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Friary Diary - Issue 100 - June 2023

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 100 - a monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


photo: Chappers Photo

As announced in the press release issued hard on the heels of last month’s Friary Diary, we have a new Musical Director: Nigel Taken. You may recall that Nigel took Friary to The Grand Shield contest at Blackpool. We are thrilled that he accepted our offer to become permanent MD following the departure of Chris King whom we wish well in his new post with Wantage Silver.

Nigel has been conducting brass bands at the very highest level for more than 30 years. At the age of 15 he became the flugelhorn soloist with the City of Coventry Band and also playedregularly with Harry Mortimer's All Star Brass and his Men O' Brass. Moving to London to

to study music, Nigel is very proud to remember Harry and Margaret Mortimer being his landlords, when, as a student, he lived in their basement flat at 50 Ladbrook Grove. Nigel used to play with Morris Motors Band and enjoyed many car journeys to rehearsals in Oxford with Harry.

His trumpet tutor was the late Dennis Egan and after several years playing professionally, Nigel moved into brass and music teaching. He is currently Head of Music at Goffs Academy in Hertfordshire, where he has worked for over 30 years.

Nigel has many contest successes to his name, including victories at the West of England Championship Area contest and the London and Southern Counties Championship Area contest. He has also conducted winning performances at the Grand Shield in 2006 and at the Yeovil Entertainment Contest as well as appearing at the National Championship Finals at the Royal Albert Hall, the British Open Championships and the All England International Masters many times.

Whilst Musical Director of the famous Asphaltic Newham Band, Nigel guided them to many contest successes. He later spent 14 years as the Musical Director of the Aveley & Newham Band, seeing them become established as a national force at major contests and conducting many appearances on the BBC’s “Listen to the Band” programme. At one point, Aveley and Newham were listed as the 13th best band in the world. Nigel conducted Bournemouth Concert Brass to consecutive victories in the West of England Area Contest, winning the 1st Section and then the Championship Section the very next year!

At this time, Nigel was also MD of the City of Oxford Band and guided them to the Championship Section, also qualifying for the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall. He is also proud to have directed Thundersley Band’s qualification to the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in their history. More recently, Nigel has enjoyed his time as Musical Director of the Medway Band and has guided them back to the Championship Section in 2023.

Nigel lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Hannah, who is a euphonium player, and their small furry child – Dilly (a West Highland Terrier!).


We are very grateful to Simon Persin (cornet) who played a fanfare during the flag-raising ceremony at Guildford’s Guildhall to mark Armed Forces Week. “Our contribution to Armed Forces Week at Guildford has become a tradition and I am really proud to be part of it,” commented Simon. “We have members of the armed forces in Friary, which makes our participation particularly relevant,” he added.


Only a few weeks after the trip to Blackpool, Friary headed north up the M6 again to take part in a banding tradition: the Whit Friday Marches. Dating back to the 1880s, the event comprises nine separate contests within the Tameside area, and eleven in Saddleworth. Bands have to play a march whilst on foot approaching the venue, and another at the venue itself – such as a village green, pub car park, cricket or football club. The adjudicator at each venue is closeted in a nearby caravan, clubhouse or maybe the back room at the pub with the window open!

Bands travel to each venue by coach. With narrow, winding lanes, congestion is frequent, and careful manoeuvring essential! A runner to register the band on arrival is also all part of the fun, as is a local resident with a placard announcing each band and their music. The events start in the late afternoon and run on until well after dark. It’s quite a spectacle for the audiences, with over 30 bands of all standards competing at most venues.

Friary opted for the Tameside contests, managing an impressive full house of all nine contests. The Band took one third place, six top ten places and an award for best deportment. And at Stalybridge, the placard bearer was none other than MP for nearby Ashton-under-Lyne, Angela Rayner! Fodens and Rothwell Temperance were the leading competitors.

Band Chairman David Wicks commented: “This was a marvellous experience for the Band – and also Chris King’s final event conducting Friary. Whit Friday is a unique event in banding circles and we were so pleased to be part of it.” “We are especially grateful to our tireless secretary Lauren Straker for making the whole trip run so smoothly, to Neil Wharton for keeping us on the straight and narrow (he’s a drum major by day!) and to our runner Sophia Singleton who also doubled up as our photographer,” he concluded.

photos: Sophia Singleton


Friary is delighted to welcome Jonti Smith on first baritone. Hailing from Northamptonshire, Jonti progressed through the County Music Service, eventually reaching the position of principal euphonium with the County Youth Brass and Concert bands, whilst receiving tuition from Gary Rose.

While at school Jonti also became a member of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, and the European Youth Brass Band. He studied Music at the University of Manchester, receiving tuition from Bill Miller and Dave Thornton, whilst focusing his studies on musicology and analysis. During his years in Manchester Jonti played with the Rothwell Temperance Band, Leyland Band, Fairey Band and Tubular Brass.

After moving to London in March 2017, Jonti was a member of Fulham Brass Band, and is now delighted to have joined Friary. In his own words, he is currently working on trying to tame the baritone! Jonti commented: “The band have been very welcoming, and it's great to join a group of like-minded and driven players.”

Band Chairman David Wicks added: “We’re so pleased to have Jonti with us. He’s a terrific player with excellent experience … and despite what he says, he certainly seems to have the baritone well under control!”

photo: Chappers Photo


photo: Tim Straker

Friary returned to Ash, Surrey last Saturday for a charity concert organised by the Parish Council to celebrate the coronation of HRH King Charles III. Reprising the Band’s Whit Friday march, Friary opened the programme with The President, played standing, before MD Nigel Taken in his debut concert made his appearance. The varied first half continued with Prelude on Tallis, Appalachian Mountain and The Lord Bless You and Keep You before husband and wife Richard and Lauren Straker took the roles of rival suitors in a moving cornet and flugel duet of I Know Him so Well from the musical Chess.

Balkan Dance, Can You Read my Mind and The Catskills brought the first half to its finale of Riverdance, leaving the audience tapping their toes into the interval.

The completely appropriate Coronation March continued the programme, then Mill on the Cliff and a Nigel Taken standard for his summer concerts, Manhattan Skyline.

A typical Prom set followed, Chris Straker (euphonium) dazzling the audience with his dexterity in Hartmann’s Variations on Rule Britannia, I Vow to Thee My Country, Crown Imperial, Jerusalem and Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, accompanied of course by enthusiastic flag waving.

In response to vociferous demands for an encore, the evening rounded off with Toccata in D Minor, leaving the audience – and the Band too – breathless. A retiring collection was held in favour of the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust. We are most grateful to Ash Parish Council for inviting us back again and for giving us such a warm welcome.


Our next concert is on Saturday week, a new venue for us at St Nicolas’ Church, Church Rd, Great Bookham, KT23 3PG, thanks to our percussionist Chris Attwood. This will be another ‘Last Night of the Proms’ style concert in aid of the church, so come prepared for flag waving and an evening of rousing music as well as a couple of particularly moving solos! Tickets are £15 (£5 for those in full time education). You can find a link on our homepage or you can phone the church on 01372 450709. We very much hope to see you there.


Friary’s AGM was held on 12th June, when several changes were made to the Band’s management team and Trustees. After many years in the role at various times, Chris Powell stepped down as Band Manager, succeeded by Andy Singleton. Mike Trumble remains as a Trustee, but Ali Richards takes over as Band Librarian.


The date for our 40th anniversary concert has been set for 30th September, and we have secured an excellent guest soloist to mark the occasion. More details including venue, will be revealed nearer the time but please save the date!


We are very excited to announce a new engagement: a joint concert with Surrey Brass on 7th October at Holy Trinity Church, Guildford. Modelled on the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, Surrey Brass is a group of talented brass musicians and we are looking forward greatly to sharing the stage with them. This is an evening not to be missed. More details will be given nearer the time, but please save this date too!


An update on 7th June saw Friary overtaken by three bands, including the new European Champions! This still leaves Friary in the top 30 worldwide, at 27th. The Band was ranked 59th at the time Friary Diary was launched in February 2015! For full ranking details, please go to



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