CD review: Starlight

Scottish Borders Youth Brass Band
Conductors: Alan Fernie, Stuart Black, David Robb
Soloists: Charley Green, Callum Robb
Featuring: Alasdair Hutton
WOS Recordings: WOS126


The Scottish Brass Band Association’s decade and more investment in sustainable grass roots banding is well documented - the emerging fruits of which were heard once again at the recent Scottish Festival of Brass in Perth.

And at a time when the imposition of tuition fees for instrumental teaching in schools across the nation financially corrodes life-enhancing opportunities for countless youngsters, community based bands and organisations such as the Scottish Borders Brass Band Association continue to provide priceless musical outlets.

Upbeat release

The positive evidence of one of the projects it has supported since 1997 is heard with this splendidly upbeat release from its own Scottish Borders Youth Brass Band (which represented Scotland at the 2017 European Youth Championships in Belgium) - made up of youngsters aged 11-18 from the picturesque areas around the towns of Peebles, Innerleithen, Selkirk, Galashiels, St Boswells, Hawick, Jedburgh and Langholm amongst others. 

It also helps of course that the band is led by inspirational musical figures - most notably the composer, conductor and trombonist Alan Fernie, a number of whose expertly pitched and structured works are featured. 

Alan shares the conducting duties with Stuart Black and David Robb, with the trio drawing out a host of solid, balanced ensembles performances (all expertly recorded and engineered by the great Richard Scott) of different styles and genres – most notably a neatly characterised ‘Little Suite No 2’ by Malcolm Arnold, a pulsating ‘Firefly’ by Simon Dobson and vibrant ‘Encanto’ by Robert W Smith. 

It also helps of course that the band is led by inspirational musical figures - most notably the composer, conductor and trombonist Alan Fernie, a number of whose expertly pitched and structured works are featured. 

Little gem

The evocative ‘Northern Skies’ is a little gem of warmth and texture, whilst ‘Kabalagala’ and ‘Thula Baba’ make for thoughtful links to the work of the Brass for Africa charity which Alan Fernie has been so involved in. The sacrifice in conflict of so many over a century ago is remembered with a touching rendition of ‘Pro Patria Mori’ - aided by the rich voice of Alasdair Hutton.   
Elsewhere you get to enjoy two talented young soloists in Charley Green on ‘The Rowan Tree’ and Callum Robb on ‘…than water’, whilst you can hear the joyful fun that comes with a few ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ hitting a quiet Borders’ town on a Saturday night out.  

Kim Kardashian couldn’t have done it better.  Hope she gets a CD in the post too.   

Iwan Fox

To purchase: alanfernie@btinternet.com


1. Starlight (Alan Fernie)
2. The Rowan Tree (Trad arr. Sandy Smith)
Soloist: Charley Green (horn)
3. Firefly (Simon Dobson)
4. The Spirit Within (Ben Hollings)
5-7. Little Suite No 2 (Malcolm Arnold)
8. Ground Pavan (Bruce Fraser)
9. Kabalaga (Alan Fernie)
10. Thula Baba (Trad arr. Alan Fernie)
11. The Songs of the Lowlands (David Robb)
12. …than water (Alan Fernie)
Soloist: Callum Robb (cornet)
13. Pro Patria Mori (Alan Fernie)
14. N’er Blooms Sae Red (Trad arr. Alan Fernie)
15. Encanto (Robert W Smith)
16. Northern Skies (Alan Fernie after Ola Gjeilo)
17. Fat Bottommed Girls (Brian May arr. Philip Harper)

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