Baggy Trousers' by Madness and an equally fine 'Best Instrumentalist' performance from flugel player Christine Calver featured on their finale, 'They Shall Come from the East'.
Dysart Colliery Silver was third with set inspired by their hometown, which featured the rousing finisher 'Scots Wha Hae'.
Glory for Kilmarnock
In an enjoyable Fourth Section contest it was Kilmarnock Concert Brass conducted by Scott Walker that took the honours with the bold 'Death of Glory' march followed by NHS inspired 'Song for the Frontline' by John Barber and the closing 'This is Me' complete with great personal images of band members.
The judges were certainly impressed by all their contributions from "fantastic basses", the "great visual tribute"of the NHS tribute that was "really well played"in a "well balanced programme"that featured a "super"'Best Instrumentalist' performance from flugel player Nigel Martin.
Second place went to the great youngsters of Coalburn Intermediate with a fine performance from Newland Concert Brass in third.
Youth and Percussion
No praise high enough for all the entrants in the Youth and Percussion Ensemble category where it was the talented youngsters of Riverside Youth Band that eventually came out on top, led by a determined looking MD, Mark Good (who also sported some great headgear for the finale).
He certainly brought plenty of super playing from his band with a set that opened with 'Valiant's Arise' followed by Simon Dobson's 'Little Hymn' (dedicated to lockdown heroes) and 'African Funk'.
Perth & Kinross Schools' Percussion Ensemble showed their rhythmic talents especially on the opening 'Children of Sanchez' (complete with bass guitar!) as they came second, with Brass Sounds Inverclyde in third as they brought a bit of 'African Funk' (complete with brilliant images and the odd bit of fancy dress wildlife).
Their fantastic euphonium player Isaac Parkhill was the deserved winner of the 'Best Instrumentalist' award.
In a nice touch by the organisers bands were given various achievement level awards, whilst Whitburn Band (who also led a short concert interlude) also took the opportunity to thank the supporters of the event such as Creative Scotland, Besson, Just Music, Band Supplies and the Scottish Brass Band Association.
Speaking about the weekend, Whitburn Band Chairman Charlie Farren told 4BR: "We would like to thank all the bands, the sponsors and supporters, Prof Childs and the judges, our production team, and everyone who made the Virtual Festival a success.
Bands and percussion ensembles from across Scotland showed great innovation with their programmes and entertained us all. With bands slowly going back to playing together at rehearsals, we look forward to performing in-person again very soon."
All the performances can be enjoyed on Whitburn's Facebook page
Bands and percussion ensembles from across Scotland showed great innovation with their programmes and entertained us all.Band Chairman, Charlie Farren
Adjudicators: Bryan Allen, Chris Bradley, Alison Hall
1. Unison Kinneil
3. Bo'ness & Carriden
4. Dunaskin Doon
Best Instrumentalist: Caroline Tennant (flugel) — Unison Kinneil
Adjudicators: Scott Kerr, Chris Bradley, Evelyn Bradley
1. Kingdom Brass
2. Johnstone Band
3. Coalburn Silver
4. Newmilns & Galston
5. Campbeltown Brass
Best Instrumentalist: Alex Philip (trombone) — Kingdom Brass
Adjudicators: Bryan Allen, Heather McMillan, Chris Shanks
2. Annan Town
3. St David's Brass
4. Broxburn & Livingston
5. Irvine & Dreghorn Brass
6. Selkirk Silver
Best Instrumentalist: Sylvia Campbell (horn) — Annan Town
Adjudicators: Scott Kerr, Caroline Farren, Holly Bennett
1. Whitburn Heartlands
2. Langholm Town
3. Dysart Colliery Silver
Best Instrumentalist: Christine Calver (flugel) — Langholm Town
Adjudicators: Alison Hall, Chris Shanks, Caroline Farren
1. Kilmarnock Concert Brass
2. Coalburn Intermediate
3. Newland Concert Brass
4. Galashiels Town
5. MacTaggart Scott Loanhead
6. Dunfermline Town
Best Instrumentalist: Nigel Martin (flugel) — Kilmarnock Concert Brass
Youth Section/Percussion Ensembles:
Adjudicators: Evelyn Bradley, Heather McMillan, Holly Bennett
1. Riverside Youth Band
2. Perth & Kinross Schools' Percussion Ensemble
3. Brass Sounds Inverclyde Youth Ensemble
Scottish Borders Youth Band
Coalburn Percussion Academy
Irvine & Dreghorn Youth
Loanhead Brass Roots
Stranraer Brass Junior
Abbey Brass (Jedforest)
St David's Youth
Best Instrumentalist: Isaac Parkhill (euphonium) — Brass Sounds Inverclyde Youth Ensemble