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FAIR OR FOUL? - Tim Mutum on Alex Owen and Besses' historic result shock


2020 Scottish Championships - Third Section

Saturday 7 March, 2020

Test Piece: Endurance - Andrew Baker
Adjudicators: Dave Barringer & Sandy Smith
Commences: 13:45

Martyn Ramsay reporting



1 Croy Silver (Kenneth Blackwood)  92 points*

2 Langholm Town (Chris Shanks)  90 points*

3 Renfrew Burgh (Mark James) 87 points

4 Dysart Colliery (Kenneth Letham) 86 points

5 Whitburn Heartlands (Stephen Duncan) 85 points

6 Shotts St Patrick’s (Andy Shaw) 84 points

7 Barrhead Burgh (Graham Dow) 83 points

8 Penicuik Silver (Robert W Fraser) 82 points

9 Highland Brass (Mark Bell) 82 points

10 Buckhaven & Methil Miners (Chris Mansfield) 80 points

Best Instrumentalist Flugelhorn Croy Silver

* Qualify for national finals 


Well this is going to be another difficult contest to call. At first read of the score, this looked a good piece of music but a very tough ask of third section bands. None felt it easy today but there was so much more to be positive about than first feared. Conductors came up with some enjoyable ideas and the quality of solo playing was consistently good. The basics of band ensemble and the quality of sound required to do the music justice were the biggest issues. 

Langholm, Croy and Dysart stood out early, Whitburn Heartlands could hold their own and Shotts might be one that has either landed or sunk without trace. 

Our thoughts, which mean absolutely nothing are:

Croy Silver
Langholm Town
Whitburn Heartlands
Dysart Colliery 
Shotts St Patrick 
Renfrew Burgh 

Real results expected at 5pm



10. Whitburn Heartlands - Stephen Duncan 

Some mature sounds and effects being made by such a young group. Flugel unlucky with a couple of notes but the overall shape is nice. Var 1 starts at a sensible tempo with the odd bit of intonation to contend with but it is secure enough throughout. Some really good sounds throughout this fragmented movement ‘Ice’, again at a sensible lick. This is a very consistent performance and Var 3 hangs together, even if the boat doesn’t. Var 4 could go deeper for the inspiration but again its very solidly put together with most soloists doing their job well. The youngest principal cornet of the day enjoys his moment under the lights with phrasing style in the James Caird solo we haven’t heard today. Well done! The performance finishes in much the same fashion. 

Overall: A very good finish to an interesting contest. A band with a mixture of experience supporting youth, there was always a limit to power and maturity but this was an intelligent reading that got the best out of the band. They were not without their moments of real music-making, despite the safety in place, and few bands have come through endurance with as few scars as this. Impressive show.


9. Barrhead Burgh - Graham Dow

Very stylish opening by Barrhead, flugel a stand out but band does well to support. The journey gets off but at a very steady pace compared to others today. All the notes are in place though, however it does lack of a bit of energy for such an optimistic part of story. Intonation starting to suffer as middle band push. Sop line is nice in style until the wrong note and the close is heavy for ‘p’. Var 3 has far more intent and emotional drive. Not always together however. Nice lead into O, the best today and this works better as the boat is taken by the sea. The MD gives ‘Patience’ the space and his band does its best to respond. Nice sounds on trombone and flugelhorn but get out of sync a touch. Euph captures the loneliness and worry nicely but horn and Bari struggle to match. A brave approach to the lead into Var 5 and it mostly works well. This a good reading in Var 5 but it asks a lot of the band and soloists at times and it sometimes causes noticeable insecurity. The final stages are controlled well and they navigate the peril of the very end.

Overall: One that started with promise, slipped away a little but grew stronger near the end. Flugel a standout by some distance.



8. Highland Brass - Mark Bell

Another fine attempt at creating the drama right from the off. Flugel solo is good but the band dynamics are all a bit big. Some lines missing as we close that off and move into the first variation which has lots of energy and purpose, just like that vessel as it left Plymouth for South Georgia. Var 2 has moments of solidly and insecurity in equal measure, much like the afternoon in general. The overall picture of Var 3 struggles to come off at times. Bell effect not always together but good solo trombone line which is matched by the rest of the section a few bars later. Some really good efforts on the solo lines as var 4 comes to a close. Lovely solo cornet lines and one of the warmest calore moments soon after that solo in the lower band, too often today that has been overwrought. Lots of heart in the finale but another one where the third last bar causes issues. 

Overall: One that threatened to deliver but struggled to reach its potential today for us. Some nice lines just hampered by note production issues and barline ensemble.


7. Shotts St. Patrick’s - Andy Shaw

Very nice flugelhorn work at the opening but it’s not consistent with other lines and the atmosphere struggles to get going. The Shotts ship is heading to the south pole at a fair pace! Need to ensure it doesn’t get too much and eventually the tempo falls back to a more controlled level. Lots of fun and optimism though. Lines not always balanced such as cornets at ‘f’ against ‘mf’ and ‘mp’ throughout the lower band. Tidy soprano work in Var 2. It’s healthy but balance of lines the only issue again. ‘Beset’ often has the right sense of ominous drama but once more the close to that movement produces challenges. Classy trombone as they set the scene for a patient wait on the bleak ice land. Very nice euph solo and it is picked up by the horn and baritone. The transition into Var 5 is lovely. The space is given to the solo cornet and he delivers for his MD and the close is well-measured, until those devilish final three bars which again pose problems.

Overall: A performance not without damage from the ice but had genuine quality moments too that may well force it through into the prizes. 



6. Buckhaven & Methil Miners - Chris Mansfield 

Some clips detract slightly from the atmospheric intent. Var 1 is broadly secure and free of any major blemishes but it perhaps lacks the distinct sense of optimism of previous performances and could do with a bigger range of colour. Again, Ice shows some fine playing without creating too much drama around the increasingly perilous conditions. Better drive through var 3 but that barline at O is creating problems for all and the sense of defeat for the crew, as the icy ocean takes their craft at the end of the movement, is robbed of something. More fine solo playing on display throughout Patience, what an encouraging afternoon it has been in that regard. There are nice lines on solo cornet, as he expresses the hope of the new ship ‘James Caird’ but there are moments of insecurity too. There is hopeful emotion as we close and the ‘fff’ final chord is treated with sensible containment. 

Overall: One that had much to recommend it, in a brave effort, but the challenges associated with making this kind of music were evident. 



5. Renfrew Burgh - Mark James

 The scene is nicely set, despite the noise from a mobile phone somewhere! Var 1 trips along nicely although the detail of that journey is sometimes missing. Good sop. Good lead by soprano in Var 2 but, as is so often the case today, the supporting solo cornet line is too submissive. Overall poise of Var 3 is good although there is a little untidiness at the end of the movement. The bells don’t always land together but once again we hear well-played solo lines, even if the movement starts a little fast for its purpose. By the time we get to the euphonium solo, there is the kind of space required and we get a very solemn transition into Var 5 where the cornet solo is handled with aplomb. Super playing. Again band ensemble is the enemy later on but this is a very well put-together picture as we close with one of the more tuneful conclusions. 

Overall: The mould is quickly being set here this afternoon. A real challenge for conductors but so many good ideas being put before the judges and soloist after soloist is delivering well. It is the basics of band playing that are causing the issues. Renfrew had some of the latter whilst enjoying plenty of the former too. 



4. Dysart Colliery - Kenneth Letham


The opening is not without unease but the control is kept on it with some nice solo playing as we move into a spritely Var 1 which has its scrapes but overall fine. The band move through the ice quite well, soprano especially, but there are slight cracks now and again, as is to be expected. ‘Beset’ is fine, lots of purpose on display and a nice solo cornet lead into O which hasn’t been heard as well today so far. ‘Patience’ could do with more time and bleakness to it. Euph, Solo Horn and Baritone continue the theme today of impressive, expressive playing. Intonation is the obstacle here, as well as the weather, it can undo good work. Well done solo cornet. Emotional playing as we head for home but the crew need to feel the music together, just a couple of loose lines doing their own thing. Lots of effort to conclude, it is such an awkward close to a piece, but there’s a top-heavy sound dominating at the end. 

Overall: Another with good musical intent from the middle and expressive solo playing around the stands. It’s the broader execution in band sound and ensemble that may make the difference this afternoon.


3. Croy Silver - Kenneth Blackwood

A nice reading to this opening. Some lines, such as the flugel are very well played indeed. However this piece will always throw up challenges and there were a couple of nasty moments to detract. Good band sounds and a real musical shape to Var 1. Real character through the ice on sop and the expression is infectious as the band get into a real groove. Some good texture to Var 3, still with the odd moments of intonation on the upper lines. Bells a little out but the solo lines throughout Var 4 are lovely. Some really impressive playing here but there’s still the odd issue. Euph is very nice indeed, playing way above the level. Good transition into Var 5 which is very sensitively handled. Good solo cornet work. The end has such good playing. That entry in the third last bar will have conductors in a sweat but it was superb, as were the trombone lines but then just a creeping intonation issue in the penultimate note.

Overall: Impressive, broad reading by Kenneth Blackwood and the band executed the vision to a high level.


2. Langholm Town - Chris Shanks

Nice atmosphere created here overall, led nicely by the flugelhorn. The band head southwards with purpose and conviction. Both the general band ensemble and the solo playing is secure. There is a good shape around the 7/4 line in Ice, Var 2. The treacherous solo lines are handled well enough. Good poise as they are beset by the conditions, very nicely done sop. Bell effect is clean at the start of Patience. Very good work by flugel and trombone which is matched by the basses. The bleakness of the situation is captured nicely by the supporting band, especially 2nd and bass trom in their duet. Soloists are really showing the resilience of Shackleton but care needs to be taken in the chords leading into Var 5. Solo cornet has a little clip but recovers well. Super Flug. There is bravery about the light touches and most come off. The band really open up the sound at the end. Bottom end provides a superb foundation, a touch scratchy at the top end but it passes. Entries at the very end are nice, could have done with some of the sound produced earlier, right at the end but it’s a good show.

Overall: A very fine effort indeed. This is very good piece of music but a real challenge for their section. Langholm were smart where they needed to be and opened up when they could. A marker. 


1. Penicuik Silver - Robert W Fraser 

There’s a good attempt to create that opening atmosphere but it is a struggle in places. The band get going however in their expedition south and there is far more security on show. Var 2 shows its teeth in the writing already. Some good solid sounds but the solo lines don’t always match. Var 3 depicts the crew being beset by the elements but the band hold firm here through these choppy waters. Good response here. Var 4 some good work on Euph, Solo Horn and Bari throughout the movement 'Patience'. Brave attempt at dynamics as the movement slips into the next variation where the solo cornet does a very fine job indeed. Some bold sounds to close but some misplaced entries detract.


Overall: Penicuik will not be the last band to find this a very tough ask indeed this afternoon. A brave effort with some very enjoyable solo playing however.









Penicuik Silver (Robert W Fraser)

Langholm Town (Chris Shanks)

Croy Silver (Kenneth Blackwood)

Dysart Colliery (Kenneth Letham)

Renfrew Burgh (Mark James)

Buckhaven & Mehtill Miners (Chris Mansfield)

Shotts St Patrick’s (Andy Shaw)

Highland Brass (Mark Bell)

Barrhead Burgh (Graham Dow)

Whitburn Heartlands (Ian Fleming)



Ready to go in the third seciton in Scotland. A very tough piece on the cards today....