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Friary Diary - Issue 106 - December 2023

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 106 - a monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


Friary returned to the Hog’s Back brewery on Sunday 4th December for what is becoming our traditional kick-off to the Christmas season.  Despite greatly increased capacity, the concert was a sell-out, and as usual the atmosphere (not to mention the refreshments of course!) ensured that everyone was in fine voice for singing carols.  We were delighted to welcome our friend Melvin White to conduct the Band at this relaxed event.


Saturday 10th December saw Friary return to another familiar venue, Teddington Baptist Church where a warm welcome and an enthusiastic audience are always guaranteed.  There was plenty of Christmas fare on the programme, including arrangements of well-loved seasonal music by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, Sandy Smith and Stephen Bulla, as well as the opportunity to join in carols.  

Interspersed in the programme were two of the new commissions which formed part of Friary’s Brass in Concert set, Simon Dobson’s Cromarty, a tranquil flugel solo sensitively played by Lauren Straker, and the clever medley of nursery rhymes, Thames, from the pen of Callum Au.  Lauren also joined husband Richard for an entrancing performance of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion.  Chris Straker on euphonium completed the family line-up with the Christmas favourite, O Holy Night.  Lionel Ritchie’s foot-tapping All Night Long, featuring the baritones and euphoniums set everyone up for the interval.

The second half was seasonal music, with a rapid rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas (with somewhat breathless audience participation!) concluding the programme.  A much-requested encore, Ray Farr’s stirring arrangement of Bach’s Toccata in D minor, sent everyone home full of Christmas joy.


After Saturday evening’s concert, for many of the Band players there was little respite on Sunday.  Four hours of carolling at The Meadows shopping centre, Sandhurst raised some £380 which will be divided equally between Band funds, the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, and locally-based charity Sebastian’s Action Trust which supports seriously ill children and their families.  Sadly, the collection was significantly reduced from last year’s amount, but this was not entirely unexpected. 


After a search which has been ongoing for more than a year, Friary has found a new home!  For the past few years the Band has rehearsed at All Saints Church Hall, Woodham and more latterly at Chobham Club but neither of these has been ideal.

Band Chairman David Wicks explains:  ‘The acoustics at Woodham proved too harsh despite extensive measures we took, and the Club is about to be redeveloped.  It’s become a major concern and distraction for us.  Finding a suitable venue has not been at all easy, given the space which we need, including storage, and also trying to keep our existing rehearsal days and a convenient location which suit the players. We have now agreed a long term arrangement with Chertsey Hall which fits our requirements.'  The Hall has the added benefit of a stage so it would also be suitable for concerts as well as rehearsals.’

The Band will make the move over the Christmas break and begin rehearsing at Chertsey in early January. 


The end of 2023 sees the departure of three Friary players, solo trombone Neil Wharton, BBb bass Ben Miller and cornet Chris Powell.  RAF musician Neil leaves on promotion to Flight Sergeant as he takes up a new post as Drum Major at the RAF College, Cranwell.  With a new family, Ben has made the decision to concentrate on conducting, and after no fewer than 38 years’ service to Friary, Chris feels the time is right to step down.

Band Chairman David Wicks commented:  ‘We congratulate Neil on his well-deserved promotion and wish him every success in his new post at Cranwell.  We understand that this is a posting for 18 months, so we look forward to welcoming him back in due course.  He’s been a key part of our recent success.’

‘We know that Ben is hugely committed to his new family, and completely appreciate his reasons for wishing to reduce his banding commitment.  We wish him and his family well for the future, and no doubt our paths will cross at some stage.’

‘And last but most certainly not least, what can I say about Chris?  He’s been a model Friary bandsman for nearly four decades, not only with his playing but also being on the management team, not to mention fulfilling the role of band manager for many years.  We shall miss him immensely but hope to see him continuing his support for Friary, albeit from the audience.  Thank you so much Chris for all you’ve done for the Band,’ he concluded.

Joining Friary on cornet is Jack Beer.  Rochdale-born Jack came through Wardle Academy Youth Band, reaching principal cornet, and Milnrow Band before joining the army in 2020.   After induction through the Royal Military School of Music he moved to the London area and currently plays in The Band of The Coldstream Guards. 

Jack is delighted to join Friary: ‘My time out of banding has been short lived, however the itch to get back into the top level was always there.  I’m really looking forward to getting started with this great band and excited to see what the future holds for us.’  David Wicks added: ‘Jack is a wonderful young talent who shows great potential for the future.  We are so pleased to have him with us.’


At the time of issue, Friary remains 29th in the world, although an update is due. For full ranking details, please go to



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