There was disappointment for the Band at last Sunday’s London & Southern Counties Regional Championships as Friary was pipped to the National Finals qualification places by Haverhill and Redbridge. Being drawn to play the last of the 12 competing bands meant a wait of over six hours before the players were on stage, and enforced closure of the booked rehearsal venue whilst most players were already en route to Stevenage resulted in an urgent search for a replacement venue.
That said, Friary’s eventual performance of Wilfred Heaton’s aptly named ‘Contest Music’ drew some excellent comments from adjudicators Steve Sykes and Stephen Roberts, but sadly there were a few slips which took their toll on the overall impression. Stephen Roberts commented on the third movement: ‘Engaging musical spirit – so much to enjoy here and a lovely elan to it! This is so enjoyable, it has a swagger and a great sense of fun. My favourite 3rd movement of today!’ ‘An excellent performance with so much musicality and spirit …’ he added in summary. Brass website 4barsrest commentator Malcolm Wood thought Friary had done enough at least to qualify, and possibly to take the title again but it wasn’t to be as they were placed third in the final results.
Friary Chairman Nigel Stevens was philosophical about the result: ‘Of course we’re disappointed – third is so near but yet so far from qualifying – but it’s certainly no disgrace. We’ve had a superb run of wins and it was bound to end at some point sooner or later. Congratulations to Haverhill and Redbridge, and we wish them all the best at the Royal Albert Hall.’ ‘It’ll be strange not being on stage there this year but I have no doubt we’ll be back,’ he concluded.
Interestingly, two other bands of the seven including Friary who had qualified for the National Finals each year since 2013 – Brighouse & Rastrick and Virtuosi GUS - were also pipped to qualification this year.