2007 Scottish Regional Championship - Introduction5-Mar-2007
The regional in Scotland this year has highlighted a problem that is hampering brass bands all over the UK.
While we continue to be in awe of the efforts of the Black Dyke's, the Grimethorpe's and the Eikanger's, a problem continues to proliferate underneath. In Scotland, this has been brought to the forefront by the withdrawal of one of its leading bands from the championship section.
The reason for this; it can't get enough players to play in the contest.
It was only two years ago, playing Rienzi, that Newtongrange won the championships here, becoming the Scottish champions only a year after securing the first section title. Scottish bands are finding it more difficult than ever to attract players. Broxburn Silver has also withdrawn from the second section, while the fourth section only has six bands competing this year.
However, it is not all doom and gloom.
SBBA's recent employment of Alan Edmond as its Development Officer is a big step in the right direction to tackling the issue. Alan has already been working with people in the locality to establish junior bands and to develop ones already in existence. SBBA will make announcements in the near future about initiatives planned, and how bands can directly tackle player shortages.
Nevertheless, this year marks a low point in Scotland, and one sincerely hopes that there won't be a repeat of withdrawals from the regional championships in the future.
So, what of the bands competing in this year's championship section? Well, we can't see past the big three of Whitburn, Scottish Co-op and Kirkintilloch. All three were placed in the top ten at last year's British Open, so it will be difficult for the rest of the bands to challenge them for a qualification spot.
The championship section choice, Isaiah 40 by Robert Redhead, was last used at the National Finals in the Royal Albert Hall in 1996. The Scottish Co-op won that day, becoming the National Champions for the second time. There are few players in ‘The Co' who will be playing it again in Dundee, but will they be the winners again?
Behind the central belt contingent, there are some high quality outfits, including Kingdom Brass, Bon-Accord and Dalmellington, who will all be pushing for the top six. Kirkintilloch Kelvin, Unison Kinneil and Broxburn and Livingston will also be hoping for a good show.
No Scottish band has went down to the lower section finals and won in this section since its inception in 1992. However, there are several bands here that could push for that accolade.
'Sinfonietta' - 'The Wayfarer' is the test piece for the competition, which will undoubtedly be close.
Bo'ness and Carriden, Johnstone and Newmilns and Galston should be the leaders of the pack here, but any one of the group behind, consisting of Arbroath Instrumental, Barrhead Burgh, City of Discovery, Clackmannan District, Dunaskin Doon, Bathgate and Lochgelly could make that step up into the premier league of Scottish banding.
This year, the second section will once again host the ‘Battle of the Borders', between Selkirk, St Ronan's and Jedforest. Becoming the leading band in this proud and very successful region, often showing Scotland and the rest of the UK how it should be done in innovative banding ideas, is just as much to these players as winning the contest itself.
Dalkeith and Monktonhall, Granite City, Jedforest and Selkirk could all win here, but don't count out Annan, Clydebank, Croy, Shotts, St Ronan's and Kilmarnock and the stars of the third section last year, Tullis Russell. This one will be very tight.
Last year, Tullis Russell, with a little help from a certain Mr Miller and Mr Gourlay, went down to Harrogate and very nearly took home the national title, eventually finishing in 3rd place. Bon Accord Silver "B", Campbeltown, Coalburn Silver, Dunfermline Town, Irvine & Dreghorn, MacTaggarts Scott Loanhead, Newlands Concert, Peebles Burgh, Perthshire Brass, St. Davids Brass, Tayport Instumental and Turriff Silver are the competing bands here looking to repeat Tullis Russell's success.
The Fourth Section of any region can be a good marker of how healthy its banding scene is. In Scotland, there are only six bands competing, down from seven last year and ten the year before, so it must cause a little concern.
Philip Wilby's The Seasons will challenge Brass Sounds Inverclyde, Buckhaven & Methil, Dundee Instrumental (St. Margaret's), Penicuik Silver, Queensferry Community Brass and Renfrew Burgh. Penicuik will be conducted by French horn legend Terry Johns, which will make it interesting listening, while Buckhaven and Renfrew will be favorites.
Scotland continues to be a progressive and responsive organisation and has realistic aims and ambitions for the future. The contest here is very well organised and run and there is a sense that even though this year there may be a few difficulties, the future is looking very bright. It starts here.