LIVING THE DREAM - B&R bari star Amy Ewen chats to BB

Issue 6140

END OF THE ROAD - Jeans' tenure at GUS comes to a close

CONCERT REVIEW - Tredegar shines at Newbury Spring Festival

SADLY MISSED - Richard Evans laid to rest

BIDDING FAREWELL - Stephen Allen says goodbye to Lancaster British Brass Band

Winning ways for Whitburn

Wednesday 23 March, 2022

Brass bands from all over Scotland descended on Perth on March 12 and 13 for the return of the Scottish Championships. From the challenges of Wilfred Heaton’s masterpiece Contest Music to Stephen Hodel’s Argos in the Fourth Section, the sound of brass rang out from Perth Concert Hall at the first ‘Scottish’ in two years.

Martyn Ramsay looks back at the action.


“We wanted to choose music that got people up out of their arm-chair on a cold and wet February night and get to band,” said Sandy Smith during his on-stage remarks at the Perth Concert Hall. As an adjudicator on three of the contests over the course of the weekend, and a significant voice on the music panel that decided on the chosen works, he was best placed to explain both his rationale in theory and to judge how it had worked in practice.

After a long and difficult two years away from these championships, Sections One to Four were given music that fitted the remit perfectly. All pieces that were eminently playable; we heard 37 bands which seemingly enjoyed making music again to an audience who were more than happy to listen. With the Championship Section, the thought process went one step further. Not overly impressed with some of the “smoke and mirror” choices in the years leading up to the pandemic, Smith said that they chose Wilfred Heaton’s masterpiece Contest Music, so that bands “could get back to working on the fundamentals” before admitting that there were few, if any, better tests than this.

A tough enough challenge at the best of times, Scotland’s top bands were asked even greater questions by having to play a piece notorious for its ensemble issues whilst being socially distanced on stage. The quiet and thinly scored passages between back row cornets and trombones can pose problems in even the best of band rooms but tenfold when both sections were practically in different constituencies. Smith himself was happy to concede that he would not have fancied that one bit and both he and his colleague for the afternoon, Sheona Wade, made mention of the lack of cohesion when passing musical lines throughout the band as well as the lack of risk-taking in the quieter dynamics which are demanded by Heaton in the middle movement. As expected, the test-piece was the winner.

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Issue 6132 digital March 17, 2022