A LIVING LEGEND - Celebrating Elgar Howarth as he prepares to turn 85

Issue 6068

HIGHLIGHT REEL - Virtual Brass in Concert to look back at best of the best

FLUGEL SIGNING - Black Dyke welcomes new addition to the ranks

2020 Scottish Championships - Championship Section

Sunday 8 March, 2020

Championship Section


Test-piece: A Tale As Yet Untold (Philip Sparke)

Adjudicators: Dave Barringer and Sandy Smith

Mark Good reporting. 



1) The cooperation band (Russell Gray) 93*
2) Bon-Accord Silver (Adam Cooke) 91*
3) Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Thomas Wyss) 90
4) Whitburn Band (Joe Cook) 89**
5) Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tennant) 88
6) The Kirkintilloch Band (Christopher King) 87
7) Dalmellington Band (Erik Janssen) 86
8) Newtongrange Silver (Andrew Duncan) 84
9) Dunaskin Doon (Paul Drury) 81
10) Bo’ness and Carriden (Glyn Williams) 80


*qualify for National finals

**pre-qualified for National finals


Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass brings an enjoyable contest to a close. Overall, the standard was fairly high throughout on a challenging piece. Yes, some soloists were pushed to (and occasionally beyond) their limit but among the field, there were some particularly virtuosic sounds.

This could get interesting. The margins are so small and it could depend what approach finds favour with the adjudicators, from dramatic readings that weren’t without the occasional flaw to those which played it safe. After the winning band, it could genuinely fall any number of ways.

Who knows how it’ll all come out? For what it’s worth, we’ll opt for:

1) the cooperation band
2) Whitburn Band
3) Unison Kinneil or Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass

Look out for Dalmellington too.


10) Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass (Thomas Wyss)

A neat, nimble opening before Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass takes full flight. Basses cut through well in their busy lines. The florid tenor horn writing is handled with ease and it’s very tight. There’s a just a touch of fragility turning into the 6/8 but it regains composure.

Bar fleeting moments, ensemble is ever so tight and it continues that way through to a very confident close to the first movement.

The molto lento is thick and creamy, with rich euphonium sounds to the fore while the euph solo which follows is heartfelt, tender and beautifully paced. The trombone section interjection takes a moment to settle before elegant baritone takes over. Bravo, tenor horn, for one of the finest contributions of the day - and such poise. Cornet does well.

It feels like the quartet is given room to breathe. The pianissimo is so atmospheric, with just a hint of tension, and the musical intentions are so engaging in those final stages of the second movement; it was very close to coming off.

The molto vivace is spirited and there are some fine individual sounds on display, including euphonium and soprano. It continues to gather momentum and the ending is thrilling.

Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass rounds off a pleasing Championship Section with a delightful reading from Thomas Wyss. Most of the intentions were realised; only occasionally did a hint of fragility creep in. Bravo, solo horn!


9) Newtongrange Silver (Andrew Duncan)

Andrew Duncan guides Newtongrange through a measured, disciplined opening which opens into a broad, expansive sound.

It’s engaging and there is so much attention to detail, though not everything cuts through. This is a very considered opening movement, during which there is a clear attempt to let the nimble work breathe and it works for large parts.

The molto lento opens well, with only the occasional scrappy corner taking the sheen off slightly. Euphonium handles the cadenza well. Intonation doesn’t feel entirely settled for bari but the intentions are clear while horn does well, with only a brief lapse. Cornet does well and the quartet which follows is given some room to breathe. The pianissimo moment is atmospheric, if a little fragile, in the closing moments.

Without a break, we’re straight into the molto vivace, which sees Newtongrange embrace the meandering triplet lines which weave their way through the score. There’s a good deal of confidence around the stands as the third movement progresses and the band seems to be enjoying itself, while the final moments are exciting and tight to close.

Andrew Duncan guides Newtongrange Silver through a well-measured reading which retained its poise but was let off the leash when required. There were scrappy moments and not everything came off quite as hoped but it more than held its own today.


8) Unison Kinneil (Raymond Tennant)

This opens well, with a neat and nimble account establishing itself under the direction of Raymond Tennant. Unison Kinneil is another band returning to the top flight and the First Section national champion showcases a tremendous amount of breadth to its sound in the first movement. 

The florid tenor horn writing largely makes its way out of the score. The odd clip creeps in from time to time and there are fleeting moments where ensemble doesn’t feel entirely settled but overall, there’s plenty of confidence on display.

The molto lento opens with a heartfelt tenderness and grows nicely, showcasing a rich, old-fashioned warmth. Euphonium does well and the confidence is shared by baritone. The tenor horn playing is so assured; a delightful contribution and cornet rounds off the cadenzas well.

The tutti pianissimo moment is nicely restrained and trombone is sublime to bring the second movement to a close, effortlessly lingering on the high D.

The molto vivace springs along with drive and is mainly delivered well, really taking flight in the latter stages of what has been an exciting return to the Championship Section for Unison Kinneil.


7) The Kirkintilloch Band (Chris King)

The Kirkintilloch Band returns to the Championship Section and creates an atmosphere, right from the off. It’s bold. Trombone is mainly secure. It doesn’t always feel rock-solid, as far as ensemble is concerned but the intentions are clear and Chris King draws a tremendous variety of colour from Philip Sparke’s score.

The molto lento is tender to open, with the occasional clip creeping into the texture. Euph is a little nervy and the cadenza doesn’t quite come off as intended but bari and horn do well. The challenges for soloists in this work as notable and there have been great efforts today, albeit with differing levels of success. The pianissimo moment is pitched nicely, with a hint of nerves, and it’s not entirely settled to close.

The molto vivace offers an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and things feel more at ease in the busier material. There is some creative tweaking but it just about comes through.

A bold account from the Kirkintilloch Band on its return to the top flight. Not everyone came through unscathed today in some challenging cadenzas during what was an exciting reading from Christopher King.


6) Bon-Accord Silver (Adam Cooke)

A little untidy to open but soon settles into its stride. The euphonium sounds are rich and the quality is consistent around the stand.

Ensemble is settled and Adam Cooke ensures a sense of flow permeates this opening movement, which has an air of quality, individually and collectively. Only occasionally do clips take the sheen off an otherwise enjoyable performance.

The molto lento is so well-shaped to open though it doesn’t quite seem to blend, somehow. Euphonium sounds very fine, demonstrating a level of composure during the cadenza that hasn’t always been prevalent today. The trombone interjections are confident and well-delivered. Baritone does well. The horn cadenza doesn’t quite come through unscathed in what is a particularly challenging line. Cornet picks up well, elegantly turning into the quartet, before an understated pianissimo passage, and assured trombone, bring the molto lento to a confident close.

Little time is wasted before the onset of the molto vivace. It’s well-measured, with nothing rushed or over-cooked while basses bring through much of the intricate detail found in Philip Sparke’s score.

The final stages are nicely planted and it enables the band to play with confidence through to the close.

Bon-Accord Silver settles into its stride which retained its quality for so much of this elegant reading under Adam Cooke. The sheen came off at times but it was well-measured and there were some classy solo moments. Tidy.


5) Bo’ness and Carriden (Glyn Williams)

Settled to open from Bo’ness and Carriden, which plays with three on the front row. Trom is largely secure before the band turns to the virtuosic semiquaver writing. Much of it makes its way off the stage, though it doesn’t all project. It’s pacey but the hammered accents stay together, cutting through the texture effectively. There are some fragilities up top, where not everything quite speaks as intended on the way to the close of the first movement.

The molto lento is largely secure to open. That euph cadenza is a beast and, although it doesn’t happen entirely as intended, the shape is there. Bari does well, and horn follows with confidence. Flugel is expressive and leads the quartet sweetly.

The molto vivace sees confidence return around the stands, flowing along with pulse and energy. Not everything leaps out from the score but it remains pretty tidy through to a confident close.

A bit inconsistent from Bo’ness and Carriden, with not all soloists coming through unscathed. When it was working well, it was tidy and flowed nicely, though.


4) Whitburn Band (Joe Cook)

The quality is evident from the opening stages as Whitburn seeks to reclaim the Scottish Championship title. It drives forward, the intricate lines spiralling so neatly. Whitburn’s bass end has often been key to its success and it’s easy to hear why as the two sets of brothers provide an awesome foundation on which to build a band sound.

Euph and sop don’t turn the corner together heading into the legato melody at 76 but there is some fine playing from solo cornet in the intricate line, well matched by euph.

The molto lento takes a fraction of a second to settle but the quality of the sounds are apparent immediately. Euphonium demonstrates a tender lyricism before handling the cadenza with apparent ease. The confidence is shared in baritone and horn does well, with just a couple of scruffy edges. The solo cornet playing is very good (the tiniest blip) before a hushed pianissimo in the final moments of the molto lento. Shame about the ringing phone. The slightest of clips, too, from trom to close.

The molto vivace sees the slate wiped clean as Whitburn opens confidently. It’s not the clinical Whitburn we have heard in the past, though. Having pre-qualified for the Nationals, the aim for the West Lothian band is clearly first place - but was it enough today?


3) Dalmellington (Erik Janssen)

The opening stages fizz gently in a well-measured start from Dalmellington which is vibrant before the Ayrshire band shows its teeth at full tilt. The sound is enormous, built on a fine bottom end. There are the slightest intonation grumbles in euph but they’re over in a flash.

This is a purposeful account from Dalmellington as it seeks to claim one of the qualifying places for the Nationals at the Royal Albert Hall - and so much of it is clinical in its delivery. The first movement comes to a close in impressive fashion.

The molto lento opens with a delightful sheen to the sound and it’s shaped with elegance - but not overdone. Euphonium does well, with only slight blemishes while negotiating the cadenza. The interjecting chords are well-organised and largely settled. Baritone does well, as does horn, before solo cornet turns the corner beautifully into the quartet. The sounds here are rich and tender, ably led by flugelhorn.

The pianissimo moment is given so much care and attention. It’s controlled and stately, before spiralling cornet lines and trombone bring the movement to a fine close.

Molto vivace is neat and nimble to open, xylophone sitting pretty alongside the brass lines. The confidence as the movement progresses; there is some wonderful playing on display here. It isn’t without occasional clips in the long melodic lines, though.

Furiously exciting to close.

Dalmellington sets out its stall in purposeful fashion, largely clinical in its delivery under Erik Janssen but there were some blips. The MD leaves no stone unturned in his quest to help the Ayrshire band qualify for London. 


2) Dunaskin Doon (Paul Drury)

Not everything is together in the opening stages for Dunaskin Doon but the sounds are quality and it opens into a thundering sound, which retains its control.

There’s the occasional scruffy corner when flying around some of the virtuosic writing in the early stages of Philip Sparke’s score - but it is difficult writing, and this band, which has a proud heritage, is working hard to bring out much of the detail, as it seeks to continue re-establishing itself in the Championship Section.

Paul Drury ensures the molto lento moves forward, drawing creamy, endearing sounds from around the stands - these are of real quality. This isn’t allowed to become overly-sentimental. Underneath, it isn’t always entirely settled. Euph takes time and space to negotiate the cadenza, delivering neatly.

Bari is a touch nervy but does well before horn picks up the mantle, performing well, with only minor clips along the way. Solo cornet plays with confidence too too. The quartet moment is decisive and nicely shaped though the nerves are apparent. In full flight, the sound is of a high quality; there are just some clips en route to the close of the molto lento.

The molto vivace takes a moment to settle but finds it groove. Not all the detail cuts across in this busy movement - it’s rather a busy movement and there are so many instructions. It flows well though and tuned percussion is tight as a nut with brass.

Paul Drury guides Dunaskin Doon through a well-organised reading which had many qualities, including a lovely sheen to the sound. Not all the detail leapt up from the page but there was plenty to enjoy.


1) The cooperation band (Russell Gray)

An elegant opening, which soon opens into a sound of considerable proportions. The chit-chattering lines bubble away in the background while the sweeping melodies in the low end are elegant and graceful.

Most of the nimble tenor horn writing finds its way out of the score, with only some of the lower semiquaver lines losing projection. Intonation is not entirely uniform between sop and euph but it is fleeting.

It feels a touch bold in the louder semiquaver work, though the detail is certainly there, before the first movement comes to a resounding close.

The molto lento is warm and plummy to open, with delightful sounds emanating from the middle of the band. The euphonium solo is endearing and Russell Gray ensures proceedings retain a sense of flow. Lovely spacing from euphonium before horn picks up the mantle, negotiating the considerable cadenza with flair. The interjecting chords, meanwhile, start largely together. 

The quartet is sensitively delivered, if not always starting together, as is the case for the tutti pianissimo section but the colours are vibrant.

Trombone does well, soaring into the upper reaches to close the molto lento.

The molto vivace has a lightness of touch to open, soon taking full flight - and it flies. Sop and euphonium do their own flying, rising out of the texture in the overarching melodic line with grace. Underneath, most of the nimble detail comes through. Percussion interjections are tight but a bit healthy.

It’s big and well-organised to close, with confidence flying around the stand. 

A strong marker from defending champion, the cooperation band, and Russell Gray. How will the others compare?



1) the cooperation band
2) Dunaskin Doon
3) Dalmellington
4) Whitburn
5) Bo’ness and Carriden
6) Bon-Accord Silver
7) Kirkintilloch
8) Unison Kinneil
9) Newtongrange Silver
10) Kirkintilloch Kelvin Brass