2006 Scottish Open Brass Band Championships - Youth Championships retrospective


The Scottish banding future is in safe hands it seems after some superb performances in the Youth championships. John James was on hand to enjoy it all.

The Strathclyde Suite was taken over in the afternoon with the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships, and it was an absolute delight. Scottish bandning has a brilliant future, if, and it is a big if, they can somehow hold onto these players as they pass from teenagers to adulthood. The talent is amazing.

Adjudicators, David Childs (nice to see the Scots going for someone the kids know and look up to) and Alaistair Orr must have had a wonderfultime too and it was no surprise that Alaistair said that there was something to admire in each and every performance in the three sections. He wasn't wrong. The overall musical picture was first class he said. Quite right too.

Community Section:

The contest opened with a performance in the Community Section (up to 18yrs) with a concert programme by Queensferry High School conducted by Gareth Ross.

Happy little community: Queensferry take the title home with them

Opening with the march favourite ‘Death or Glory' that certainly got feet tapping they moved on quickly with euphonium soloist Scott Findlater who gave a quite scholarly performance of the traditional ‘Grandfather's Clock'.

The music of Andrew Lloyd-Weber secured a warm a lyrical sound with a theme from one of the longest running show's in London's West End, ‘Phantom of the Opera' and the feature, ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again'.

With the high profile James Bond film ‘Casino Royale' hitting British cinema screens at present, music from the pen of Darrol Barry with his ‘Best of Bond' medley was certainly in vogue as the band rounded out the session with a very accomplished account that drew a cheery and enthusiastic reception from the audience.

Development Section:

Campbletown Junior Band
conducted by Katrina Barr led the contest off in the Development Section (up to 16yrs). With own choice programmes not exceeding 15 minutes playing time the potential to showcase the lighter side of the musical talents was certainly to the fore. They captured the runners-up place and a gold award.

Runners up
Runners Up: Campbeltown take second spot after a gold performance

Opening in upbeat style ‘Disco Mania' opened the set in which the percussion section certainly supported the balanced and rhythmic sounds from across the stage.

The relaxed and confident sounds continued as the band looked to the movies for their next selection ‘Kids at the Movies'. With music from ‘Finding Nemo', the haunting theme from the Kevin Costner story of soldier John Dunbar in ‘Dances with Wolves' and the comedy talents of Whoopi Goldberg with ‘I Will Follow Him' from ‘Sister Act', which once more gave the opportunity for the band to relax and get the audience tapping their shoe leather.

‘Sky', the 1980s band fronted by guitarist John Williams had major success with ‘Toccatta and Fugue' subsequently rearranged and featured in many Championship band concert programmes and Campbletown chose to feature another work from the pen of this outfit with ‘Carillon'.

The arrangement by Denzil Sevens featured the horn section and was the precursor to their final item that gave 12 year-old Andrew Black, their kit player, chance to win over the adjudicators when he belied his years delivering an accomplished solo in the upbeat Salvation Army arrangement ‘Daniel'.

This fine opening show was only a taster for the excellent programme the followed it on stage with Loanhead Brass Roots with the well respected band figure Alan Fernie at the helm, who collected a silver award.

He looked to showcase the breadth of ability he had in his charges with  ‘Crazy Music', a two-piece work featuring a slow section inspired by J.S. Bach and the more upbeat theme giving the work its name. They didn't disappoint. Standing to take his solo opening, flugel soloist Callum Edmond, with lovely warm tone introduced Peter Meechan's ‘Hymn for Africa' and the band followed with warm mellow ensemble sounds and impressive percussion support.

The unmistakable sounds of ABBA took centre stage in a medley including ‘Super Trouper', ‘The Winner Takes it All', and ‘Thank You for the Music'. This work rounded out the programme and the hall, now completely full, cheered the band to the rafters.

The section reached its half-way stage with the conclusion of the very enthusiastically received Aberdeen City Intermediate Band led by Alan McDonald who were making their debut at this Championships and were awarded a bronze award to take home.

‘Prelude' from ‘Little Suite No 1' opened their programme with a flourish. This music had particular significance not only given the death of this famous composer on the 23rd September 2006 but also given that it received its premiere in 1963 in Aberdeen, the bands home town.

‘Three Renaissance Dances' was given very effective treatment by the band. Much of the work was ensemble in composition by Bruce Fraser and the band used the warm and full tone developed by their MD very much to their advantage in this work and in particular the tom-tom percussion accompaniment worked with much credit in the outer movements.

Hymn tune playing is a staple of band sound tone and development and the pen of Alan Fernie provided the band with a solid platform to showcase their sound with the hymn ‘St. Anne' and the gospel ‘Joshua fought the battle of Jericho'.

Decathlete Daley Thompson is said to have taken inspiration and psyched himself up using the Rocky themes and the band here achieved the same for themselves playing ‘Eye of the Tiger', the ‘Survivor' song used in the film ‘Rocky III'.

With a thumbs up from adjudicators Abbey Brass (Jedforest) Juniors with Cameron Mabon conducting gave the ‘Dr.Who' TV theme the full treatment complete with accompanying electronic introduction. The trombone section featured heavily in a most interesting and well described arrangement that set out their stall to win a silver award.
The release of the new album 'Love', a re-working of the Beatles music by their producer George Martin has brought the music of Lennon and McCartney right back into the public eye, and the ‘Magic of the Beatles' arrangement featuring a host of melodies including ‘Norwegian Wood' that gave them ample opportunity to showcase their lyrical side, whilst ‘Sergeant Pepper' and ‘Get Back' gave them the playing field to achieve music with real swing.

Whilst ‘Viennese Nights' was being showcased in the Championship Section, likewise his ‘Turkish Rondo' theme that features in that work was also given a most accomplished performance by their tuned percussion player, xylophonist, Allie Young.

She also took a significant part, this time on kit, in the final arrangement by MD Cameron Mabon who looked to Robbie Williams in his working of ‘She's the One'. That showcased Patrik Fraser on euphonium, before unleashing the full forces of band and percussion in a rousing interpretation featuring a ripper of a soprano cornet solo from Douglas McGovern with ‘Let Me Entertain You' also from the Robbie Williams songbook.

The contest was developing as real showcase of talent and the Dalmellington Junior Band with Ian Taylor were equally on top form taking the winners gold award.

Winning smiles: Dalmellington Juniors take the top award

With an ensemble sound of quite mature sound and tone they delivered a most convincing march with a real swagger in ‘Walkabout' by Ray Woodfield.

In compete contrast the MD next looked to his principal cornet Lindsay Roxborough who gave a delicate and nicely controlled cornet solo with the Chopin melody transcribed as ‘So Deep Is The Night'. ‘The Impessario' is real old pot-boiler and has featured in as many band concerts over the years as you care to mention. No less impressive even today when played with control and an equal spirit when called upon and this was present in dollops in this performance.

The ‘Gladiators', spandex suits and sponge battle clubs may not feature on Saturday Night TV at the moment but that did not deter the Dalmellington Junior Band from powering through the ‘Europe' rock classic to conclude a programme of tremendous quality and diversity.

The final band in the section and taking a bronze award was the Langholm Junior Band under the guidance of David C. Calvert.

A relatively smaller brass ensemble than many in the section this was a balanced 16 piece band that opened and gave film theme ‘The Great Escape' a direct and controlled performance that was warmly received.

Whether we will ever see Emma Bunton glide around the floor to a traditional waltz on Strictly Come Dancing is unlikely as Langholm Junior looked deep into their library for their next piece the most traditional waltz ‘Inspiration'.

They enjoyed obviously enjoyed themselves in performance in delivering a simple but fun interpretations of theme from ‘The Muppet Show' followed by ‘Crazy Music' that concluded their set.

Premier Section:

With the clock ticking round to 5.30pm the Premier Section started in which they were asked to deliver an own choice programme not exceeding 25 minutes playing time.

Three bands contested this section of which the first and taking the runners-up gold award was Aberdeen City Youth Band directed by Eric Kidd.

Once the adjudicators, who needed to take a little time to pull together their paperwork from the preceding section, gave the green light, Aberdeen Youth wasted little time in getting into their first piece, the electric march, ‘The Melody Shop'.

This was controlled, balanced and in possession of technical forces that set the scene for a contest that had the potential to be truly inspirational.

Turning to the soprano cornet ‘Flowerdale' from the Hymn of Highlands that so beautifully describes in musical tones the scenery of the West Coast Scotland, saw soloist Emma Nichol, despite just the odd few slips along the way, deliver a decent show.

Not many percussionists don't know the acute embarrassment caused when the kitchen sink decides to take on a life of its own and crash around your ears. Just such an occasion befell the percussionist for Aberdeen just before they were expected to and quite seriously did deliver a riveting performance of the Goff Richards piece ‘Rock Music 1'. Highlighted with some classy semi-quaver drum patterns and forthright brass sounds they were all that the MD could ask of his band.

Principal Euphonium Richard Kidd then took centre stage and delivered an electrifying interpretation of ‘Valflickans Dans'. His reputation as a maturing and classy technician was re-stated in this great performance. ‘Bacchanale' from ‘Samson and Delilah' arranged by Keith Wilkinson was used to showcase the talents of the band to their full. The full dynamic forces of the band were used to conjure an atmospheric scene of abandon and revelry in a sparkling interpretation.

Solid and polished, best describes the gold award winning powerful performance that Nigel Boddice brought from the West Lothian Schools Band.

Leading the way: West Lothian takes the premier award

In the ‘Eye of the Tiger' the sections standing in turn to showcase their themes and this was a class presentation that even managed to inject electronic disco sounds to compliment the whole.

Susannah Downs described the melody ‘Share My Yoke' with simple directness and control to the sympathetic accompaniment the band so nicely afforded. Not without a couple of slips they didn't detract from a nice overall performance.

The ‘Soul Bossa Nova' the Austin Powers' film theme complete with choreographed stage gestures had a maturity in sound that was gifted. The tone and technical scope of flugel soloist Karla MacPherson was deservedly singled out - it was jazzy and faultless.

‘Deep Inside the Sacred Temple' was showcased in a euphonium duet by Isla Cameron and Duncan Parkinson. The band took a few bars to settle into the accompanying figures but once the piece began to unfold there was a maturity of presentation that was rewarding.

Kenny Carlisle demonstrated the skills and technical demands required to perform ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee' in spades - all but faultless. Even the mascot in a bee costume moving around the audience took applause. ‘Caravan' the Duke Ellington exotic jazz standard ended the set that featured solo spots all across the band each standing to take centre stage. It was a fitting finish to polished musical set.

With a compliment of players that could have almost filled two stages Moray Concert Brass under Glenn Munro set off in the programme with James Curnow's ‘Fanfare and Flourishes'.

Direct and purposeful it was brightly scoped and enthusiastically delivered. With such a big ensemble it was hard to maintain absolute tuning security but the overall sound picture was held well.

Hans Zimmer has a number penned of number of great film scores including 'Hannibal' and 'Kingdom of Heaven'. His evocative score for the film ‘Backdraft' was given a most effective treatment in this programme that featured a very solid and complimentary snare solo line.

The theme from the US TV show ‘Stanford and Son' has lived on despite having finished its run on the network. The jazz feel that the music commands was caught with a foot-tapping precision that the audience moving in time.

'Holly Dolly' carried the set forward and this had opportunity to showcase principal cornet in a neat bridge and the band all ended up on their feet to a jazz style conclusion.

‘Adventures in Brass' from the pen of Ray Farr gave opportunity for the band to show the full range of musicality within the ranks from rapid syncopation to warm ensemble sounds.

The Moray programme that took a silver award was very much centered around the ensemble whole and as such kept solo lines to those within the chosen arrangements and some tender solo playing especially within the final Goff Richards piece highlighted some of the fine talent within the ranks.

The Strathclyde Suite was home to terrific audiences throughout the day. They gave great receptions to all the competing bands and word must go to Alan McLaren who a consummate professional host who read the programme notes to audience with cool understated delivery.

Youth Contest contests are always an absolute eye opener that never fail to surprise with the standard of soloists and quality of music chosen.

John James


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