THE NEXT CHAPTER - Euphonium star Robbert Vos looks to the future

Issue 6091

NEW DIMENSION - set for international brass series

GETTING IN SHAPE - Balancing practice and patience on the return to banding 

2020 Scottish Championships - Fourth Section

Sunday 8 March, 2020

Test-piece: Neverland (Christopher Bond)

Adjudicators: Anne Crookston and Jappie Dijkstra

Mark Good reporting.


1) Newland Concert Brass (Simon Railton) 90
2) Kilmarnock Concert Brass (Scott Walker) 88
3) Peebles Burgh (Peter Holmes) 87
4) Stranraer Brass (Angela Miller) 85
5) Dundee Instrumental  (Robert McDonald) 83
6) Callander Brass (Ian Milligan) 82
7) Brass Sounds Inverclyde (Wendy McCorkell) 81
8) Hawick Saxhorn (Stuart Black) 80
9) MacTaggart Scott (George Cameron) 79
10) Bon Accord Silver B (Jennifer Cook) 78
11) Coalburn Intermediate (David Fehilly) 77
12) Forfar Instrumental (Donald Innes) 76
13) Dunfermline Town (Andy Shaw) 75
14) Queensferry Community Brass (James Anderson) 74

Youngest Bb bass: Adam Riddiough, 13, Kilmarnock Concert Brass



Fourth Section thoughts:

That brings the Fourth Section to a close in Perth. Again, the music selection panel and composer Christopher Bond should be commended for bringing this piece to Fourth Section band halls around the country - an engaging work for bands and listeners alike, with plenty of opportunities to tell a story while working on the fundamentals of good brass playing.

As usual, the standards in the Fourth Section vary quite considerably but each band was able to enjoy this set test. It’ll be interesting to hear the adjudicators’ thoughts on what has been en engaging contest. As for a prediction, it’s tricky to say but let’s opt for:

1) Peebles Burgh
2) MacTaggart Scott
3) Kilmarnock Concert Brass

Look out for Newland Concert Brass in the mix too.


14) Bon-Accord Silver B (Jennifer Cook)

It’s all in place for Bon-Accord B, with nothing overcooked in the early stages. The band plays with only two basses, but they do well to provide a solid foundation on top of which the rest of the band can feel comfortable.

The forte sounds during the bells are bright and engaging and again, there is a pleasing sense of discipline. 

MD Jennifer Cook turns the corner elegantly into The Windows That Closed and there is a fine sound rises to the fore from solo cornet and the middle of the band. Only occasionally does the sheen come off, with intonation not quite settled towards the end of this passage.

Aboard the Pirate Ship is rhythmic and energetic, while the muted cornet colours are effective. That sense of discipline endures throughout the reading, which is to the credit of the band and MD, during a well-organised performance.


13) Queensferry Community Brass (James Anderson)

Queensferry settles into its stride, growing in confidence into Journey to Neverland. It sounds like bands are really enjoying this piece and credit is due to the selection panel for putting this one on the music stands of Fourth Section bands at the various Regional contests.

The Windows that Closed feels a little fragile at times, the lyrical demands of this music requiring that ‘moving air’ to really keep the sounds alive and singing. Intonation is unsettled in the final bars of this section, the intervals not quite sitting ‘pretty’. 

Queensferry plays with one percussionist, who works hard to cover as many of the lines as possible - and even add one or two into the mix.

Not everything comes off for Queensferry but the band works hard in a bid to get to grips with the demands of this enchanting score.


12) Brass Sounds Inverclyde (Wendy McCorkell)

The band sound from Brass Sounds Inverclyde is refined and the opening horn melody in Journey Into Neverland is sweet, with only minor intonation issues. Hi-hat is effective, bubbling away in the background while retaining a secure pulse along with the bass end.

The transition into The Windows that Closed is neat, though there is the odd mute clank.

At its best, the sound is very impressive, as are the solo sounds, and it’s underpinned by three hard-working basses. Occasionally - and usually in the softer sounds - do the foibles in intonation creep in.

The reins are held on Aboard the Pirate Ship, and ensemble is generally tight, building effectively to the upper dynamics. It occasionally gets a tad brash up top but the shapes are there, en route to a tight close.


11) Callander Brass (Ian Milligan)

Callander is largely secure in the opening stages. The hi-hat is rhythmic, only occasionally dropping out of the action. This is a lighter sound than some we have heard and it’s effective. Intonation is largely secure and there are only momentary lapses in ensemble.

The solo cornet playing to open The Windows that Closed is assured, as are the melodic lines which follow. It’s all making for a neat reading from Callander Brass, though it would be lovely to hear things coming to life a little more when the moment demands, particularly as we head Aboard the Pirate Ship. The bigger moments do come across very effectively in the latter stages, and they were worth waiting for.


10) Peebles Burgh (Peter Holmes)

Atmospheric to open and intonation feels comfortable, with a well-paced acceleration into Journey to Neverland.

The MD finds a gentle lilt in the melodic lines, with lovely legato phrases ringing out from the middle of the band. The bells get slightly messy but it regains its poise.

The solo cornet sound in The Windows that Closed is delightful and she has every right to smile after that - bravo! She inspires her colleagues, with the band offering a sound of real refinement. Towards the end of the passage, the bells doesn’t speak entirely together but recover second time round.

Aboard the Pirate Ship continues in the classy style which has been set so far. The players seem to be revelling in this musical storytelling; it’s so much fun, while retaining its control.

A terrific show from Peebles Burgh and Peter Holmes, with lots of refinement, led by principal cornet.


9) MacTaggart Scott Loanhead (George Cameron)

There’s a maturity to to the opening of Neverland from MacTaggart Scott and it’s mostly confident.

Journey into Neverland motors with purpose, MD George Cameron ensuring that the balance enables the leading lines to rise to the fore with ease. The subtle markings spring from Christopher Bond’s score.

After the energy of the opening section, The Windows that Closed is nicely understated from the outset.

The transition into Aboard the Pirate Ship is neatly executed, finding a gentle swagger and rising to some bold dynamics, which are almost always restrained. It made for a good show from MacTaggart Scott, of which the band and MD can be proud.


8) Forfar Instrumental (Donald Innes)

A calm, assured opening chord. There’s a touch of flatness to some of the middle sounds but it opens up into Journey to Neverland, which drives forward with purpose. The band plays with one young lad on percussion, who is kept busy but works hard to keep things driving.

Everything is largely in place for Forfar, though chords don’t always start together heading into The Windows that Closed. Solo cornet does well in spite of some banging about in the audience.

As has been a common theme today, intonation issues are never too far away and the softer sounds sometimes lose their sheen but particularly in the middle to bigger moments, Forfar produces a pleasing sound. 

Aboard the Pirate Ship ticks along. Most of the chords are balanced, with only the odd occasion where it would be lovely to hear some more strong foundations on which to build, within sections.

It’s neatly controlled by Donald Innes through to the close.


7) Dunfermline Town (Andy Shaw)

The opening chord takes a moment to settle for Dunfermline Town before it winds up into an engaging Journey to Neverland. This is largely neat and secure, with only the occasional splashy entry. It’s engaging though it would be lovely to hear the dissonances embraced a little more.

Ensemble monetarily loses its tightness between brass and percussion but recovers in a flash.

The Windows that Closed is sensitively directed and performed, MD Andy Shaw delving into the reflective qualities of this passage, and the euphonium sound is really pleasing on the ear. Some of the softer sounds become a little squeezed but the confidence returns immediately as we’re taken Aboard the Pirate Ship, underpinned by neat work from percussion.

It gets a tad over-exuberant in the final throes but brought to an end a solid performance from Dunfermline Town.


6) Kilmarnock Concert Brass (Scott Walker)

A band with a proud history takes to the stage in the shape of Kilmarnock Concert Brass. Scott Walker guides the Ayrshire band through a Journey to Neverland, finding a neat groove. Intonation is largely settled, with just the occasional moment of unease. There are a couple of rather youthful bass players, including one on Bb bass - great to see the next generation taking to the endangered species.

The Windows that Closed opens sensitively and there is some maturity to the sounds. Occasional blips creep in but the outline is clear and bold, a sentiment which continues into Aboard the Pirate Ship. Again, the flugel playing is assured, if slightly obscured by the texture underneath.

Basses work hard to try and bring out the nimble moments in the score and the sound, particularly in full flight, is impressive, while the energy remains throughout the final stages.


5) Coalburn Intermediate (David Fehilly)

Great to see Coalburn Intermediate Band competing on stage in the Fourth Section, showcasing a youthful band with a sprinkling of experience.

It’s largely neat to open and, while intonation isn’t entirely settled in Journey to Neverland, it’s flows very nicely, with the players enjoying themselves on stage. As players climb the stave and/or mutes come into play, intonation feels less settled but there are good attempts to bring the storytelling to life here and soloists do well in The Windows that Closed.

Aboard the Pirate Ship is full of fun, if maybe a little enthusiastic in the early dynamics. Flugel is assured; bravo.

It continues well through to the end, with just some extra ringing from percussion to close.


4) Dundee Instrumental (Robert McDonald)

Dundee Instrumental is atmospheric and understated to open. The lighter style continues in Journey to Neverland, which works well in this music, and it’s underpinned by a strong - but never over-bearing - bass and percussion team.

Some of the ‘clashy’ chords feel a little uneasy towards the end of this section as mutes start to have an effect on intonation but The Windows that Closed opens with a confident cornet sound and the baton passes around the stands, with players responding well to this lyrical music.

We’re taken Aboard the Pirate Ship, which has a stately feel to it. For large parts, the balance is nicely settled; only on occasional chords does it feel like it could do with a little more from some of the lower sounds within sections.

Dundee Instrumental and Robert McDonald save some of the biggest sounds to the last, making for nicely-paced and enjoyable account.


3) Hawick Saxhorn (Stuart Black)

It’s a little tentative to open from Hawick, though the sounds are promising. 

Christopher Bond’s music is a terrific choice, so engaging for bands and audience members. Hawick is having fun, and confidence rises in the bigger dynamics. Intonation isn’t always settled but MD Stuart Black works hard to ensure the catchy melodies cut through, and the bell effects ping their way from the stage.

The Windows that Closed flows nicely and it feels like the band has relaxed a little - just pesky intonation raising its head towards the end of this section.

Aboard the Pirate Ship ticks along nicely, with careful attention paid to balance in an engaging reading.


2) Newland Concert Brass (Simon Railton)

Newland Concert Brass starts confidently and the sound is big. Horns sing well in Journey to Neverland and the ensemble feels very tight, with attempts made to bring out the details (accents and subtle dynamic markings). 

The lead into The Windows that Closed feels a little less confident, intonation-wise, but it soon settles. Solo cornet does well in the lyrical solo and the sounds are endearing.

Aboard the Pirate Ship takes a moment to settle between brass and percussion but finds its swagger. It’s well-organised throughout by the MD and runs to a confident close.

Well done, horn team! Great sound from the middle of the band.


1) Stranraer Brass (Angela Miller)

Stranraer Brass kicks off the Fourth Section with an engaging sound, and intonation almost intact in the opening moments of Neverland.

Journey to Neverland has an energetic feel, underpinned by rock-solid hi-hat playing. The balance is good and the bell effects find their way out of the score.

The Windows that Closed grows in confidence and dynamics are well-paced. Some of the softer sounds lose their sheen a little, perhaps as the air stream stops flowing. 

It’s a neat transition into Aboard the Pirate Ship, which bounces along well, and the MD has gone to great lengths to ensure great attempts are made to bring out the light and shade in the score.

An enjoyable opening to what should be an enjoyable day of performances.



1. Stranraer Brass
2. Newland Concert Brass
3. Hawick Saxhorn
4. Dundee Instrumental
5. Coalburn Intermediate
6. Kilmarnock Concert Brass
7. Dunfermline Town
8. Forfar Instrumental
9. MacTaggart Scott
10. Peebles Burgh
11. Callendar Brass
12. Brass Sounds Inverclyde
13. Queensferry
14. Bon-Accord B

8am: Good morning from Perth. There's a touch of blue sky in the Fair City and there will be a spring in the step for bands in the Fourth and Championship sections as they hop off the coaches at Perth Concert Hall, ready to take to the stage.