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Report & Results: 2017 Scottish Championships: Championship Section

Whitburn reclaims the Scottish title to book the European spot in Utrecht as Prof Nicholas Childs makes his own regional history.

Whitburn
  Whitburn reclaims the Scottish title and books their place to represent the nation in Utrecht in 2018

An engrossing top section contest rounded off a splendidly run Scottish Championships in Perth, where Whitburn regained the nation's top banding honour with a commanding performance of Herbert Howells' 'Pageantry'.

Not only did victory mean an 18th title success for the West Lothian Band, but it also booked their place as Scotland's representatives at the European Championships in Utrecht in 2018.

Stand alone

However, for conductor Prof Nicholas Childs, it marked a record breaking success, as he became the most successful Championship Section winning conductor in the 72 year history of the regional events. He now stands alone with 31 top-flight 'Area' wins.

His third 'Pageantry' victory of the year, as they beat old rivals Co-operative Funeralcare and Bo'ness & Carriden to top the podium, also saw him equal the record of eight Scottish Championship wins by Major Peter Parkes — the man he overtook to claim that overall accolade.

"I'm delighted to have led Whitburn to this success," he told 4BR. "They are a fine band with the potential to become serous major championship contenders.

The work that has put into this success has been testament to that desire — and my thanks go to everyone involved. Now we will work together on getting back to the British Open at the Grand Shield in May."

Modest appraisal

Modestly though, he felt his personal success and the historic record that came with it was secondary. "In contesting, you are only as good as your last performance," he said. "Success comes through a combination of things — not just what you do yourself.

Those 31 victories belong to the players of those bands: I've just been very fortunate and privileged to have conducted them to success."

He added: "Major Parkes was one of the greatest ever brass band conductors whose memorable contest achievements stand head and shoulder above anyone in the past half a century. He remains an iconic musical figure for me, especially at Black Dyke, and I'm sure at Whitburn too."

Self-confidence

Although the Scottish Championship record books will not come with an asterisk to mark the achievement, the contest will be remembered for the way in which the Black Dyke Director of Music infused Whitburn with a level of self-confidence through his interpretation of the score that saw them claim victory with a touch of musical arrogance.

The Whitburn celebrations also had an air about them of a band determined to make the same type of impression on adjudication boxes south of Hadrian's Wall later this year and beyond.

And with individual awards for 'Best' cornet, percussion, horn and tubas sections, as well as medals for each player and the Walter Hargreaves Trophy to the MD himself, the only argument left to debate was whether the very clear three-point margin of victory was fully justified from judges Mike Kilroy and Chris Wormald.

No doubt

They were in no doubt; with Mike Kilroy telling the audience that they felt that the score had presented an 'unfamiliar musical landscape' to many of the competing bands, that despite 'great musical intent from MDs' had been 'undermined by technical difficulties'.

He later confirmed that whilst Whitburn was not without error, the careful appreciation of the control of tempo and dynamic, ensemble balance and solo solidity, was in their opinion worthy of the clear margin of victory.

Ping pong

It also meant that the annual 'ping-pong' battle for supremacy that has taken place since 2010 between the two Scottish heavyweights continued for another year, as defending champion Co-operative Funeralcare eventually finished in second place under Allan Ramsay.

Despite winning the awards for 'Best' trombone and baritone, their more robust, but slightly less secure overall performance never quite found favour in the box as it did to many in the hall, although their eighth Albert Hall appearance in the last nine years was also secured in some considerable degree of comfort as they finished four points ahead of a delighted third placed Bo'ness & Carriden.

Favourites

They in turn secured their best result at the event since 1992, as under David Thornton they produced an engaging account of verve and excitement to push Dalmellington, who were many people's favourites for a podium place after Richard Evans had inspired them with a wonderfully reverential interpretation, into fourth.

The final top-six places when to Kirkintilloch, who produced a solid marker from the number 1 draw, and a hard working Bon Accord under Stephen Malcolm. Behind them, the standard fell away somewhat, although there were moments of merit in each.

Belonging

However, the day, the contest and perhaps the Championship Section contest series itself belonged to the Black Dyke Director of Music: 31 Area Championship wins with nine different bands in six different Areas — eight of which had now been secured in Scotland.

Two of those have now been achieved with Whitburn. On this form, there could be many more to come.

I'm delighted to have led Whitburn to this success. They are a fine band with the potential to become serous major championship contenders. The work that has put into this success has been testament to that desireProf Nicholas Childs

Results:

Championship Section:

Test Piece: 'Pageantry' (Herbert Howells)
Adjudicators: Mike Kilroy and Chris Wormald

1. Whitburn (Prof Nicholas Childs)** — 196
2. Co-operative Funeralcare (Allan Ramsay)* — 193
3. Bo'ness & Carriden (David Thornton) — 189
4. Dalmellington (Richard Evans) — 187
5. Kirkintilloch (Phillip McCann) — 186
6. Bon-Accord Silver (Stephen Malcolm) — 185
7. Tullis Russell Mills (Raymond Tennant) — 184
8. Kirkintilloch Kelvin (Charles Keenan) — 183
9. Kingdom Brass (Paul Drury) — 181
10. Unison Kinneil (Colin McKenzie) — 180

*Top two bands qualify for National Final at The Royal Albert Hall
** Qualify to represent Scotland at 2018 European Championship in Utrecht

Awards:

Best Cornet: Chrid Bradley (Whitburn)
Best Trombone: Co-operative Funeralcare
Best Percussion Section: Whitburn
Best Tenor Horn: Michael Fleming (Whitburn)
Bass Section: Whitburn
Best Baritone: Co-operative Funeralcare



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Ian Holmes

BA (hons), PGDip (RCM), ARCM, ALCM
Conductor, piano accompanist and educator