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Friary Diary - Issue 108 - February 2024

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 108 - a monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


HARTLEY WINTNEY CONCERT:

photo: Victoria Halls, Hartley Wintney

The start of our 2024 concert season on 4th February saw Friary return to the beautiful Victoria Hall at Hartley Wintney, which has become a firm favourite fixture for both the Band and the village.  Dating back to 1898 in the arts and crafts architectural style, the venue has been restored in wonderful fashion and now holds regular events and concerts.


Despite the competing attraction of a military band concert at nearby Basingstoke, a highly receptive audience gave a warm welcome to the Band.  The challenging programme included part of Friary’s popular Brass in Concert set And Now the Shipping Forecast, along with some new items to the repertoire such as the opening march, ORB (Oldham Rifle Brigade), The Corsair  and Faust.  


New soloists Jonti Whittingham-Smith (baritone) and Morgan Marston (tenor horn) were also featured, along with Richard and Lauren Straker who joined forces for Oblivion.  And if the audience – not to mention the Band – hadn’t had enough musical excitement by the end of the second half, the up-tempo arrangement of Bach’s Toccata as an encore rounded off a rousing afternoon.


‘This was even better than last year’s concert,’ one audience member told me.  ‘We really hope you’ll come back again next year.’  Friary Chairman Dave Wicks added: ‘We were delighted to return to Hartley Wintney once again with such an appreciative audience.’


NEW FACES:

Several changes have been announced in Friary’s line-up as the Band prepares for the contest season.


Sam Noden (euphonium) has left for Thundersley and in his place, Friary is very pleased to welcome Hannah Taken.  Hannah started playing at the age of five with The City of Oxford Band. She stayed with them for 20 years, progressing to the Solo Euphonium seat when the senior band was a major contender in the Championship section.  Hannah then joined the Aveley & Newham Band, where she spent many happy years.  She has also played with Thundersley and, more recently, enjoyed a spell with Redbridge Brass.  ‘I’m delighted to be able to continue my banding at a high level by joining Friary,’ said Hannah.


A warm welcome is also extended to Kendall Skirving, who joins the cornet section.  Kendall started playing at the age of eight through school.  She became principal cornet of her secondary school brass band at 15, holding the top seat for four years.  She also played flugel for Tees Valley Youth Brass Band and joined Durham Miners' Association Brass Band (2nd section) on repiano cornet.  She was principal cornet for her university band for two years and also joined Fishburn on rep.  Kendall’s two years at Fishburn included one of her favourite banding memories, performing in the stage show version of Brassed Off at Durham Gala theatre.


Having relocated to the south, Kendall is thrilled about her move to Friary:  ‘I am very excited about joining Friary, and can't wait to enjoy both concerts and contests in this new area, whilst getting to know some wonderful people,’  she said.


We are also delighted to welcome two new faces in the bass section, Patrick Donovan and Cat Whittingham-Smith.


Patrick joined the army as a musician and attended the pupils’ course at Kneller Hall.  Having played in many bands, he settled at Sandhurst Silver Band and enjoyed forging friendships with some great people, and working under the batons of some great conductors.  He rejoined as an army reservist and currently plays with the Army Medical Services Band, also helping other army regular bands at ceremonial events.  "Having now joined Friary, I'm looking forward to the musical challenges ahead, and work alongside some brilliant musicians," acknowledged Patrick.


While at school in Reading, Cat was a member of the Berkshire Youth Brass Band and later joined the Henley Symphony Orchestra.  She studied Music at Bangor University where her teacher, Gavin Saynor, encouraged her to join the local band, Menai Bridge. 


Following her university degree, Cat commenced her military training at ATC Pirbright before studying with Patrick Harrild at the Royal Military School of Music.  She was then assigned to the Band of the Irish Guards and, following the move to London, spent a joyful six years at Fulham Brass Band. 


Having now moved to Portsmouth to work at the Royal Military School of Music, Cat is training the next generation of military musicians.  “I’m really excited to be joining a group of such talented musicians at Friary, and to be part of such a lovely bass section,” she enthused.


LEADING BANDS FORUM:

This is a new group established towards the end of last year. Friary was honoured to be invited to join and put forward the interests and views of bands in the London & Southern Counties region. Its mission statement is: ‘To seek to work with decision makers at all levels on areas of mutual benefit directly affecting the current and future promotion and development of major contests and events.’ Our hard-working secretary Lauren has added the role of forum representative to her many other Friary commitments: thank you!


Following the inaugural meeting, a spokesman commented: ‘The meeting, and the spirit in which it was held, felt like a real breath of fresh air. It was inspiring to have so many bands in attendance, but unlike a contest day when we are all locked in friendly rivalry, we were able to talk open-mindedly, honestly and collaboratively which gave a real sense of community, solidarity and togetherness between us all. We are very hopeful that our group can do much good in building a stronger future for banding,’ they concluded.


The other bands within the forum are: Aldbourne, Black Dyke, Brighouse & Rastrick, Carlton Main Frickley Colliery, Cory, EverReady, Flowers, Foden’s, Grimethorpe Colliery, GUS, Hammonds, Leyland, Rothwell, the cooperation band, Tredegar, WFEL Fairey, and Whitburn.


FORTHCOMING ENGAGEMENTS:

Our next engagement is another return event, an afternoon concert at Hartley Wintney this coming Sunday 4th February at 2.30pm. This is a very popular event but we understand there are still a few tickets available. To book, please go to ticketsource.co.uk or phone 01252 844876 (office Hours Mon-Wed 09:00-15:00 Thu-Fri 08:00-14:00).


RANKING NEWS:

As at 1st February, in the www.brassstats.com table, Friary remains 22nd in the world.

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