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2003 Scottish Open Championship

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Sunday 30th November

The Competing Bands:
4BR casts it beady eye over the 15 bands hoping to become the inaugural Scottish Open Champions this year.... and then we give our usual dodgy prediction.

Although there is no past form to go on at this contest, all the bands taking part have had busy years and so bring some semblance of good or bad form to the contest. All the bands will be more than capable of putting up a quality show on the test piece, although none should underestimate its technical or musical difficulties.

The competing bands this year are:

Besses o’ th’ Barn (Steve Sykes)
Bo’ness and Carriden (Iain Davey)
Broxburn Public (Bruce Wallace)
BTM (David Stowell)
Fishburn (Graham O’Connor)
Freckleton (Paul Dalton)
Hepworth (Mark Bentham)
Kingdom Brass (Archie Hutchison)
Kirkintilloch (Frank Renton)
Newtongrange (David Hirst)
Scottish Co-op (Russell Gray)
Sellers International (Philip McCann)
Tredegar (Richard Evans)
Unison Kinneil (Allan Ramsey)
Whitburn (Andrew Duncan)

Besses o’ th’ Barn (4BR Ranking - 23) has had an up and down 2003. The down was certainly the demotion from the British Open, although they did play very well in coming 12th there under Steve Sykes, whilst the ups have been a series of good solid performances under the new MD since he took over the helm. They didn’t qualify for London this year as they couldn’t repeat the result at Blackpool of 2002 and had to be content with a slightly disappointing 8th place. That was the last time they appeared under Lynda Nicholson, but they showed a glimpse of their quality when they put in a fine account of “Chivalry” at Cambridge where they came 11th and were placed as high as 5th by John Berryman, one of the three judges there on the day. The Open also showed that they have the foundations in the right place, so they should come to Glasgow in confident mood. Plenty of good young players around the stand as well, so they will be keen to round the year off in some style.

Bo’ness and Carriden (4BR Ranking - 70) started the year off in fine style when they came 4th at the Scottish Regional Championships under Iain Davey, their best result there since 1998, and they followed that up with a real solid 5th place at the Senior Trophy – again solid stuff. They were also placed 6th at the Carnegie Contest in May, but since that time they have been a bit quiet on the contesting front. It will be interesting to see how they do against a strong field here.

Broxburn Public (4BR Ranking - 72) started off the year gaining a fine 5th place at the Scottish Regionals, a fine result in their first year back in the top section after winning the First Section in 2002. They didn’t compete in the Grand Shield contests, or Pontins but came 7th at the Carnegie Contest in May and 3rd at the NCBBA Contest in as well. That was a few months ago now, so immediate form is a little unclear, but under Bruce Wallace they have shown they can more than hold their own against strong contenders.

BTM (4BR Ranking - 26) will surely be looking forward to this contest after a year under David Stowell which has seen them push themselves forward once more. Wins at Ebbw Vale and Porthcawl Miners Eisteddfodd against fellow Welsh rivals Tredegar showed that on their day they can really play superbly, and although they could only manage 7th at the Senior Cup and 11th at Pontins recently they only missed out on a trip to London for the Nationals by a point earlier in the year. A very busy and talented young band, they have shown they can rise to the occasion and could well make a serious mark here.

Fishburn (4BR Ranking - 31) will be directed by that man of many talents, Graham O’Connor who just has that happy knack of knowing what it takes to win contests at just about every level, anywhere in the UK. They started the year off in fine style winning one of the local North East contests against their rivals, but missed out on the trip to London after coming third behind both Ever Ready and EYMS at the North of England Regional Championships. After that though they showed super form in just missing out on a trip to Birmingham when they came 4th at the Grand Shield, whilst at the recent Pontins Championships they again showed plenty of class in coming 3rd. Confidence is high then for that form to continue north of the Border this weekend.

Freckleton (4BR Ranking - 41) come to the contest after winning the Feetwood contest in early October but then coming a disappointing 21st and last at Pontins just a few weeks ago. Under Paul Dalton they have continued to make good solid progress in the Championship Section, but just lack that consistency it seems at the moment. They started the year by coming 7th at the difficult North West Regional Championships, but fell away somewhat in the Grand Shield where they could only manage 19th place, so as you can see it has been something of an up and down year to say the least. They will however be looking to repeat the form of Fleetwood again and will be on the look out to come in the prizes.

Hepworth (4BR Ranking - 49) are in very good form at the moment after just missing out on claiming the top prize at Pontins under Mark Bentham. That really was a super show that had the judges scratching their heads before just deciding against them. They have plenty of fine players around the stand who could really shine on this test piece, and so they could well prove to be a good bet to do really well. Earlier this year they came 11th at the Yorkshire Regional Championships, before moving on to claim 3rd place at the Senior Cup and gain further promotion to the Grand Shield for 2004. It could be that they are hitting their best form just at the right time.

Kingdom Brass (4BR Ranking - 45) has travelled far and wide for contests this year. Under Archie Hucthison they came 7th at the European Open Championships in Switzerland, whilst earlier in the year they came 7th once more at the Regional Championships, a fall of three places on the previous two years there. They also travelled south to Blackpool for the Senior Cup where they came 13th and also came 3rd at the Carnegie Contest. A busy contesting band then and one that will be looking for another solid outing here.

Kirkintilloch (4BR Ranking - 12) and Frank Renton will surely come to the Scottish Open as one of the favourites to take the title. 2003 has been a good year indeed with further evidence that they are now fast approaching consistent top ten levels at the major contests. Earlier this year they came runners up at the Scottish Regional Championships behind Scottish Co-op, whilst they went onto the European Championships where they played very well indeed in coming 8th (it could have been higher). The Open saw them come 11th with another fine account whilst at the Nationals they could count themselves a tad unlucky not to be placed higher than 8th. On both occasions they gave thrillingly musical performances, just troubled by a few too many slips, and after another enjoyable days work at the recent Spennymoor Brass in Concert Contest, they will be more than confident of doing well here and possibly lifting the inaugural title. With Frank Renton at the helm, and with his knowledge of this particular score, do not bet against them.

Newtongrange (4BR Ranking - 51) will be conducted here by the experienced David Hirst after making the decision not to take the long journey South to Skegness and the Mineworkers Championships (who can blame them?). They started the year disappointedly by losing their Championship status for 2004 when they came 9th at the Scottish Regional Championships, but under Anthony Swainson they showed a lot of character when they travelled to Blackpool and came 9th at the Senior Cup. They also showed further good form when coming second to Unison Kinneil at the Carnegie Contest in May, so even though they may be ranked below many of the others here they could well spring a surprise or two.

Scottish Co-op (4BR Ranking - 14) are a band on the up, and 2003 has shown that the once all conquering Scottish Champions are fast approaching that form once more. They took the Scottish Regional Championship in some considerable style (and by four clear points), whilst they bounced straight back to the British Open under Nicholas Childs when they came runners up at the Grand Shield behind Carlton Main. The British Open saw the band turn to the services of James Scott and they produced a solid showing in coming 13th, whilst under the same direction they gave an excellent account of themselves at London and could count themselves a touch unlucky to have only come 9th. They didn’t quite so as well as expected at Spennymoor, but they did showcase some exceptional solo talent in the form of Alexandra Kerwin on soprano. With plenty more talented players around the stand, this could be a piece that suites them well and a very strong challenge for the title under Russell Gray musical direction is very much on the cards.

Sellers International (4BR Ranking - 13) are another band that make the journey north of the border with high expectations of doing very well here – especially as it is on home ground for the MD Phillip McCann. Just a couple of weeks ago they produced a stunning bit of playing in coming runners up at the Spennymoor Brass in Concert Contest against a very strong field. All year at the big events they have been playing well with perhaps lady luck not being too kind on them. They were 3rd at the Yorkshire Regional Championships and 6th at the All England Masters, but fell away to 10th at the Grand Shield just when they needed that bit of extra good fortune. Still, Spennymoor showed their true talent, and with fine players around the stands and a very determined MD they could well feature highly here as well.

Tredegar (4BR Ranking - 7) are directed here by Richard Evans, and come to the contest on the back of a superb runners up spot at the National Championships in London when many people in audience had them down to be the winners. On that day Steve Bastable took them, but for this contest they return to Richard Evans to direct their assault. Earlier in the year they were comfortable runners up to BAYV Cory at the Welsh Regional Championships, but suffered some poor local results at both Ebbw Vale and Porthcawl which may have dented the confidence. The Open saw them come under the direction of Russell Gray where they came a very solid 9th place before the heroics of the Albert Hall and their second runners up placing at the contest in the past ten years. They have lost their top man back to Hepworth since then, but they should have enough confidence about them to put up a very strong challenge here and end their year on another high note.

Unison Kinneil (4BR Ranking - 29) have been quietly going about their impressive business in recent contests under the fine direction of the talented Allan Ramsey, and the rumour mill has it that they could be a band to listen out for here as well, what with a couple of “guests” with impressive CV’S helping out from Black Dyke. They came third at the Scottish Regional Championships, the best result since 2000 at the contest, whilst they fell away somewhat when they came 10th at the Senior Trophy. They were impressive winners at the Carnegie Contest, so they have the taste of victory on home soil this year. Although both Ben Rapp and David Thornton will help, they still have enough quality to more than make a mark. Well worth listening out for.

Finally, Whitburn (4BR Ranking - 8) will be very keen to show that their magnificent runners up spot at the British Open this year was not a fantastic “one off”. Under Andy Duncan they have really gelled into a very fine band, with super solo players such as Gordon Jenkins, the British Open “Best Instrumentalist” on soprano and other fine players dotted around the stands. The MD is a class act as well, so they will be one of the bands to beat for sure. 2003 started off very disappointingly with 6th place at the Scottish Regional Championships before they regrouped under their new MD to deliver a superb performance in Birmingham. Apart from a local entertainment contest win over Kirkintilloch later in the year they have been quietly preparing for this contest it seems and the chance to lay down their marker as the best band in Scotland – and beyond. Their 4BR ranking is an accurate reflection its seems of how good they are. They will be going out to prove it on Sunday.

4BR Prediction:

So who is it going to be then? On form it could well be any one of four or five bands – quite a few of these contenders have had a very good last few months, and on their day just about any one of the 15 bands could produce an outstanding performance to leave the others in their wake.

The test piece is a generous work – it rewards both technical and musical proficiency, and although it has been used at many contests since it first appeared a decade ago, to be honest only the very best bands can really produce a truly thrilling account of it. Many of the bands here have the talent to do it justice, but don’t be surprised if the test piece takes more than a few casualties on the way.

We think there are a group of six bands that just have the edge on the rest, both in terms of experience and quality around and in front of the stand and so we see it as a good old scrap between some quality outfits in the shape of Scottish Co-op, Sellers International, Tredegar, Whitburn, Kirkintilloch and Hepworth. It could well come down to personal preference from the three men in the box – all have strong views on what they like and dislike, but we think the eventual winners should come from this group if they play to form.

We will stick our necks out though and go for Kirkintilloch for the title – Frank Renton and this band are playing very well of late, and if it all clicks the they could very well put up a stunner to take the title. Whitburn are another very solid outfit and with Andy Duncan they are sure to put up an impressive performance and we think they will push Kirky very close indeed. Sellers International too can really shine on this piece whilst Tredegar are on a high at the moment and with Richard Evans at the helm they too should be up and around there come results time. Scottish Co-op have the soloists to make the most of the piece and an MD who can wring just about every drop of emotion out of the score whilst Hepworth are a band on the up under Mark Bentham and could be serious contenders. Any one of the top six could win and win well, so don’t be surprised to see any permutation of them featuring. Dark horses for us could well be BTM and David Stowell. Don’t discount the any of the others though – this could well prove a very interesting contest indeed.

4BR Results Prediction:

1. Kirkintilloch
2. Whitburn
3. Sellers International
4. Tredegar
5. Scottish Co-op
6. Hepworth

Dark Horse: BTM

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