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2004 Scottish Regional Championships - Retrospective

Second Section:
14th March

Test Piece: Kaleidoscope – Philip Sparke
Adjudicator: Andrew Duncan and Richard Evans

The first contest of the weekend and one that set the tone for the whole event, with pre-contest favourites Barrhead Burgh and Brian Keachie doing everything required to make a quick return to the First Section.

It was Dalkeith & Monktonhall Colliery that had the honour of opening the contest and a fairly good start it was. Iain Davey’s band opened very securely, although would have liked a bit more space in the theme and they did have a few intonation problems in the early variations. The tempos were well managed once it got going though and but for a couple of minor moments, it was all pretty secure. A healthy sounding ending was lacking only in a little detail, but it was a good marker for us. 4th from the judges was a fair return for them. Star player – Solo Euphonium.

Annan Town had a well-controlled opening although a bit more dynamic contrast would have added an extra dimension to their performance. The tempos were pretty steady throughout but some of the rhythms lacked accuracy. Soloists were a bit on edge in Variation 2 but sounded pretty settled later in the piece. A strong ending followed but again the dynamic contrast was lacking. The judges placed them 7th, which was just a couple of places higher than we had them. Star player – Solo cornet.

We tipped Croy for a top 6 place and they finished 5th, which was slightly unfortunate for them as there was so much to commend their performance from a musical point of view. Chris Bradley’s band had a nice opening and the shape of the music was well thought out throughout. Ensemble was pretty tight too, but there were a couple of shaky moments for their soloists in Variation 2. The Scherzo was just in the right style for us but the major criticism was the lack of overall band sound in the louder passages. Good euphonium and soprano playing followed and there was good detail towards the end. The balance was always good too despite the lack of a really big sound. Star player – Solo Euphonium.

Renfrew Burgh have been quite consistent in recent years but they would be slightly disappointed with this performance, despite being one of the strongest sounding bands in the contest. They did open quite well and the back row cornets did very well in the theme, but there were tuning problems in the early variations and a number of slips started creeping in. The end sounded a bit tired despite some good detailed playing. 11th place was a bit harsh for us but they know they can do better. Star player – Solo horn

Clydebank Burgh continued the run of good openings to the piece, but intonation wasn’t always good and we were concerned about the rhythms in the 1st Variation, despite the steady tempo. The slow playing was quite secure if just lacking in a bit of expression, but the soloists were all on form. The steady tempo throughout the piece possibly detracted from the overall impact of the performance and it sounded laboured at times. 12th from Messrs Duncan and Evans was possibly lower than we expected, but it wasn’t going to be a contender. Star player – Flugel.

Selkirk Silver opened confidently but immediately we were aware of intonation and balance problems. Once it got going though it was energetic stuff and we did hear plenty of detail. Variation 2 had some messy moments but they recovered well in the scherzo. Towards the end it did get a bit messy again but the band did sound pretty strong in the climax. Musically the piece was well handled by the conductor and most of the band, but intonation was a problem for them. 10th from the judges wasn’t far away from where we had them. Star players – Back row cornets.

Our tip for a top-3 finish, Lochgelly and Raymond Tennant, opened like they meant business with a healthy well-balanced sound. Slightly more space for the theme would have served them well but it was still very well played. The opening of Variation 1 was calamitous for them and chaos ruled for a few bars. They did recover well but this had really damaged their prospects. Good solo cornet and soprano playing followed and stylistically it was very good overall. The finale was really tidy from the full ensemble and there was plenty of excitement being generated. We wondered if they might have done enough to recover from the early disaster but 6th place from the judges was understandable. There was so much to admire about their playing though. Star player – Soprano.

St. Ronan’s were another of our pre-match favourites and they didn’t let us down. Another good opening and we could hear a good band sound, just a slight hint of poor intonation. We lost some of the detail in the middle of the band once it got going but the tempo was well chosen by the conductor. The solo cornet player sounded very tasty and he was supported by a strong section. Some of the ensemble became slightly messy in Variation 4 and we lost detail in Variation 5. Some more sound from the middle of the band would have served them well, but perhaps this was more apparent because of the strength of sound in the cornets. A good show though and 3rd was about right for us. Star player – Solo cornet.

One that we failed to forecast in the prizes was Kilmarnock and that was a big mistake. From the start they sounded impressive and we heard real dynamic contrast for the first time. Good tempos throughout the piece gave the music breathing space but generated excitement where required. A couple of slips in Variation 2 took a little away but generally the soloists were very good. They really went for it in the last variation, but in spite of some tiredness and intonation problems, it was still a good end to a fine performance. Leaders at this stage for us and their eventual 2nd place was well deserved. Star player – Solo Euphonium.

Shotts St. Patrick’s had to endure some difficult circumstances in the build up to the contest and these resulted in them requiring to recruit 2 players from the previous band. They had a healthy sound to open but dynamics and intonation were an obvious problem from the outset. They set a good tempo in Variation 1 but there was some rushing within the tempo. A bit more space in the slow movement would have allowed them to show their soloists to more advantage. There were nice sounds throughout the band though and the trombone section was excellent. They gave a spirited ending, but we lost detail again and dynamic contrast was still lacking. 9th from the judges was about right for us. Star player – Solo trombone.

City of Discovery Brass were considerably under full strength. The 22 players that they did have did very well although balance was a major problem for them. The basics of ensemble and intonation were generally good and most soloists handled the difficulties in the piece. The tempos were very steady though and this combined with the lack of overall sound combined to make it slightly dull overall. We heard good detail in the cornet section, especially in the last movement, but despite many good individuals in the band, they were always going to find it difficult as a unit. 8th from the judges was towards the high end of our expectations. Star player – Bass Trombone.

Our pre-match favourite was drawn last. Barrhead Burgh conducted by Brian Keachie (who’s brother Andrew conducts runners-up, Kilmarnock) demonstrated an impressive sound from the start, with good balance and no sign of the intonation problems that had blighted so many of the other performances. Variation 1 was very tight and well controlled and we heard good work from all the soloists in the middle movements. Clarity was the main feature of so much of this performance and it was in the final variation that they really showed their superiority. It was well sustained to finish too and there wasn’t much doubt for us that this was the winner. Andy Duncan and Dick Evans shared our opinion. Star player – Solo Euphonium.

A fine victory for Barrhead. Both them and Kilmarnock will have a good chance of success in the finals and with the strength of sound that they have, they should be able to establish themselves well in the 1st section.

How did we do? Well once again we forecast the winners and got 4 of the top 6. We were well off the mark with Kilmarnock beforehand but it still wasn’t a bad effort by our standards.

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