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2019 Scottish Championships
Previews & Predictions

4BR Editor Iwan Fox looks forward to the battle for Scottish Championship titles in Perth on the weekend.


Perth Concert Hall is a far cry from the original home to the Championships...

The Scots have always enjoyed doing things a little differently. 

Half a century before the Daily Herald newspaper introduced the Area qualifiers, they had already been holding their own Scottish Championship - the first of which in 1895 was attended by over 8,000 people at Edinburgh’s famous Waverley Market.

That proud independent streak has remained ever since, even resulting in the two separate post war ‘Championships’ - one the ‘Scottish’ the other the Area qualifier, which were eventually combined in 1959.  

Cattle market

However, even in its most recent incarnation, and unlike the other seven Areas in the UK set-up, the essential difference is that it has never been referred to as a ‘regional’ event by those north of the border.

There may not be quite as many listeners taking their seats in Perth Concert Hall this weekend as in 1895, although thankfully this wonderful hall is a far cry from the cattle market auctioneer’s ring of old. 

There will however be quite a few more bands - with numbers holding steady over the past few years at around 53 -55 – a small but significant long term growth.  

Add to that the splendid tradition of presenting medals to the players of each Scottish Champion band, and with considerable pride taken in winning the plethora of individual awards and presentations (and a few news ones this year), the event has a vibrant inclusiveness. 

That is also reinforced by the invitation to ensembles to take part in the non-competitive 4b Section and the use of pre-draws to try and benefit band’s travel arrangements.

There may not be quite as many listeners taking their seats in Perth Concert Hall this weekend as in 1895, although thankfully this wonderful hall is a far cry from the cattle market auctioneer’s ring of old. 

Elusive success

Away from Perth, National titles continue to be fairly elusive, despite the long wait for success in Cheltenham ending in 2017 with Newmains victory in the Fourth Section. That said, 2018 resulted in further encouraging signs. 

The Albert Hall representatives were 8th & 12th, whilst both bands in the First Section secured top-six finishes. And although there were lowly returns in the Second and Fourth (where only one band made the trip south) there were performances of note in the Third in coming 4th and 8th. 

The hard work of the Scottish Brass Band Association, led by its indefatigable President Carrie Boax is therefore paying off, with the green shoots of recovery planted over a decade ago now growing from fledgling optimism into sustainable long term maturity.  

Little wonder it is making the type of difference others may do well to copy.

The action starts at 9.30am on Saturday with the Third Section, which is followed by the Second and First. Sunday kicks off at 9.30am with the Fourth Section, followed by the two ensembles playing in the non-competitive 4b Section as a great warm-up for the Championship Section at around 2.00pm.


Whitburn
2018 Champions Whitburn looking to make it another three in a row...

Championship Section:
Test Piece: Seascapes (Ray Steadman-Allen)

Sunday 10th March
Adjudicators: Sheona White & Sarah Groarke-Booth 
Draw: 12.30pm
Commences: 2.00pm at conclusion of Section 4b

Bathgate (Paul Lovatt-Cooper) 
Bon Accord Silver (Stephen Malcolm) 
Bo’ness & Carriden (Lee Skipsey) 
cooperation band (Russell Gray) 
Dalmellington Band (Erik Janssen) 
Dunaskin Doon (Gareth Brindle) 
Johnstone Band (Lynda Nicholson) 
Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Charles Keenan) 
Newtongrange Silver (Andrew Duncan) 
Whitburn (Prof Nicholas Childs) 

As always there is plenty to play for in the Championship Section where Whitburn will look to secure their second hat-trick of wins at the contest (they notched up four between 1980 and 1983) as well as claim the 2020 European Championship invitation to Palanga.

They may have some way still to go to match the great Clydebank Burgh Band that won five titles between 1909 and 1913, but under Prof Nicholas Childs they have won the last two in impressive fashion.  

Despite not hitting the same heights last year as in 2017, Whitburn remains an admirably consistent elite-class outfit.  They will wear the favourites tag with confidence for sure.

Their great rivals, the cooperation band, will be hoping to claim victory for the first time since 2016 - which would give them rare distinction of winning the event under five different identities (Co-operative Funeralcare, Scottish Co-op, CWS Glasgow and Scottish CWS to date)

The band has endured a varied time of it of late, but the welcome support of its new Scotmid Coop partners has given them a huge boost of confidence, whilst Russell Gray has already notched up one ‘Seascapes’ victory with Foden’s. 

It may all come down to a question of interpretation in the box with Sheona White & Sarah Groarke-Booth, with Prof Childs’ take at Huddersfield bold and darkly hued, whilst Russell Gary opted for broadly phrased lyrical refinement in winning at Blackpool.

They may have some way still to go to match the great Clydebank Burgh Band that won five titles between 1909 and 1913, but under Prof Nicholas Childs they have won the last two in impressive fashion.  

4BR Prediction:

Take your pick then…

Although it’s hard to see past the ’Old Firm’ heavyweights for the two qualification places (you have to go back to 2013 when they didn’t finish in the top two, whilst Whitburn hasn’t been beaten at a domestic contest since August 2016), they may come under a purposeful challenge from the ambitious Dalmellington led by Dutchman Eric Janssen, as well as last year’s third place finisher Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass.

They are a step behind in overall quality but you never know, whilst the same goes for the solid skill sets of Newtongrange and Bon Accord. 

Our dark horse for this one is Bo’ness & Carriden who would evoke the spirits of their victorious 1895 forefathers if they win on the weekend. 

1. Whitburn
2. cooperation band
3. Dalmellington
4. Newtongrange
5. Kirkitilloch Kelvin
6. Bon Accord Silver

Dark Horse: Bo’ness & Carriden


Johnstone
2018 Champion: Johnstone

First Section:
Saturday 9th March

Test Piece: Symphony of Marches (Gilbert Vinter)
Adjudicators: Sarah Groarke Booth & Richard Evans
Draw: 3.15pm
Commences: 4.45pm at the conclusion of Second Section

Annan Town (Paul Drury)
Arbroath Instrumental (Robert McDonald)
Campbeltown Brass (Paul Kiernan) 
Dalkeith & Monktonhall (James Chamberlain) 
Granite City Brass (Bruce Wallace) 
Kingdom Brass (Ian Porthouse) 
Kirkintilloch Band (David Roberts) 
Newmilns & Galston Band (Alan Cameron) 
Tullis Russell (Ray Munday) 
Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tennant)

We will never know if Gilbert Vinter had any famous Scottish marches in mind when he wrote his test-piece way back in 1963, but it would be great to hear the 10 bands inspired to perform ‘Symphony of Marches’ with the same degree of tempo discipline as the Scots Dragoons taking foot with ‘The Black Bear’ or ‘Cock of the North’.

Those who fail to find favour with Sarah Groarke Booth and Richard Evans may well have to get out ‘Going Home’ from the rehearsal pads as they head out of Perth.

As many conductors have already found out to their interpretative cost, Vinter was crystal clear about his musical intentions with this piece. 

Those who have tried to reinvent it through misplaced tempo choices in particular have had their knuckles rapped in the box. Richard Evans certainly knows how to make a march stand tall and proud as well as swagger.

As many conductors have already found out to their interpretative cost, Vinter was crystal clear about his musical intentions with this piece. 

4BR Prediction:

Kingdom Brass fell a cropper to our pre-contest curse a year ago and finished out of the frame, but we have opted for them again after winning the Scottish Challenge Shield (as well as notching up wins at the Fife, Northern Counties and Fife Charities contest last year) in style.

Newmilns & Galston was runner-up to Kingdom at the Scottish Challenge Shield and could fancy their chances of making their way down to Cheltenham for the first time since 2007, whilst Dalkeith & Monktonhall and Granite City could well battle over the final podium spot.     

Good to see Kirkintilloch starting to recover long term strength, and they should be one to keep an eye on under the experienced David Roberts, with Unison Kinneil led by Raymond Tennant also in with a shout alongside our dark horse of Campbeltown Brass.  

1. Kingdom Brass
2. Newmilns & Galston
3. Dalkeith & Monktonhall
4. Granite City
5. Unison Kinneil
6. Kirkintilloch 

Dark Horse: Campbeltown Brass


Campbeltown
2018 Champion: Campbeltown

Second Section:
Saturday 9th March

Test Piece: Rise of the Phoenix (Darrol Barry)
Adjudicators: Sheona Wade & Brett Baker
Pre-Drawn 
Commences: 12.45pm at conclusion of Section Three

Broxburn & Livingston (John Boax) 
Clackmannan & District (Ross Brotherston) 
Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman) 
Croy Silver (Kenneth Blackwood) 
Jedforest Instrumental (Phil Rosier) 
Lochgelly Band (Paul McKelvie OBE) 
Newmains & District (Michael Marzella) 
Selkirk Silver (Charlie Farren) 
Shotts St Patrick’s (Andy Shaw) 
St. David’s Brass (John A Dickson) 
St. Ronan’s Silver (Kenneth Letham) 

Darrol Barry's 'Rise of the Phoenix' has served up terrific contests so far in Blackpool and Huddersfield - with its James Bond pastiche elements as suave and sophisticated as Sean Connery at his best. 

There is nothing alien to its structure or tonality. In fact it’s very straightforward; packed with the much missed composer’s knack of combining catchy tunes with rhythmic vibrancy and a clearly defined sense of musical purpose.  

The main soloists are giving chance to lyrically shine, whilst the ensemble (and perc in particular) offers colour, drama and texture (listen out for the bass trom part).   

Don’t quite know if any cornet or flugel players will be using their opportunity to scene steal as an ideal audition to replace Daniel Craig, but Brett Baker and Sheona White are sure to enjoy listening to 11 well-matched bands giving it a go. It’s a cracking piece.

Don’t quite know if any cornet or flugel players will be using their opportunity to scene steal as an ideal audition to replace Daniel Craig, but Brett Baker and Sheona White are sure to enjoy listening to 11 well-matched bands giving it a go.

4BR Prediction:

Last year’s qualifiers didn’t return home from Cheltenham with results to savour, but that may well be different this time around.

Plenty of well-led bands here, with the likes of Newmains & District (who were solid at the Scottish Challenge), Broxburn & Livingston (runner-up at the Borders contest) and the consistent Lochgelly perhaps the three that may battle it out for the podium places.

St Ronan's and Jedforest enjoyed decent returns at the Borders contest whilst Clackmannan and Coalburn have experienced success at this level before. Our dark horse is Selkirk Silver. 

1. Newmains & District
2. Broxburn & Livingston
3. Lochgelly
4. Clackmannan & District
5. St Ronan’s
6. Coalburn Silver 

Dark Horse: Selkirk Silver


Campbeltown
2018 Champion Campbeltown: 

Third Section:
Saturday 9th March

Test Piece: First Suite in Eb (Gustav Holst arr. Sydney Herbert)
Adjudicators: Brett Baker & Leigh Baker
Pre-Drawn
Start: 9.30am

Brass Sounds Inverclyde (Robert Dibden)
Buckhaven & Methil Band (Andy Shaw)
Dunfermline Town (Michael Marzella)
Dysart Colliery Band (Kenneth Letham)
Highland Brass (Mark Bell)
Irvine & Dreghorn (Lewis Bettles)
Langholm Town (Chris Shanks)
Perthshire Brass (George D Annan)
Renfrew Burgh (Mark Good)
Whitburn Heartlands (Ian Fleming) 

In many ways Holst’s ‘First Suite in Eb’ is the purist test of brass band musicianship of the works selected to be used at the Championships this year.

It asks immediate questions of dynamic balance and textural cohesion from the very first bar of the flowing ‘Chaconne’, with its rising fanfare motifs over the ground bass theme giving enough scope for the better bands to show their command of stylistic nuance.

The ‘Intermezzo’, played with bright delicacy follows, before closing with the noble ‘March’. 

It looks deceptively easy, but it is anything but - as the experienced Baker boys in the tent will know.

It looks deceptively easy, but it is anything but - as the experienced Baker boys in the tent will know.  

4BR Prediction:

Last year’s qualifiers did well at Cheltenham, and with Newmain and Selkirk promoted there is a great opportunity for these solid looking contenders to emulate them, or even grab a first National win since Kirky Kelvin back in 2000.

With just 10 contenders there is a fluid movement of bands through the section - with Irvine & Dreghorn and Renfrew Burgh relegated from the Second Section and Highland Brass and Whitburn Heartlands up from the Fourth.   

It makes it a hard contest to call, although Langholm Town (4th last year) were the best of the Third Section contenders at the Borders Entertainment contest, whilst Dysart Colliery (6th) was the best at the Scottish Challenge.  

Perthshire Brass (3rd last year) and Renfrew Burgh could also be in the mix with Irvine & Dreghorn and the promoted duo of Highland Brass and our dark horse of Whitburn Heratlands. 

1. Langholm Town
2. Perthshire Brass
3. Renfrew Burgh
4. Dysart Colliery
5. Irvine & Dreghorn
6. Highland Brass 

Dark Horse: Whitburn Heartlands


Highland
2018 Champion: Highland Brass

Fourth Section:
Sunday 10th March

Test Piece: Stantonbury Festival (Ray Steadman-Allen)
Adjudicators: Leigh Baker & Richard Evans
Pre-Drawn 
Commences: 9.30am

Barrhead Burgh (Alistair Gibson)
Bon Accord Silver ‘B’ (Jennifer Cook)
Callander Brass (Ian Milligan) 
Dundee Instrumental (Robert McDonald)
Forfar Instrumental (Terence Jackson)
Hawick Saxhorn (Stuart Black)
Kilmarnock Concert Brass (Scott Walker)
MacTaggart Scott (George Cameron)
Newland Concert Brass (Simon Railton)
Peebles Burgh (Peter Holmes)
Penicuik Silver (Robert W Fraser)
Stranraer Brass (Angela Miller) 

A few years ago there was a distinct threat to the sustainability of the Fourth Section in Scotland, when just five bands took to the stage in 2009 and six in 2010.

And whilst the 1989 days of 21 contenders are long gone, the rejuvenation process inspired by the Scottish Brass Band Association’s outreach development programme has dug deeper roots into the banding soil of the nation. 

Numbers have fluctuated a little in the last few years (it’s been as high as 16) but the underlying health is now robust - aided by the wonderful invitation to non-competitive ensembles to also taste what the contest weekend is all about in the 4b Section. 

A significant sign of better days ahead came in 2017 when Newmains was crowned National Champion, and whilst their template for success is a bit different from others, it does show that things are on the up, even if only Highland Brass did make it to Cheltenham last year.

The bands should enjoy the challenge of Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Stantonbury Festival’ – right from the imposing opening chords which hark back to the old ‘Black Domino’ overture. 

It’s a piece that rewards the command of good banding basics, so plenty for Leigh Baker and Richard Evans to enjoy in the box. Their pre-results comments should be entertaining.

And whilst the 1989 days of 21 contenders are long gone, the rejuvenation process inspired by the Scottish Brass Band Association’s outreach development programme has dug deeper roots into the banding soil of the nation.    

4BR Prediction:

A difficult one to predict, although Kilmarnock Concert Brass could be the band to beat if they can show the ‘Best Fourth Section Band’ form they displayed at the Borders contest.

Penicuik Silver won the Fife title last April and were third last year, so will be hoping to go at least one better to secure a first finals appearance since 1982, whilst we think Barrhead Burgh and Bon Accord Silver ‘B’ will be hard on their heels.  

Hawick Saxhorn, MacTaggart Scott Loanhead and our dark horse of Callander Brass could very well catch the ears of the two men in the box as well.    

1. Kilmarnock Concert Brass
2. Penicuik Silver
3. Barrhead Burgh
4. Bon Accord Silver ‘B’
5. Hawick Saxhorn
6. MacTaggart Scott Loanhead

Dark Horse: Callander Brass

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