2005 Scottish Open Brass Band Championships - Introduction and Predictions


The Scottish Open is one of the best organised brass band contests in the UK, but it is still facing an uncertain future. Can the 2005 version bring in the crowds for what is on paper a cracking event?

2005 Scottish Open Championships
Royal Concert Hall

The draw for the Scottish Open contest will take place at 8:30am.

Contest Times (approx)
Concert Hall:
9:00am - Scottish Challenge Shield
11:00am - Scottish Open
6:45pm - Results of all sections
Strathclyde Suite:
10:00am - Scottish Challenge Cup
Scottish Youth Band Championships:
1:30pm - Community
2:20pm - Development
3:30pm - Premier


If ever there was a brass band contest that deserved to be an over whelming success then it is the Scottish Open.  However, if ever there was a brass band contest that needed to be an over whelming success, then it is the Scottish Open too.

Now in its third year, its President Alan McLaren hailed the Scottish Open at its inception in 2003 as; ‘…the most exciting brass band event in Scotland for many years, and that is certainly no exaggeration'.  With a prize fund of seven thousand pounds, some excellent behind the scenes organisation, a glossy programme full of adverts, a popular test piece and 15 top class bands from around the UK, it certainly looked the part. The problem was that it had as much crowd appeal to the Scottish banding public as Margaret Thatcher had when she was once guest of honour at the Scottish FA Cup Final.

It was a huge shock to the system to see less than 30 people in the superb Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to listen to Besses o'th' Barn give the inaugural performance, and more of a shock when by halfway through the day the numbers never rose above a pathetic sprinkling of bums on seats in the 2400 seat auditorium. Due to that excellent organisation, the event lost little or no goodwill from the competing bands, but it did still lose a fair amount of cash.

The 2004 event saw some tweaking going on to get more people to come and listen, but this time a greater amount of goodwill was lost from the bands with the fiasco over the prize money pot, which had been reduced to a single first prize of three grand, with nothing on offer for the other prize winners. Bands like to get something for their trouble, even if it does little more than help pay the cost of the band coach, and this rather stuck in their throats to such an extent that a rather hasty decision to split the prize between the bands coming first and second was arranged. 

The event though was much better attended by the general banding public and the closer link to the other contests on the day at the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships gave it all a much more cohesive and vibrant feel, although the Gala Concert still felt like a luxury addition. Alan McLaren said in his address in the programme; ‘…the Scottish Open has almost immediately become established as one of the premier brass band contests in the UK". Note that he said ‘almost'.

2005 therefore sees the Scottish Open at a real crossroads – and at the Scottish Brass Band Association's recent AGM, Alan McLaren pointed this out most forcibly. There he expressed the hope that the new format for the Scottish Open would prove to be successful, as the event he said, whilst being a great addition to the brass band calendar, continues to struggle financially. It was acknowledged that this cannot be allowed to continue and that this years contest truly was a watershed for the event.

That is some crossroad.

That has meant that the Gala Concert has been axed – a sensible decision, and the contest day has been made more inclusive with the introduction of two lower section contests in the form of a Scottish Challenge Shield and Scottish Challenge Cup, whilst the Youth Championships continue as before (two excellent decisions).

This should give the event a much more forceful presence and identity, although we are concerned that for the Scottish Open itself the decision to make it an ‘Own Choice' contest has been made. Perhaps the organisers believe that such a decision will attract more listeners, but unless the public know what each of the bands are going to play in advance, it becomes rather pointless. People will take the time to listen to the best bands because they are the best bands regardless of what they are playing, but they won't take the opportunity to listen to the others ‘blind,' in the hope they will be playing a test piece they enjoy.

A little more thought was needed on this one. What criteria will the judges be using for instance if one band opts for ‘Music of the Spheres' and another for ‘Three Figures' and how do they evaluate between a superb performance of ‘Resurgum' (if any would be that brave) and a very good performance of ‘Concerto Grosso'?

At this level, it makes for a rather uneven playing field – not unfair mind you, but still a little sloping in favour of those who opt for the big and powerful crowd pleasers.

That said, it is nice to report that the judges have been well chosen in the form of David Horsfield and Richard Evans - both have strong opinions for certain and both know their musical onions. A little more care and attention to the quiet stuff may well prove beneficial on the day if the bands are to impress these two gents.

The line up this year sees a battle between Scotland and England (unfortunately the Welsh have not made the trip North this year), but there is plenty of quality as well as intrigue to spice the contest up to attract even the most stereotypical penny pinching Scotsman to part with their money to enjoy the full days entertainment.

The home representation comes in the form of Bon Accord Silver, Bo'ness and Carriden, Johnstone Silver, Kingdom Brass, Kirkintilloch, Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass, Newtongrange Silver, Scottish Co-op, Unison Kinneil and Whitburn, whilst the Sassenachs come with a raiding party of Besses o' th' Barn, Carlton Main Frickley, Dobcross, Fishburn, Freckleton, SWT Woodfalls and Wingates.

Will it be a musical Culloden Moor or Wembley 1977 then?

The heavyweights in the form of the highest ranked 4BR bands of Scottish Co-op, Whitburn, Kirkintilloch and Newtongrange against Carlton Main and Fishburn should make for a fine mix for perhaps the top prize, but you cannot discount any of the others here on the day. It will also be interesting to see the sprinkling of ‘guest' players in some of the ranks. There are a few famous faces to be seen in new uniforms at this contest and from some pretty impressive bands. How will they fare we wonder?

The test pieces the bands have chosen range from the huge such as ‘Concerto Grosso' and ‘Music of the Spheres' to the popular ‘St. Magnus', ‘Montage', ‘Harmony Music', ‘Men and Mountains', ‘The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea', ‘Masquerade' and ‘Blitz' – and that is not all.

It has all the hallmarks of a fine contest and those choices of test pieces could well come see bands go into battle with a heavy Claymoor and battle axe or with a slightly easier to handle sword and dagger? 

Who will win for us then?

On paper it is the Scots who seem to have the slight advantage. Scottish Co-op, Whitburn and Kirkintilloch all have the firepower and the talent in the ranks to literally blow away the opposition on the day, whilst of the English, only perhaps Carlton Main have the big time contest experience to match and beat them, although Wingates are on good form of late and Dobcross and SWT Woodfalls are more than capable of upsetting a few. So too Freckleton – remember last year?

A bit of intelligent test piece selection could pay dividends.

Still, for us its going to be a very close run thing between those two great rivals Whitburn and Scottish Co-op for us, with Scottish Co-op just having the edge come results time. Kirkintilloch should challenge very closely indeed, as should Carlton Main and the top three podium places should be taken by a combination of these four – possibly in any order.

As for the other top six places? Up for grabs perhaps, but Wingates and Fishburn may fancy their chances after their fine performances at Pontins, whilst Dobcross, Newtongrange, Kingdom, Unison Kinneil and SWT Woodfalls cannot be discounted either.

Still, we plumb for Wingates and Newtongrange to fill the other places with ou dark horse being Fishburn.

Still, what do the Welsh know eh?

Anyway, 4BR will be there on the day to bring our live coverage of the event and we will have the added bonus of producing our second 4BR Podcast as well, which will contain interviews, opinions and analysis from just about anyone we can lay our hands on. Should be worth waiting for then!

4BR Prediction:
1. Scottish Co-op
2. Whitburn
3. Kirkintilloch
4. Carlton Main Frickley
5. Wingates
6. Newtongrange

Dark Horse: Fishburn

Scottish Challenge Shield:

Just the five bands will take part in the inaugural Scottish Challenge Shield Contest which will be adjudicated by Nigel Boddice and Bryan Allen.

Just like the main Scottish Open, it will be an own choice contest starting at 9.00am in the same hall, so it should provide an interesting aperitif for what is to come.

The bands involved are: Clackmannan District, Dalmellington, Dunaskin Doon, Granite City Brass and Lochgelly

Scottish Challenge Cup:

The third tier contest of the weekend comes in the form of the Scottish Challenge Cup which has attracted a healthy representation of 10 bands who will try and impress the judges Alan Hope and Steve Pritchard Jones with their own choice selections.

The competing bands are: Bon Accord B; Campbeltown Brass; City of Discovery; Coalburn Silver; Dalkeith and Monktonhall Colliery; Dunfermline Town; Jedforest Instrumental; MacTaggart Scott Loanhead; Newland Concert Brass and Tullis Russell Mills.

Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships:

This vibrant event takes place at the Strathclyde Suite at 1.45pm in three main sections which will be adjudicated by David James and Charles Keenan.

The Community Section sees Queensferry High School and Auchinleck Academy battle it out, whilst the Development Section has a trio of entrants in the shape of Campbeltown Junior Brass, Jedforest Juniors and Loanhead Brass Roots.

The Premier Section sees Aberdeen City Youth Band, Dalmellington Junior Band, Moray Concert Brass and West Lothian Schools lock musical horns.. 


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