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2004 Scottish Regional Championships - Retrospective

First Section
Saturday 14th March

Test Piece: Coventry Variations – Bramwell Tovey
David Read and Alan Morrison

Sunday’s contest started with the First Section and it turned out to be the close affair we predicted beforehand. Once again the pre-match favourites lived up to their billing and it’s an immediate return to the Championship Section for Newtongrange.

Kirkintilloch Kelvin had the misfortune to draw number one, but this turned out to be a contest where an early draw was no disadvantage whatsoever. They made a secure start despite some intonation problems, but there was lots of detail. We would have liked a little less edge on the overall band sound and more dynamic range, but the soloists coped well and the soprano was excellent. Some overblowing near the end caused us to lose some of the detail but overall this was a good opener. We had them around 5th or 6th in the end but the David Read and Alan Morrison liked it a lot and gave them 3rd.

Last year’s second section runners-up Arbroath Instrumental and Mike Robertson were next up and they gave us lots of detail from the opening. It was full of life and the ensemble was very tight. They had a couple of very minor problems in the slow solos, but it was still a very good movement for them. The soprano solo was excellent but the euphonium, who played with great expression and a lovely sound, was the star player for us today. They gave us a very well controlled ending to an excellent performance, which the judges liked enough to place them 4th. They could have finished even higher for us, but perhaps a bit more sound would have served them well.

The other promoted band, Newmilns & Galston, played number 3 under their conductor Craig Anderson. They opened steadily with a very bright sound and it was pretty accurate stuff, we would have liked a bit more attention to dynamics though. The slow movement went well and the cornet/trombone duet had the slightest of slips. The soprano player was the star for us but was well supported by other good soloists around the band. We would have liked a bit more bass sound but we thought the end was pretty good, if slightly imbalanced in places. 2nd place from the judges, which we thought was just a touch higher than they deserved on the day, although it was a very good reading from the conductor.

So to the favourites, Newtongrange and Keith Wilkinson. Immediately we heard a full balanced sound and there was precision around the band. The 6/4 section was pretty slick but we heard excellent work throughout. In the slow section, the soloists all coped well, only a minor blip in the soprano part detracted from the overall picture, but the flugel was truly outstanding for us. We heard a good bass section towards the end and it all built to a terrific climax, despite the hiccup on the 2nd last note of the piece. 1st place from the judges and not much argument from anyone.

So four bands played and the four prizes have already been decided. Game over? Well not quite. There were still a few good ones to come that could easily have sneaked in to the frame on a different day.

It wasn’t to be for Granite City though. One of our pre-contest tips under the guidance of David James didn’t make the best of starts, with intonation causing them real problems from the opening. The full band sound was pretty healthy though and we heard some neat ensemble playing. The slow section was pretty safe from the soloists but the accompaniments were on the muddy side. The solo horn had a good day and was the star player for us. The music needed to flow a bit more though and much of the detail was lost towards the end as the ensemble got a bit messy again. Not a great showing from a band that is capable of much better. 7th place from the real judges and we weren’t arguing.

Clackmannan and the legendary Jim Davies played number 6. A good start and lots of detail followed, if a little on the bright and hard side soundwise. The cornet section and flugel did very well in the slow section and this was a good movement overall. More good cornet playing followed from their star on the day and the most minor of blips from the euphonium took little away from the overall quality. We heard a spirited and exciting close to a performance that we liked so much of. We had them a couple of places higher than the 6th place that they actually got.

We were way off the mark with Johnstone and Gavin Lindsay. We tipped them to finish 2nd and on the day we placed them 3rd, but unfortunately for them we weren’t adjudicating and they finished in 8th place. Good sounds from the opening immediately caught our ear and the following section, although pretty quick, was well handled. The slow section proved slightly problematic for them, with the soprano getting into difficulty with the high notes, although recovering well later. Other soloists did well though and we were very impressed by the bass sound throughout the piece. An impressive ending to a pretty strong, if slightly fragile performance followed. Not their lucky day at all.

John Boax’s Dunaskin Doon played 2nd last and although they started well, some intonation problems took away from the overall quality. They had a good dynamic range though and the detail was in evidence. In the slow section the horns were a bit untidy but the flugel and solo cornet were excellent. Good soprano and excellent euphonium playing followed but we would have liked a bit more space for the music. We heard a tidy ending but more sound would have made a big difference for them. 5th from us and from the men that matter.

Tayport Instrumental started deliberately and it continued very steadily. The band sounded a bit top heavy for us with the basses a bit on the weak side. The slow section was indeed very slow but they coped pretty well with its difficulties. Solo cornet was excellent but again we could have used more bass sound. Soprano and euphonium did well and it built to a spirited if slightly tired ending. 9th place was about right for us on the day.

So, Newtongrange celebrated a fine victory and Newmilns & Galston will be joining them in the top section next year. They are both pretty good bands with the potential to do well in Harrogate. We expect Newtongrange to re-establish themselves as contenders in the championship section before too long and Newmilns have an excellent conductor and a number of very good players around the stand that should be strong enough to make an impact over the next few years.

Our pre-match prediction was slightly less successful than in the championship section, with Johnstone and Granite City failing to reach our expectations, but 4 out of the top 6 isn’t a bad effort by our meagre standards.

© 4BarsRest

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