The musical prelude to the Scottish Open Championship at Perth Concert Hall was provided by the 13 contenders performing works by Edward Gregson in the Band Supplies Scottish Challenge Shield.
In what was a highly enjoyable 70th birthday celebration homage, Johnstone Silver eventually came out on top with a very confident rendition of 'Dances & Arias' under the baton of Martyn Ramsay. Principal cornet Lesley Dardis claimed the 'Best Instrumentalist' prize for her excellent personal contribution.
The contest saw bands from the First to Fourth Sections compete both for the overall title as well as various section awards, in what turned out to be something of a 'set-work own-choice' contest.
Trio of Dances
Not only did Johnstone choose Gregson's 1984 National Finals set-work to add the 'Best First Section Band' prize, but it was also the selection of podium finishers Bo'ness & Carriden and Newtongrange Silver — giving judges Bruce Fraser and Stan Lippeatt ample opportunity to compare and contrast in their written and oral remarks.
Takes some playing
It also showed that it was still a work that takes some playing as winning MD, Martyn Ramsay told 4BR.
"Even though 'Dances & Arias' is now over 30 years old, it's still very difficult to master,"he confessed. "It's so well crafted — with so much detail in the writing. It was an ambitious choice for us but we all thoroughly enjoyed working on it — and I think that showed on stage."
He added: "We had a few debutants on the day but it was players such as Lesley on principal cornet who led us to success. We have a great mix of personnel and the band is continuing to build, so the extra year in the First Section in 2016 should be of huge benefit.
I love every minute of conducting the band — especially as its only 10 minutes away from my doorstep!"
Although the top three bands were clearly a class apart on the day — it was encouraging to hear each of the competitors stretch their musical and technical resources with their ambitious choices, although there were times when some performances teetered on the edge somewhat.
Bo'ness continued on their recent rapid upward surge in form to come second, with National Finalist Newtongrange not quite able to live up to their pre-contest tag of favourites in ending third.
Behind the top three came the first of a quartet of 'Connotations' — Gregson's iconic 1977 Nationals set-work, which was delivered with some aplomb by Bathgate directed by Anne Crookston to finish ahead of Tullis Russell Mills and Coalburn Silver who completed the top six finishers.
A bold effort of the work by Dunaskin Doon saw them take the 'Best Second Section Band' prize in coming seventh, with Campbeltown's well delivered 'Laudate Dominum' seeing them take the 'Best Third Section Band' award, and MacTaggart Scott Loanhead's vibrant 'Voices of Youth' taking the 'Best Fourth Section' honours.
Although audience figures for the early morning performances were a touch sparse at times, the wide spread of bands and the excellent music proved popular with those who did spend time in the hall — although there were some queries aired later to 4BR about whether the joint written/oral adjudication system really added any additional value to the contest.
It was an ambitious choice for us but we all thoroughly enjoyed working on it — and I think that showed on stageWinning MD, Martyn Ramsay
Adjudicators: Bruce Fraser & Stan Lippeatt
1. Johnstone Silver (Martyn Ramsay)
2. Bo'ness & Carriden (Colin McKenzie)
3. Newtongrange Silver (Michael Marzella)
4. Bathgate (Anne Crookston)
5. Tullis Russell Mills (Paul Drury)
6. Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman)
7. Dunaskin Doon (Gary Williams)
8. Shotts St Patrick's Brass (Andrew Duncan)
9. Campbeltown Brass (Gordon Evans)
10. St David's Brass (John A Dickson)
11. Barrhead Burgh Band (Brian Keachie)
12. Mactaggart Scott Loanhead (Kenny Letham)
13. Penicuik Silver (Stuart Black)
Highest placed First Section: Johnstone Silver
Highest placed Second Section: Dunaskin Doon
Highest placed Third Section: Campbeltown Brass
Highest placed Fourth Section: Mactaggart Scott Loanhead
Best Instrumentalist: Lesley Dardis (Cornet) Johnstone Silver