Irvine and Dreghorn Brass Band had some recent success in the 2019 Scottish Championships held in Perth Concert Hall on March 9th 2019. Unfortunately, the day did not start off so smoothly.
Knowing the outcome of the ‘pre-draw’ the band made arrangements to depart from the band hall in Irvine at 06:30 and chairperson, Steven Purss, made arrangements to have some hot rolls and coffee for the early morning bus journey. As the bus made its usual stop off in Kilmarnock for the first pick up, the driver dealt us a sickening blow with the news that the bus was showing ‘low oil pressure’ and he couldn’t take us any further. After failing to contact his company, the driver was at a loss and the band were having to seriously consider the idea of taking multiple cars on the journey to Perth. After multiple phone calls, the driver was finally able to make the relevant arrangements to have another bus come and continue on the journey – though now 45 minutes behind schedule. With the frantic phone calls ongoing to keep everyone in the loop, the new – working - bus continued up the motorway as the band members enjoyed an early morning quiz prepared by IDB’s very own, Tracy Smith.
Expected on stage to play the National Anthem at 09:20, the band pulled up outside Perth Concert Hall at 09:05 and rushed inside to registration and warm up where new Musical Director, Lewis Bettles was fantastic in keeping everyone calm and happy. Lewis, took the band through some very effective breathing exercises before having a quick tune-up, then off to the wings to prepare for going on! On stage was no different for Lewis in his mission to keep everyone at ease, with plenty of smiles and some waves up to the balcony where IDB percussionist, James McGoldrick (who was not performing with the band) was in charge of the SBBA social media platforms. This helped to keep the atmosphere around the stands light-hearted as the compere stepped forward to request that everyone who is able, to stand for the National Anthem of Great Britain.
The previous two months had built up to this moment where Irvine and Dreghorn could showcase their interpretation of ‘Gustav Holsts: First Suite in Eb’. As the band moved their way through the “Chaconne”, adjudicators commented that it was a “Well measured opening” with “Good dynamic contrasts” though it was the Soprano Cornet, Lois Kirk, that took the adulations with a mention in the 'crit' from adjudicator, Leigh Baker. After a “strong Maestoso finish” to the first, it was onto the second movement – though the break between movements only highlighted the harsh stillness around the concert hall. As the “Intermezzo” drove forward, adjudicator, Leigh Baker, highlighted the “Nice sounds from cornets and then euphs and bari’s” he praised the band and musical director for being “Well balanced and controlled” throughout. A generally short test piece the third movement consists of a quick march where both adjudicators were in agreement with their comments on the bands “good sense of style and good balances”. Leigh Baker then rounded off his comments by saying:
“Overall – a well measured, intelligent approach.”
“An enjoyable show – thank you.”
With the result of two months of hard work, an early rise and the stress of a broken down bus over in a quick 15 minutes on stage, the band headed back to pack up their instruments and straight for some photo opportunities to show off their new shell jackets with great thanks to Martin at Centre Stage for providing the band with them.
After some quick refreshments and catch-ups with other bands around the concert hall, it was time for the results. With almost a full band again, they took their seat and enjoyed the adjudicators comments before they moved onto the final results. Brett Baker was first up, focusing on areas such as: ensuring that phrases are taken through to completion, tuning and note production. Leigh was then able to follow up on Brett’s comments stating that this particular test piece is very different and referred to it as an “archive test piece” where bands may benefit from playing more of the basic repertoire to help with playing together and tuning. He then moved on in his comments to mention the start of all three movements being very difficult due to them being in unison and quite exposed.
With the constructive feedback from the adjudicators out of the way, it was then onto the results. The first award of the afternoon was for the ‘Best Instrumentalist’ which went to the Soprano Cornet player of Renfrew Burgh Band, George Mullin. Next up, 3rd place, this too went to Renfrew Burgh Band. This was Renfrew’s final Scottish Championships under the direction of Mark Good who is stepping away from the band as his wife is expecting their first child. Mark later said on social media:
“So very proud of Renfrew Burgh Band with its third position at the Scottish Championships!
Overjoyed at George Mullin on receiving his Best Instrumentalist prize. George embodies the very best of what it means to be a bandsperson. A more dedicated soul you will struggle to find - and a very good friend too.”
“And so seven years come to a close. I’ll look back on some wonderful memories - and some hair-raising ones - with friends. Most importantly, a terrific bunch of open-minded people who enjoy their music making and are willing to take new ideas on board. Any conductor would be lucky to have them.”
Irvine and Dreghorn Brass Band would like to wish Mark and his wife, Laura, the best of luck with their family and hope to see them again soon at the various contests and concerts.
On to second place, and it was Perthshire Brass that received this award, along with their invitation to compete in the National Finals in Cheltenham. The usual tension came over the hall as Perthshire left the stage and we were about to hear who the winner would be. Though when band number one (Irvine and Dreghorn Brass) were announced as Scottish Third Section Winners of 2019, the band erupted out of their seats in cheers of celebration! What a result for Irvine and Dreghorn! The band walked away with the first place, £200, a medal for each member of the band, the winners banner, the William Anderson Trophy and an invitation to represent Scotland at the National Finals in Cheltenham alongside 2nd place winners, Perthshire Brass.
This was the band’s first contest under new Musical Director, Lewis Bettles who joined Irvine and Dreghorn late in 2018. Lewis’ hard work and commitment to IDB really paid off and I was able to catch up with him after the results.
“What an amazing feeling, what an incredible day. I stayed in Perth last night, but the band bus broke down this morning, so when the band arrived at 09:05 and we were to be on stage for 09:20 it was a bit stressful this morning but [the band] really pulled it out the bag and did a really great job, so proud of them”
I asked Lewis what was next for the band:
“Well, as the adjudicators were saying in their speeches, it’s all about the basics. I think that the band, yes we played incredibly well today and the really done themselves proud, but we can still improve more on the basics; tuning, playing together, for me – that’s the way forward.”
The band had several young players, and a few guest players on stage with them on Saturday. It has been great to see the progression that Faye, Charlie and Zoë have had through the youth band and look forward to having them as part of the band for years to come. IDB would also like to thank, Lois, Frazer and Joe Kirk for their commitment and hard work given to Irvine and Dreghorn over the past 2 months, it’s been great having them along and hope to have them back soon.
The entire weekend was not only a success for Irvine and Dreghorn, but all Ayrshire bands and friends of the band. With Kilmarnock Concert Brass coming 3rd in the fourth section, IDB winning the third section, Newmilns and Galston coming 5th in the first section (along with the Best Instrumentalist for their soprano cornet player), Dalmelington coming 4th in the Championship section and Dunaskin Doon finishing 5th in the Championship Section – which is their highest result ever! This has well and truly been the best year in history for Ayrshire brass bands! IDB would like to congratulate all the bands for their amazing results!
So whats next for IDB? Keep an eye on our social media pages for more information: