Sometimes it's better to travel hopefully ... so it's said, and that was perhaps the case with Friary's third trip in as many years to the National Championships of Great Britain on Saturday. Having aimed to finish in the top 15, it was naturally a disappointment to be placed 20th. However, to put it into context, the field was exceptionally strong with all but 7 of the competing bands ranked in the top 20 worldwide, and the test piece - Spiriti, by Thomas Doss - was a challenge set in 2010 for the very best of Europe's bands. Despite a good number of changes in their line-up since then, the Cory Band, winners of that 2010 European title, were winners at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, producing a performance of such extraordinary quality that there was little doubt in anyone's mind as to the eventual result. Speaking on behalf of the three adjudicators, Stephen Roberts emphasised that there were no poor performances, and in fact that there were only two which clearly stood out. He also acknowledged that it was probably the most difficult test piece he had ever adjudicated.
Summarising Friary's performance he said: 'A good performance with some fine solo playing but lacking the tonal variation & power needed to “nail” the ending.'
So, some comments to be pleased with, especially for Simon Tong whose soprano playing was marvellous, and some to take away and work on.
A year or two ago would the Band have even contemplated having to tackle a recent Europeans test piece? 'To be honest, we were full of trepidation when we heard it was 'Spiriti,' admitted Band Chairman Nigel Stevens. 'But we worked extremely hard and we made a decent fist of it.'
'Of course the placing was a disappointment, but it's only by being stretched that the Band can grow so we shall take it on the chin and live to fight another day. And our soloists did us so proud,' he added.
Only 12 bands have made the journey in each of the last three years: Friary is one of those few. So in conclusion, better to travel hopefully? Absolutely: after all there were many more bands who didn't travel to the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.