Report & Result: 2021 Besson Scottish Open

A Gallery full of outstanding musical portraits sees Whitburn claim the Scottish Open title for a seventh successive year.

Perth Concert Hall
  Whitburn claimed the Scottish Open title for a ninth time

Whitburn's stranglehold on the Besson Scottish Open Championship continued in Perth as they secured their seventh consecutive victory at the event in commanding fashion.

Led by Prof Nicholas Childs, and just a stone's throw from the city's own museum and art gallery, they produced a performance of Howard Snell's acutely observed appreciation of portraiture in a manner that brokered no argument.

Class apart

They were a class apart; the three-point winning margin fully justified after a 'Gallery' rendition that was described by adjudicators Steven Mead and Paul Holland as "outstanding" and containing "exceptional" contributions.

On a work demanding of an informed appreciation of both its technical and aesthetic challenges, it was high quality playing; stylistically varied and characterised, tonally balanced and executed with defined precision.

Each 'portrait' was given time and space in its examination by the MD; from the feral bustle of the Barras market to the slippery wit of the Skating Reverend, the sombre tread of the 'March back to Camp' and the tenderest evocation of an old couple's love.

The jagged dayglo colours of Matisse 'cut-outs' gave way to the noblest of majestic vistas of Ben Lomond to close.

Tour guide

Prof Childs was like a tour guide leading a gallery lecture; one enhanced by notable contributions especially from the Best Soloist award winner Scott Forest on soprano, who opened the door to the Whitburn musical viewing with a sweet confidence that was immediately built on by the ensemble.

They will now have to find room on a gallery wall of their own to display yet another framed winner's banner, whilst their bandhall display case of contesting silverware will house the impressive Scottish Open trophy for a ninth time.

Speaking to 4BR, the winning MD (who also claimed success here for a seventh time) said: "It's always good to come up and work with a band with such an appetite to keep improving and keep challenging themselves. The confidence they have in each other as players is something special and so is that desire to keep winning."

Cross border battle

Behind Whitburn came a keen, if distant cross border battle for the podium places, with Paul Holland giving a clear synopsis of what he and Steven Mead were comparing in the box in reaching their eventual decision.

They certainly found plenty of well drilled substance to admire in a rejuvenated Reg Vardy who claimed the runner-up spot.

Their solidly executed rendition of Kenneth Downie's 'St Magnus' under MD Steve Malcolm was also aided by the outstanding euphonium contribution of Andrew Hedley, who deservedly won the 'Best Euphonium' accolade.

There was also delight for another band making welcome progress back to top section competitiveness, as Kirkintilloch under David Roberts ended third with an adroitly considered appreciation of Simon Dobson's '…and when the river told…'

Both bands will have been boosted in contesting confidence as they look ahead to the challenges of 2022.

Another will be Easington Colliery who continued their rich run of recent form to end in fourth thanks to a vibrant 'St Magnus' under Ray Farr.

There will be disappointment, but few complaints however for fans of Scottish champion, the cooperation band.

They were unable to rid themselves of the contesting rust of Covid-19 inactivity with an error strewn 'St Magnus' to eventually end fifth, whilst the final top-six place went to Bon-Accord Silver with an energetic portrayal of Kenneth Downie's work.


Understandably the vast majority of the competitors sought to impress Paul Holland and Steven Mead with the familiar musical challenges posed by 'St Magnus' (7 bands) and 'Gallery' (5 bands).

However, as Kirkintilloch certainly displayed, Simon Dobson's evocation of the rich history of Perth, would perhaps would have suited a number better. They certainly showed it to be a work well worth reconsideration and revival.

And whilst it was no surprise that the demanding tessitura and complex intricacies of the former European set work 'Muckle Flugga' failed to find a willing volunteer, the lack of a performance of Peter Meechan's 'Macbeth' perhaps showed that some ambitions on 'St Magnus' and 'Gallery' were more than a little misplaced.

Despite the obvious inconsistencies brought by recent contesting inactivity and some over ambition, there was still a great deal to enjoy with the remaining performances from the top ten finishers of Unison Kinneil ('Gallery'), Dalmellington ('St Magnus'), Elland Silver ('St Magnus') and East London Brass ('Gallery').

However, at the bottom end it was perhaps a little more hard work for Fishburn, Kirkintilloch Kelvin (both 'St Magnus'), and Bo'ness & Carriden ('Gallery').

Excellent organisation

SBBA's excellently organised event certainly offered bands an ideal opportunity to take a significant step back to regular top flight contesting. Aided by the understanding approach to Covid-19 and registration issues (players were required by Perth Concert Hall protocols to sit 1 meter apart), it saw a number of well known 'deps' liberally sprinkled around the ranks.

It was also hoped that the 2022 event will see the return of the two absentee bands who were unfortunately forced to withdraw — Rainford with Covid-19 issues and the luckless 1st Old Boys from Northern Ireland who fell foul of the poor weather and the cancellation of their ferry.

Iwan Fox

On a work demanding of an informed appreciation of both its technical and aesthetic challenges, it was high quality playing; stylistically varied and characterised, tonally balanced and executed with defined precision4BR


Adjudicators: Paul Holland; Steven Mead
Own choice selection: '...and when the river told...' (Dobson); 'Gallery' (Snell); Macbeth (Meechan); 'Muckle Flugga' (Boyle); 'St Magnus' (Downie)

1. Whitburn (Prof Nicholas Childs) — 195
2. Reg Vardy (Steve Malcolm) — 192
3. Kirkintilloch Band (David Roberts) — 190
4. Easington Colliery (Ray Farr) — 189
5. the cooperation band (Mike Fowles) — 188
6. Bon-Accord Silver (Adam Cooke) — 187
7. Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tennant) — 186
8. Dalmellington (Gary Williams) — 185
9. Elland Silver (Daniel Brooks) — 184
10. East London Brass (Jayne Murrill) — 183
11. Fishburn (Lewis Wilkinson) — 182
12. Kirkintilloch Kelvin (David Thornton) — 181
13. Bo'ness & Carriden (Nigel Boddice MBE) — 180

Withdrew: Rainford; 1st Old Boys

4BR Best Soloist: Scott Forest (soprano) — Whitburn
Besson Best Euphonium: Andrew Hedley (Reg Vardy)

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