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


2020 Scottish Championships - First Section

Saturday 7 March, 2020

Test Piece: Legacy for Brass Band (Tom Davoren)

Adjudciators: Anne Crookston & Jappie Dijsktra

Martyn Ramsay reporting 




1 Kingdom Brass (Ian Porthouse) 94 points*

2 Bathgate (Craig Anderson) 92 points*

3 Johnstone (Mark Good) 90 points

4 Newmilns & Galston (Mark James) 89 points

5 Dalkeith & Monktonhall (James Chamberlain) 88 points

6 Granite City Brass (Bruce Wallace) 87 points

7 Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman) 86 points

8 Campbletown Brass (Stephanie Mitchell) 85 points

9 Newmains & District (Michael Marzella) 84 points

10 Tullis Russell (Ray Munday) 82 points

Best instrumentalist - Principal Cornet Kingdom Brass

Best Horn - Solo Horn Newmilns & Galston


*Qualify for national finals





The winner is probably a clear one but after that, this is going to be tough, with the only guarantee that there will be some very disappointed bands with their result compared to performance. Legacy is an intriguing piece because it is very playable as it looks but it begs for the conductors to get their hands dirty and really find the emotion that is layered throughout it. Some went hard at it and found reward whereas others got caught out at times and the rest of the field played safer and ran the risk of being thought of as anodyne when others would appreciate the detail coming through. Such is that subjectivity, anything could happen here. Bathgate, Granite City, Johnstone, Newmains and Newmilns could all make a case that they should join Kingdom at Cheltenham but Anne Crookston and Jappie Dijkstra can’t fit them all in the one bus. We have our top six but it could really be anyone’s tonight.


1 Kingdom Brass

2 Nemwilns & Galston

3 Bathgate

4 Johnstone 

5 Newmains & District

6 Granite City Brass


Real results expected around 9pm




10 Newmilns & Galston - Mark James

There is a really good sense of poise and foreboding about this opening. Most of the score is coming out right up here to the galleries. Could have done with more percussion into a nicely worked brass sound but the this deceptively tricky close just about gets there without too much damage. Some cornet detail at G at last! Very fine cornet playing, the band could possibly support more and bring other lines into balance but this is a nice treatment of such sentiment. The merest of slips on solo horn is a shame because this really is a fine reading and well delivered. Soprano brilliant. The music is held back well for the climax but there is still more in the score at that moment than we have heard today. The quiet playing to round this off has been very well done indeed. This is a controlled approach to the March and the detail gets through. There is just one moment, the ‘ff’ bar two before N (and the same two before O), where control is momentarily lost but the measured reading doesn’t dull the music overall, although it threatens to near P, and the performances finishes strongly.

Overall: Well this may well have sneaked in you know. One of the more considered approaches and mostly the music won as a result. Still the odd moment and it might not simply be to taste, but they should be pleased with that.


9 Tullis Russell - Ray Munday

Another former champion comes to the stage. Impressive start as so many have been but the there is a heavy approach to the driving 3/4 and there are intonation issues and a friction in ensemble as we close the first movement. The cornet solo is tidy without bringing a tear to the eye and is followed up well by soprano. The elegiac horn solo is treated nicely but there are moments of intonation creeping in. The emotional high point is a little scrappy but the band are fully committed to paying this tribute. The March to Progress is another of the big and bold approach and, as we have seen, detail and ensemble can really suffer. It probably did too often here to elevate the band towards the prizes.

Overall: It is a very emotional piece this and when those moments arrive in all three movements they still need control. Much to enjoy, as there has been all day, it just suffered a little from overreach at times.


8 Bathgate - Craig Anderson 

A lot of warmth and texture from this opening. Most of the music flows well and detail shows up. Until the end of the movement, euph sound gets slightly lost from up here but all comes through to close off nicely. Some of the cornet detail at G comes through, which has been a rarity today. One of the best cornet solos today is followed up nicely by sopranos. The band are starting to really feel the purpose here. Horn solo is excellent, of course, but there is such a good support from the rest of the band. Real shame on the Sop top C as the band were really opening up with some brilliant sounds. Feels like there could be more in the full-hearted ‘ff’ moments but its all there and it is closed off well. Another March of Progress full of socialist conviction and intent. Like the other final movements that are similar today it’s sometimes the detail in dynamic, balanced lines and articulation that suffers as is it all sounds very similar. It has power though and we get yet another very confident finale.

Overall: This has a great deal to merit it being in the prizes. Good reading and full sounds for the most part and soloists well led by their PC. The finale was a touch robust and it really is going to be a question of taste over a tick box to separate some of these.



7 Coalburn Silver - Gareth Bowman 

An opening with a little more pace than we’ve heard today. Detail and flow mostly still in place however we lose a fair bit as the band head towards B. Nice Euph work before the close but not always matched in the back row cornets. Another enjoyable cornet solo although we really aren’t hanging around here. What this does do however is provide some context for the slightly slower horn solo which is beautifully delivered. Band support very sensitive also. There is more of an emotional outpouring now and it’s nice to hear. Little under strength for ‘ff’ in such an impactful moment into L but it’s mostly all there and there’s a nice shape to the end. Band really in a groove now. There’s a drive about the march and the detail count is at a good level. Another final section that has a lot to admire about its approach and sound but perhaps too often at the cost of detail and togetherness. Purpose and intent are there but so are the odd moments of insecurity. 

Overall: One that improved as it progressed. Solo horn particularly impressive


6 Granite City Brass - Bruce Wallace 

This piece won’t have caused many sleepless nights this week as another band get off to a very solid and musically interesting start, nicely capturing tension in some lines and reassurance in others. The MD and principal cornet enjoy playing with the solo lines at times but there’s also the odd moment of insecurity. The conveyor belt of fine horn solos continues, such a gorgeous solo and yet again it is very well delivered. Sop top C isn’t quite as balanced with the band as the later one is. Everyone is enjoying this music today and Granite are no exception. Some lovely stuff in there. The March sets off in a hurry, percussion just about keeps up. It is solid, of course, but there could be more dynamic contrast within the band, some lines that should dominate aren’t really heard. Strong finish but rarely harsh or hurried.

Overall: A performance with pretty much everything in its place but maybe failed to jump off the page like others have. Such solidity and security but there is more in the score. How much is going to the big question today.


5 Johnstone - Mark Good

The first outing at this contest for Johnstone since winning it two years ago… Nice opening, lines all there and the music has a nice flow. Band sounds stays very much within the box and doesn’t open up as much as those that have come before. Nice shape still but middle band detail isn’t always there. There is good control to finish the movement however. Cornet is very nice, first of the day to get through it super clean. Tempo may be a little on the high but the band are very confident in expressing the emotion. The solo horn is given all the room he wants and it is very good, with the slightest bit of intonation on the A. The soprano top C is nailed to the back of the press box as the movement continues in confident mood. Slight blip on the flugel top G but the solo cornet takes back the initiative with a nice finish alongside the Euph. The March of Progress is exciting, on occasions excited, but always reigned back if and when it gets ahead of itself. Perhaps a loss of ensemble through P but the close is strong and bold. 

Overall: A fine return to form for Johnstone here. So many very good moments throughout. Much will depend on what the judges are looking for in the middle movement. There isn’t a wrong answer (within reason) and you could easily make cases for so many interpretations here today. Johnstone’s containment in the middle movement and touches of mis-control in the final movement may cost a bounce straight back up but a great deal to make a case for it.


4 Dalkeith & Monktonhall - James Chamberlain

Another good opening that has purpose, good sounds and no real issues of note. If we were to be picky, and you’d imagine today the judges will really have to be, there could be slightly more back row detail and flow and then togetherness in the close to the first movement. Fine effort on the cornet solo, just a few slips but there hasn’t been a clean performance yet of this very beautiful line. Horn solo is good but louder than the ones that have come before. Nicely directed rall into K captures the mood perfectly. Some impressive sounds throughout this movement with just a few blemishes. A very tidy March to Progress, never scrappy and on the edge but also might struggle to stand out. 

Overall: A very well-directed and controlled performance which indulged when necessary but not all the time. There were errors, possibly the highest of the evening, but not enough to detract significantly from the performance. Another really tough decision to separate these bands out.


3 Newmains & District - Michael Marzella 

Another confident opening with everything in place. Lacks a sense of flow at times and some heavy dynamics and articulation where there isn’t an obvious need. Some fresh sounds and ideas however. Each band will bring something of themselves to this piece. There are some nice tones on display by the soloists at the start of the middle movement but always a wee glitch or two. Some great backrow detail bring brought out on top of which the soprano line is superb. Brilliant solo horn work once more in this piece as the MD really delves into the emotional reservoir. Sop is fantastic and then the music just becomes a little too contrived and errors creep in as we close the movement. The March of Progress is very bold, like a Health Secretary stuffing the mouths of Doctors full of gold/American loan dollars. It is very exciting this but always on the edge. Lot of pace being built up but the solo cornet is equal to the challenge with that awkward line and the band power home to to finish line.

Overall: A good show by a band that continues to impress each year. Took a wee while to get into its stride but once there it was very convincing indeed. This piece is very, very playable at this level which is great for the audience but maybe not in the box!


2 Campbeltown Brass - Stephanie Mitchell

Some superb detail from the youngsters of Campbeltown in this opening section. There’s a nice balance within the self-contained structure. Great work on the back row cornets but sometimes there’s a sense of friction with the euphonium line. Lovely cornet sound fills the solo, a shame that we lost a bit of fuel at the end. It doesn’t spoil though as the band pick back up and keep the emotional flow. Excellent solo horn. This middle movement is very well-measured when it could be so easy to overdo the saccharine nostalgia. Couple of clips amongst some fine solo lines to close that movement off. The March to Progress is characterised by detail and control. ‘mf’ just being that and the articulated difference shining through and the conclusion is right in step. 

Overall: Given the age of some of these players, much of this was outstanding to listen to. A considered reading that had control, purpose and still lots of emotional impact. A relatively high error count on a piece like this may cost but they can be very proud of that performance today.


1 Kingdom Brass - Ian Porthouse 

Great sounds and purpose but not without the odd issue to start. There’s such a quality flow to the music and the details pops out. The music decays away to a nice finish to the opening. The solo cornet line is beautifully delivered, with just a couple of minor scratches. The pianissimo playing is super and the solo horn continues this continuous feel of warmth with such a tastefully delivered line. Soprano is able to just peer above the sonorous band sounds. Again it is the playing at the lower dynamic range that is so well done. The march to progress is big and bold but sometimes it tests the very limits of controlled ensemble. So much detail again from letter P and there are some massive sounds to close. 

Overall: Not the draw they would have wanted but Kingdom have set a high bar from the off. The piece doesn’t allow too many moments at the upper dynamics for this band to set themselves apart and in some instances they pushed the limits of ‘mf’ and ‘f’ but it was the quiet playing that was most impressive. The MD captured the spirit of the music well and now all they can do is wait.





We are about to get underway here in Perth on this very interesting piece and what will be a fascinating contest. Here is the draw




Kingdom Brass (Ian Porthouse)

Campbeltown Brass (Stephanie Mitchell)

Newmains & District (Michael Marzella)

Dalkeith & Monktonhall (James Chamberlain)

Johnstone (Mark Good)

Granite City Brass (Bruce Wallace)

Coalburn Silver (Gareth Bowman)

Bathgate (Craig Anderson)

Tullis Russell (Ray Munday)

Newmilns & Galston (Mark James)