MASTER OF HIS TRADE - Remembering Allan Littlemore

Issue 6082

COVID ROADMAP - Optimism at route out of restrictions

COMPOSER CAST - Christopher Bond meets Naomi Styles

Scotland Regional Championships - Third Section LIVE!

Friday 8 March, 2019

A winning performance off a number 1 draw for Irvine and their young conductor Lewis Bettles, while home favourites Perthshire Brass deliver the goods to book a trip to Cheltenham.

Full Results

1. Irvine & Dreghorn (Lewis Bettles) 186 points
2. Perthshire Brass (George D Annan) 184 points
3. Renfrew Burgh (Mark Good) 182 points
4. Whitburn Heartlands  (Ian Fleming) 180 points 
5. Langholm Town (Chris Shanks) 179 points
6. Buckhaven & Methil Band (Andy Shaw) 175 points
7. Highland Brass (Mark Bell) 174 points
8. Dysart Colliery Band (Kenneth Letham) 173 points
9. Dunfermline Town (Michael Marzella) 171 points
10. Brass Sounds Inverclyde (Robert Dibden) 170 points

Best Instrumentalist: George Mullin (soprano) Renfrew Burgh


1st place - Irvine & Dreghorn (186 points)

2nd place - Perthshire (184 points)

3rd place - Renfrew Burgh

Best insturmentalist - Soprano Cornet - Renfrew Burgh


Results Time:

"If you've been consistent in all three movements you've probably come near the top" - Leigh Baker



Summary: This has been a good contest. Holst's piece is a great test of bands at this level. Good to see so many young players today and hopefully the experience of playing such music will add to the richness of their musical education.

Three favourite performances for this writer today (who has been known to get things wrong) and after a great morning's playing I go for a top three as follows (my predictions so don't blame me if I get it horribly wrong):-

  1. Perthshire Brass
  2. Irvine & Dreghorn
  3. Whitburn Heartlands

Outsider: Dysart Colliery


Band 10 - Whitburn Heartlands - conductor Ian Fleming

Chaconne - Our final performance of the section and it's certainly the briskest opening movement we've heard today. The band is a touch light at the bottom end (only 2 basses) but there is a lyrical sound and feel to the music even at the tempo selected.

Intermezzo - A nice dance feel to this section. The band is doing well to keep a lightness of tone. smashing end to the movement as well.

March - Another steady march tempo, which this writer thinks suits the music. Just the odd hint of over exuberance which takes a bit of the shine off. Great horn section sounds in the expansive theme. The band is enjoying the restatement of the theme. There is lots to commend here.

Great blend of youth and experience - the young look very young (I reckon I counted 18 very young players) and the experienced are very "experienced" (how many winners' medals do Sam Knox, Alex Vidler and Jimmy Graham have between them?) - a great combination.


Band 9 - Perthshire Brass - conductor George D Annan

Chaconne - A flowing tempo and interpretation adopted here which is very appealing. Band and MD are taking risks but they are immediately paying off. Sop does really well in solo lines. At conclusion of movement there's a real feeling of solidity and drama as well.

Intermezzo - Not flawless at the opening (again) but after a few bars it begins to skip along with a degree of confidence and panache. There is lots to admire in the band's quality of sound here.

March - Great tempo here. It's a proper march. Good clarity in cornet quaver lines and when the second tune comes in it's so English we can almost smell Winston Churchill's cigar smoke..... This is very good. George Annan's kilt was the only un-English thing about that performance. My winner so far.


Band 8 - Highland Brass - conductor Mark Bell

An opening that takes a few moments to settle down. We're hearing some good detail here in the flowing quaver lines but lacking  bit in ensemble cohesion. It's a nice full sound when the band opens up to its fortissimmo and the end is secure.

Intermezzo - Not the first of the day to suffer from a lack of togetherness in the opening quavers. After a few bars it regains its composure and by the time the second theme emerges there's a real relaxed feel about the music. Ends lightly and delicately.

March - A steady tempo here. Has a touch of arrogance about it which is good. MD really seeking to highlight the different tonal colours here. Real military march feeling. I can almost imagine the saxophones and piccolo..... D's are flat in upper band but there's a great sense of swagger in the close. Best playing reserved for the third movement but that's been quite a common theme today.


Band 7 - Buckhaven & Methil - conductor Andy Shaw

Another very stately Chaconne here and the band is working especially hard to keep the lower dynamics low. There's a real sense of purpose displayed at the end of the first movement but possibly the music loses some of its flow. Big sound however.

Intermezzo - Another movement that suffers from a hesitant opening. MD is valiantly seeking to keep a lightness of approach here but the efforts to keep dynamics low mean there is a slight lack of certainty. Movements skips to a good end though.

March - A good opening to this, and the band is demonstrating its best playing of the day. Just a concern about overblowing which is jeopardising tuning, but a storng finish nonetheless.

A performance which felt uncertain at times, but bravo to MD for trying to find the lower dynamics.


Band 6 - Langholm Town Band - conductor Chris Shanks

Chaconne - A slightly tentative start and takes a good few bars to settle down. Once it does the band displays a real sense of lyricism. Occasional tuning challenges but the band possess a real warmth of sound.

Intermezzo - A good steady tempo with just the occasional sense that it wants to run away but MD brings it back under control. Band works really hard to ensure balance is good at the second theme. Nice euph/baritone sound. Ends well.

March - An unfortunate split at the commencement of the third movement but it settles down. Mr Shanks senior on Solo Horn leads a strong horn melodic line at the second theme. At the restatement of the first theme the band begins to really enjoy itself and it's a decent finish. A good reading of the score here.


Halfway thoughts : This is a stern test of musical and technical ability, be assured. On the whole the bands are proving up to the challenges. For me it's Irvine & Dreghorn, followed by Brass Sounds and Renfrew but a long way to go here!


Band 5 - Dysart Colliery - conductor Kenneth Letham

Chaconne - Another steady Chaconne, but one where MD is really seeking to give the music some space. At times the band seems to want to move the music along but MD Letham sticks to his guns quite rightly! Good work in this movement by basses and sop.

Intermezzo - If the Chaconne was steady then there's a real sense of con brio in the second movement. Theresa May as a child running barefoot through the fields here for sure! Some upper cornet intonation issues. However, there's a real delicacy in the intepretation here.

March - A bravura opening to the march here. Well done horns at the second theme. We're continuing at quite a frantic pace. Band really enjoying themselves but some of the detail being lost. Ends strongly and a performance enjoyed by the Fife band's supporters. Bravo MD.


Band 4 – Brass Sounds Inverclyde – conductor Robert Dibden

The steadiest Chaconne we’ve heard so far. This places additional pressure on the players as they seek to sustain the sounds but they do well. If there was a prize for youngest soprano player then it would be for Master Parkhill who is doing a sterling job. Real attempts by MD and band to find the quiet dynamics – well done.

Intermezzo starts with a nice skip to it although tempo is not rushed. Cornets (only 8 of them) manage valiantly in the second theme. Good tidy ending to the movement as well.

March - At the faster end of tempo here and we possibly lose some clarity as a result. Band manages to find the quintessentially English sound required at the second theme. At the reprise of the main theme it possibly begins to rush a bit for my liking, but great sound from the 21 brass players on stage. A different approach but one this writer liked.



Band 3 - Dunfermline Town - conductor Michael Marzella

Very much one with a lighter feel here. Would be good to hear a touch more sustained feel. Band works well to the end of the movement, and MD seeks to marshal his troops well.

Intermezzo - This is a steadier pace but it suits the band. Great to see two young back row cornets enjoying this classic music, amongst some more "senior" members.... Second theme suffers with some intonation issues but as previously stated a nice comfortable unhurried tempo.  The sole percussioninst is working hard! Well done sop at the end.

March - The march commences with the band enjoying itself and a good tmepo has been chosen by MD Marzella. Good sense of purpose here. Good work from trombones and euph at the restating of the original theme.  Good ending.


Band 2 - Renfrew Burgh - conductor Mark Good

Chaconne - Quite a different approach here from Mark Good. A touch darker and heavier than the previous band. Great bass sound here, and it's giving the band confidence as the movement progresses.

Intermezzo - Another one that starts off at a fast pace but handled well. Some slight issues in tuning as the second theme emerges. Ends well but with a slight clip.

March - A steadier tempo here allowing for the music to swagger along. I would have preferred just a touch more lyricism in the second theme. As the initial theme is restated we're really getting in the mood here. Quite a regal ending here. Cathartic after a slightly difficult second movement. Lots to enjoy here. Well done band and MD.


Test Piece – Suite no.1 in E flat (Gustav Holst arr Sydney Herbert)

Band 1 - Irvine & Dreghorn Band – conductor Lewis Bettles

Chaconne – Stately opening, then a slight lift in the tempo. Good ensemble. Nice work soprano! Band have settled down with just the occasional slip in ensemble. Nice full sound and percussion letting us know they’re there.

Intermezzo – we’re off at quite a lick here. Good work to keep the cornets down in the lyrical section. Nice lower band sound. Occasional lapses in intonation. SBBA President Carrie Boax enjoying herself in the percussion section. Excellent end to the movement.

March – A slight hiccup at the start of the movement but a great pace and some real style delivered by the MD. Real attempt at dynamic contrast and as the theme is restated great drive and a fab sound from the middle and lower end of the band. Great close.

A good one to start with.


Good morning from a chilly Perth - hopefully the action will be somewhat hotter within the hall!


  1. Irvine & Dreghorn
  2. Renfrew Burgh
  3. Dunfermline Town
  4. Brass Sounds Inverclyde
  5. Dysart Colliery
  6. Langholm Town
  7. Buckhaven & Methil Miners
  8. Highland Brass
  9. Perthshire Brass
  10. Whitburn Heartlands


Adjudicators: Leigh Baker & Dr. Brett Baker