Friary Guildford cemented its position as the South's number one band, retaining the title of London & Southern Counties Regional Champions at Stevenage yesterday, and securing a return to the National Finals for the fourth successive year. Despite being drawn as the first band to play - never a welcome place - Friary set a standard which none of the other 11 competing bands was able to emulate. Philip Sparke's Cambridge Variations proved a challenge for all, for some bands more than others, but adjudicators Stephen Roberts and Ewan Easton MBE were in full agreement that Friary's performance was the one which had impressed them most. 'Wow! What a fantastic performance. Incisive, lyrical and dramatic, as well as so effectively shaped,' wrote Stephen Roberts, who also commented at how impressed he was with the standard overall in the Championship Section. Friary is one of only 10 bands in the UK to have qualified for the National Finals in each of the past four years. Runners-up Wantage Silver Band will join Friary at London's Royal Albert Hall on 8th October. Band Chairman Nigel Stevens was thrilled with the result. 'Cambridge Variations is such a testing piece for the whole band. Other bands' soloists took the individual awards but our performance was an all round team effort and I'm delighted that this was recognised by the adjudicators. It's fantastic to retain our hard-earned Regional title, and to look forward to the National Finals once again. I’m immensely proud of everyone at Friary Guildford Band.'