‘Something in the water’ as brass musicians make waves across Scotland

The musicians who placed first in the 12 and under ensembles contest, clockwise from top left: Gregor Craig, Grace Barr, James Barr and Charlie Colville.
The musicians who placed first in the 12 and under ensembles contest, clockwise from top left: Gregor Craig, Grace Barr, James Barr and Charlie Colville.

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It has been more than a year since Campbeltown Brass last performed publicly – at Murrayfield Stadium before a Scotland v France Six Nations rugby match in March 2020 – however, the band’s musical director, Stephanie Mitchell, has been continuing to keep the members motivated with some exciting musical opportunities.

It has been a busy month for the band’s members, from beginning virtual rehearsals at the start of March, to many of the players taking part in the Scottish Brass Band Association (SBBA) Solo and Ensemble Festival, and having the ‘incredible’ Nicholas Childs, from the world-famous Black Dyke Band, lead a virtual rehearsal.

One of the most challenging aspects of lockdown has been keeping motivated in all aspects of life, so Stephanie hoped that by beginning virtual band rehearsals, it would help to encourage people to keep practising – or just get the instrument back out its case again.

She was also keen to continue to help develop players’ ability, keep the band moving forward as an ensemble, and enhance the quality of virtual performing projects.

She told the Courier: ‘As we all know, Campbeltown Brass is very much a community band, so I really thought this would be good for our mental wellbeing to come together once a week and just have some fun.

‘The band was very privileged to be joined by Professor Nicholas Childs, who is the conductor and musical director for the award-winning Black Dyke Band.

‘Under his baton, the band has won three European Championships, six National Championships, three British Open Championships… the list is endless.

‘Amy Paterson, a former member, is now Black Dyke Band’s second horn player, and is enjoying continuing her musical career at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Nicholas said: ‘Amy has followed in the footsteps of another Campbeltown Brass player, Morvern Sinclair (Gilchrist); I believe there must be something in the water in Campbeltown to continue to produce such amazing players.’

As well as enjoying being back playing virtually, many of the band’s members took part in SBBA’s Solo and Ensemble Festival, including: in the 12 and under solos: Gregor Craig, qualified for finals; Charlie Colville, qualified for finals; Cara McFadzean, third place at finals; James Barr.

In the 16 and under solos: Andrew McMillan, second place at finals; Mae Barr, qualified for finals; Rona Campbell; Drew Cunningham.

In the 12 and under ensembles: Charlie Colville, Gregor Craig, Grace Barr and James Barr, first place at finals; Cara McFadzean, Annie Watson, Emma Oman and James Barr, second place at finals.

And in the 16 and under ensembles: Cara McFadzean, Sean West, Mae Barr, Mia MacLaren and Flint-Phoenix Barrett, second place at finals.

‘I was absolutely delighted with every single performance that these youngsters put on,’ Stephanie said. ‘It was even more challenging due to the competition being done virtually, so there was a lot more hard work and preparation with recordings having to be done in advance…and on their own. I am very proud of them all.’

Campbeltown Brass will be launching a special new project next week in a bid to recruit new players to the band as it looks towards a bright future.

Several members of Campbeltown Brass took part in the SBBA's Solo and Ensemble Festival, held virtually this year, meaning they had to record their own performances.
The musicians who placed first in the 12 and under ensembles contest, clockwise from top left: Gregor Craig, Grace Barr, James Barr and Charlie Colville.