Barely had the last mouthful of Christmas pudding been swallowed than it was time for Friary Guildford Band to start final rehearsals in preparation for the Band’s third trip to the prestigious Butlins Mineworkers Championships at Skegness last weekend. And not only were there seven other top bands to face in the Championship Section, but also some dire weather forecast for the East Coast, with the Army called out to Skegness to assist in the event of a tidal surge! Luckily that didn’t happen, though.
Friary’s own choice test piece on Saturday was Peter Graham’s Metropolis 1927, which went well enough though not quite sufficient to take the Band into the top half of the placings at that stage. But historically Sunday’s Entertainment section of the contest is the stronger day for Friary.
With a European-themed programme loosely inspired by Brexit, Friary opened with a JS Bach chorale In Thee is Joy, followed by Musical Director Chris King’s arrangement of Granada, hot enough to combat any January North Sea gale. Principal Cornet Richard Straker then took centre stage for a solo, Goff Richards’ Chablis, before the mood changed once again for Mozart’s Rondo a la Turka, another arrangement by Chris King. Holst’s Jupiter from The Planets Suite was the apparent stirring finale, before a surprise addition of Birdland brought the set to a conclusion. The performance was strong enough to wrest back the Most Entertaining Band title won on the band’s debut two years ago, and only narrowly lost to the much higher-ranked Virtuosi GUS last year, who were this year’s overall winners.
Summing up the weekend, Band Chairman Nigel Stevens said: ‘We’ll gladly take 4th overall – the three bands placed ahead of us are all ranked significantly higher than Friary, as are two below us. We can still improve the quality of our playing, but we are absolutely thrilled to have regained our Most Entertaining Band title. It’s a great start to the New Year.’