BATTLE OF THE TITANS - Bands gear up for a titanic battle at the Royal Albert Hall

Issue 6016

COMPOSERS' CORNER - Dr Liz Lane looks at the subject of  networking 

HERE IS THE NEWS - Looking back at the Daily Herald's Nationals sponsorship

2020 Scottish Championships - Second Section

Saturday 7 March, 2020

Test Piece: The Golden Sabre (Tales of the Hussar-Poet Denis Davydov) - Kit Turnbull

Adjudicators: Anne Crookston & Jappie Dijkstra

Commences 9:30am

Martyn Ramsay reporting

Results 

1. Annan Town (Andrew Warriner) 93 points*

2. St. Ronan's Silver (Gordon Jenkins) 92 points*

3. Lochgelly (Paul McKelvie OBE) 90 points

4. Irvine & Dreghorn (Lewis Bettles) 87 points

5. Jedforest Instrumental (Philip Rosier) 86 points

6. Clackmannan & District (Ross Brotherston) 85 points

7. St. David's Brass (John A Dickson) 84 points

8. Broxburn & Livingston (Charlie Farren) 82 points

9. Selkirk Silver (Colin Kemp) 81 points

10. Perthshire Brass (George D Annan) 80 points

 

*Qualify for the National Finals 

 

 

 

 

Well this will not be an easy contest for Annie Crookston and Jappie Dijkstra to judge. A fine piece for the section (we shall see how often we say that over the remiander of today), it was played by every bad without major concern but there were none who escaped the battlefield completely unscathed. Three bands in the middle of pack stood out for us - Broxburn, Lochgelly and Clackmannan - and either order of that top three could be justified. After that there is a really tight field not too far behind inclduing the first three of St. Ronan's, Jedforest and St. David's and Annan Town who came through later on.

We'll go for:

  1. Broxburn & Livingston
  2. Lochgelly
  3. Clackmannan
  4. Jedforest 
  5. St David's
  6. Annan Town

That, of course matters not a jot. Proper results expected at 1:10pm

 

 

10. Irvine & Dreghorn - Lewis Brittles 

Very fine cornet reveille, spoiled a touch by a loose bar in percussion. Good bass sounds to lay the foundation of the reflective folk songs but the upper band doesn’t quite take on that baton. Band recovers well into Napoleon’s cross over the river which is strong and purposeful. It is a fast and furious atmosphere around the fires but mostly all there but there are moments of concern. I do wonder how significant the conductor’s approaches to this movement will fare in about an hour’s time. Fine Euph line that links the band nicely into the next ritmico section but again the dynamics are a little heavy handed this morning. Very nice Retreat, especially from the trombone line but the band and conductor capture the overall picture very well. Band in danger of being swamped by percussion at Y and it possibly detracts from a very nice effect at Z as the quiet stuff is beautiful. Much to admire about the waiting game and the final dance but there’s just always a little moment around the corner that frustrates. I&D, no stranger to a race at Cheltenham themselves, are giving it all now down the final run at Bordino and it is a very fine finish.

Overall: Oh a really interesting one this, to finish. On a day where there have been no major issues, this did score higher in the error count, however as is the case with the rest of the field, there was so much within it to enjoy here.

 

9. Annan Town - Andrew Warriner

Another band that has everything in place at the opening and that doesn’t change as we move into the songs and Mother Russia. The Winds Of War have a good sense of drive and the band are now really opening up the dynamics in order to create the drama. We have all the notes at the fireside scene but it lacks the verve that some of today’s other performances have delivered. Smirnoff Ice rather than the full Russian Standard. The trombone solo in the Retreat from Smolensk is one of the better ones today and the solo horn follows on beautifully. Really nice move from ‘fff’ to ‘p’, tones blend very nicely and mournfully. Rhythm is purposeful but borders on edgy at times in its delivery. Transition to Waiting Game is solid but a little big dynamically. Bordino is confident and enjoyable but, as has been the case for most of the morning, it is the percussion alone who drive the rhythmic passages and not the brass lines. Always a tricky balance on this stage.

Overall: Another strong and solid contender but perhaps just lacking the moments of magic that others have delivered. This is not going to be an easy contest to judge!

 

8. Perthshire Brass - George D. Annan

Another very clean and secure opening leading into a sensitively handled folk song. Some of the quiet playing is really impressive but there is a limit to the bigger dynamics. This young band are giving the battle a good go though. Noticeably steadier pace at the fireside however the markings are much more down that route. Again, it is a very secure picture but more life perhaps required. The pathos in the Retreat is captured brilliantly by trombone and band. A really unfortunate moment near the end of that line but the horns pick that back up nicely and there are controlled sounds in the bigger phrases. Everything is in its place at Bordino, no major issues standing out in the battlefield and end is controlled nicely.

Overall: A sensible and contained reading from George A Annan that still allowed his band moments to express themselves. An enjoyable show but one that may suffer in the final run down coming straight after the three bands with bigger sounds to exploit.

 

7. Clackmannan & District - Ross Brotherston

Brighter opening than some of the more sonorous ones but it’s clean and it does the job. Very nice transition into the songs where there is some really impressive playing. No hanging around for Napoleon here and the march gallops through. The fireside mood is jovial with a lot of poise and fun. The dynamic range is very good also. The toast to friendship just about hangs in there but it is a little on the excitable side. The Retreat is controlled with some great band sounds as the emotion rises. A few cracks here and there but nothing damaging. A real full-blooded approach to Bordino but there are no obvious signs of fatigue.

Overall: Very good show by Clackmannan. Like most bands today, broadly secure, but they had some real enjoyable moments of music-making. It did border on too excitable in moments however.

 

6. Lochgelly Band - Paul McKelvie OBE

Solid Reveille and some lovely bass work as we head into the folk song. Some really nice band sounds here as Mother Russia is saluted but not its never overdone. Napoleon’s charge is more than secure, it jumps off the page. The fire setting is off at some pace! Some Red Bull in with the national drink here but it just about hangs in there although of course we lack some detail at this lick. Percussion are strong in their drive but have to be careful in this hall not to overdo it. The retreat is secure, everyone is there, but it could do with a touch more pathos and space for us, especially given the quality on show already. The dances in the Waiting Game really do move, could be lighter for the ‘p’ markings. Super confident and strong to close out the battle. 

Overall: Interesting one this. Very strong in so many areas and the performance never ever felt like it rocked for one quaver. Bass end of the band stamped their quality throughout. Safe in some areas and big tempo risks in others. Could be close at the top.

 

5. Broxburn & LIvingston - Charlie Farren

The boldest opening yet but there are tiny little moments. Overall intent is there though. Lovely lower end sounds in the folk song and band really open up when it comes to Mother Russia. The calmato is handled very nicely indeed in the middle of the band. The Winds Of War is up a notch here, half expect old Bonaparte to pop his head into the auditorium. There is good pulse and shape about the dances although we don’t always hear the clarity in the cornet semi-quavers, excellent lower end again though. It’s a very stylish approach to the Retreat. Charlie Farren using all his experience to find the downcast mood. The playing from solo horn and flugel in particular is superb and the timpani is perfect sensitive to the mood. The overall picture isn’t without issue though with a few blips but the reading is on a different level so far. The Last Dance has a good shape although again detail of cornet semi quavers and perhaps dynamically too big at times. My word this really is Death or Glory at the end. Very percussive in its drive and some really impressive band sounds to close. 

Overall: The leader for us at the halfway. Not without issue but bags of style and sound around the stands and Charlie Farren was able to find the battle fever.

 

4 Selkirk Silver - Colin Kemp

An opening reveille that slightly lacked the conviction of the previous starts. The stray snare sound didn’t help. Recovers well with a sensitive folk song and emotional Mother Russia. Napoleon’s march east has purpose but not always execution. The dances are secure but perhaps there is more vodka required. Good work on the Euph and Bari solo lines. Lovely trombone to start the retreat, first feeling of pathos in that line this morning. Well supported by band but there are issues in the cornet pickup later that slightly detract from the mood. More passion as we head to the Waiting Game but it still needs to be controlled in places. The run to Bordino and the battle itself are solid in the general shape but there is detail not coming through and perhaps the troops are flagging just at the end.

Overall: A good attempt at capturing all the moods and there was much to recommend it, however it had more than a few moments that might cost Selkirk in the end.

 

3. St. David’s Brass - John A Dickson

Another good start, a bit more space and like Mahler V. Good attempt at smaller dynamics in the transition into the folk song which just has the odd waver on intonation but there’s emotion in the music that comes through well. Napoleon’s troops march forward with bags of confidence! A more playful and softer dance to begin with around the fire. The attempt at a wider range has its risks but most of the rewards are reaped. Once more, all of the notes in the Retreat are there but there is a solemnity lacking in the lament. Plenty of movement in the Last Dance and Bordino is full of controlled purpose. 

Overall: A fine showing that took more dynamic risks than we have heard so far but that brings with it the risk of intonation and blips. Could be one of those that splits opinion.

 

2. Jedforest Instrumental - Philip Rosier

 

Confident Reveille leads us nicely into the Ukrainian folk song and the some nicely controlled big sounds to glorify Mother Russia and there’s a real intensity to the first battle. The dances around the fire have colour and range, most of the lines getting through nicely. The gathering storm has the intent and most of the execution but perhaps pushes the tempo to a level that we lose the semi-quaver detail. The Retreat is handled well with most sounds blending well and the pesante to finish the section very strong and full of patriotic fervour. The transitions into the Retreat and then the ‘Waiting Game’ are not easy and will be an interesting element of the contest as a whole. The Battle of Bordino is handled very well with the changing lines and dynamics rarely stopping the progress to the finish. 

 Overall: An enjoyable show this one on a piece that already seems very well suited to the section. Band sound and ensemble well controlled and soloists performed too. Just a little excitable in moments but always well-recovered.

 

1. St. Ronan’s Silver - Gordon Jenkins

 

After St. Ronan’s Silver salute Her Majesty they get us off brightly with a tight Reveille. Some nice sounds both at the lower and upper dynamic ranges as the scene is set for battle with rhythmic purpose and clarity. The joviality around the fires is perhaps a little too big for the written dynamics but it has bags of shape and purpose. All there, except the missing percussion lines. The solemn retreat is well-directed but suffers a little from intonation in the supporting parts and safer dynamics all around. Lots of good work however, especially from the soloists, that keeps the picture very much alive. The charge towards Death or Glory is mostly all there and full or real intent and good sounds, just a few barlines that aren’t met together. Everything is well-controlled at the end but we may have missed a big full stop from the percussion. 

Overall: Never easy to start the contest but this is a good marker that really did well to capture the spirit of the music.

 

Draw

1 St. Ronan's Brass

2 Jedforest Instrumental

3 St. David's Brass

4 Selkirk Silver

5 Broxburn & LIvingston 

6 Lochgelly

7 Clackmannan & District

8 Perthshire Brass

9 Annan Town

10 Irvine & Dreghorn

 

Not long to go until the Scottish Championships get underway in this, the 125th year of the Scottish Brass Band Association. We kick off with the Second Section and the action gets underway at 9:30. Draw to follow.

Competing Bands

Annan Town (Andrew Warriner)

Broxburn & Livingston (Charlie Farren)

Clackmannan & District (Ross Brotherston)

Irvine & Dreghorn (Lewis Bettles)

Jedforest Instrumental (Philip Rosier)

Lochgelly (Paul McKelvie OBE)

Perthshire Brass (George D Annan)

Selkirk Silver (Colin Kemp)

St. David's Brass (John A Dickson)

St. Ronan's Silver (Gordon Jenkins)