Report & Result: 2019 Scottish Open

Whitburn make it six wins in a row at the Scottish Open in Perth under Prof Nicholas Childs.

Perth Concert Hall
  It's been a fine day of Berlioz music in Perth

Whitburn rounded off their busy contesting year on what their supporters hope will be a prelude to further celebratory success in 2020.

Off the back of their recent podium finish at the Royal Albert Hall they confidently lived up to their pre-contest 'favourites' tag to claim the Scottish Open for a sixth consecutive time in Perth.


It came courtesy of well-defined renditions of the 'Fanfare' and 'March' from Howard Snell's 'Excelsior' suite alongside an imposing performance of his updated arrangement of Berlioz's 'Waverley' overture.

It was also an impressive reaffirmation of the growing partnership with Black Dyke Director of Music, Prof Nicholas Childs — a benchmark display of all round quality that they hope will secure qualification back to the British Open at the Grand Shield in Blackpool next May.

Before then they will once again lock horns with their great rivals, the cooperation band, at the Scottish Championship, after the two heavyweights traded musical blows in what was something of a private two-way battle (they were drawn after each other) for the £1,500 first prize.

Whitburn's eventual single point margin of victory was clear cut though, as the cooperation band under Michael Fowles never quite displayed the type of commanding form that won the Scottish Championship earlier in the year here to suggest they were going to claim the title for the first time since 2013.

Class of their own

That said, the duo were in a class of their own, with adjudicators Alan Fernie and John Doyle perhaps showing a degree of early festive generosity with the single point margins behind them.

That saw a resolute Rainford take the final podium slot ahead of hard working accounts from Elland Silver and Oldham (Lees). The remaining top-six place went to Milnrow.

Pertinent and pithy

Both John and Alan certainly made pertinent (and pithy) remarks that highlighted both the good and bad about what they heard in the box.

John spoke about the need to portray the "continuity of lines"that in the original orchestral version of 'Waverley' would have passed though the strings and woodwind, as well as reminding MDs that rescoring didn't work if not undertaken with at least some degree of 'cheeky' subtlety. Some he said were "blatantly caught out".

His compliment to the soprano players also came with a tempered admonishment, that although the best were "absolutely fantastic"some rather indulged themselves in "big band trumpet playing"in the desire to be heard.


Meanwhile, Alan revealed both men had been in total agreement about the placings of the bands (his witty little expletive raising an eyebrow and a laugh) meaning that it was an "easy job"for the pair.

"Correct tempo choices"were important he said, with the best bands able to play with clarity at the faster choices made. He also wittily thanked the trombone players for "doing nothing"- although that was as he said due to nothing really changing from Howard Snell's 1982 score.

There were few problems tempo or otherwise encountered by Whitburn, as Prof Childs steered them towards their fifth victory together at this event with a neatly delivered 'Excelsior' brace followed by a commanding rendition of the overture that bubbled with controlled energy.

Soprano player Scott Forrest took the 4BR 'Best Instrumentalist' award for his sparkling contribution which sat on top of a huge, warmly balanced ensemble sound that also featured some wonderful euphonium and baritone playing.

Following the result a delighted Prof Childs told 4BR that he found the task of balancing the very specific requirement of the ensemble works with the bravura approach to the overture to be a refreshing challenge.

"It really was,"he said. "The band had to employ two very different and distinct musical thought processes — and they did so tremendously well.

As always, when I came up the band was well prepared, and eager to build on their great result at the Albert Hall despite having a busy recent schedule.

I would like to place on record my thanks to Band Chairman Charlie Farren and all the players for the work they put into this contest — with a special congratulation to Scott Forrest who once again showed just what an outstanding soprano player he is."


Fans of the cooperation band may have left Perth disappointed that they could not make it a 2019 Scottish 'double' of Championship and Open victories, but they would have had few complaints as Michael Fowles drew out musically persuasive, if not entirely error free accounts from his band.

Behind them a delighted Rainford rounded off a terrific year as under newly appointed MD Sarah Groarke-Booth they produced a brace of energised, precisely coloured performances that deservedly claimed the £500 on offer for coming third.

There were also cheers heard in the hall as the hard-working efforts of Daniel Brooks and Elland Silver were rewarded in fourth, whilst the deliberately lighter toned approach of Oldham Band (Lees) under John Collins came fifth ahead of the measured approach instigated by Chris Binns and Milnrow in sixth.

Lifetime achievement

Further back there would have been few causes for complaint, although both Newtongrange and Dalmellington may just have fancied their chances of a potential top-six finish — the latter under Richard Evans' timeless baton aided by the super 'Best Euphonium' contribution of David McKellar who became the inaugural winner of the Neil Philip Memorial Trophy.

Prior to the results there was a short concert from White River Brass ensemble, whilst there was warm appreciation shown by everyone for the presentation of a richly deserved Lifetime Achievement Award from the Scottish Brass Band Association (SBBA) to the stalwart administrator Tom Allen.

Whilst the number of competing bands was slightly down on previous years and audience numbers varied from sparse to decent in size, SBBA will still be pleased that event continues to attract cross border support at the end of what for many band's has been a long contesting year.

The proactive approach of the social media team from SBBA utilising YouTube to transmit performances to a wider home-bound audience was an inventive new approach to broaden the event's appeal, whilst the day's aperitif Percussion Section event that saw five cracking ensembles headed by winners Perth & Kinross Schools Percussion Ensemble, was a delight.

Malcolm Wood

As always, when I came up the band was well prepared, and eager to build on their great result at the Albert Hall despite having a busy recent scheduleProf Nicholas Childs


Perth Concert Hall
Waverley (Berlioz arr. Howard Snell) Fanfare & March (Howard Snell)
Adjudicators: John Doyle and Alan Fernie

1. Whitburn (Prof Nicholas Childs) — 195
2. the cooperation band (Michael Fowles) — 194
3. Rainford (Sarah Groarke-Booth) — 193
4. Elland Silver (Daniel Brooks) — 192
5. Oldham Band (Lees) (John Collins) — 191
6. Milnrow (Chris Binns) — 189
7. Newtongrange Silver (Anne Crookston) — 188
8. Easington Colliery (Sandy Smith) — 187
9. Dalmellington (Richard Evans) — 186
10. Fishburn (John Pearson) — 185
11. Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Charles Keenan) — 183
12. Bo'ness & Carriden (Nigel Boddice MBE) — 182
13. East London Brass (Jayne Murrill) — 181
14. Dunaskin Doon (Paul Drury) — 180

4barsrest.com Best Instrumentalist: Scott Forrest (soprano) — Whitburn
Neil Philip Memorial Trophy for Best Euphonium: David McKellar (Dalmellington)

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