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Friary Diary - Issue 68 - September 2020

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 68 - a one page monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


Well, as they said in the movie Jaws, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water … sadly, rehearsals are once again on the back burner. Brass Bands England issued very comprehensive guidelines for band rehearsals, but this would have meant looking for another venue large enough to cater for the stringent social distancing requirement and other considerations. After a good deal of deliberation, the Band’s management team decided that rehearsals could not be recommenced at this stage. That said, the situation will be kept under constant review and may change if a suitable venue can be found.It’s a great disappointment for all, but the safety of Band members is paramount.


The Band continues to have a virtual activity every Wednesday in lieu of one of the weekly rehearsals, to keep the Friary family together. These activities have in the main been quizzes, but Friary has also been extremely fortunate to have had two separate sessions with Professor Stephen Allen. Band Chairman Nigel Stevens explains:

“Friary is very lucky to have amongst its wider circle of "friends of the Band" a man who is to brass band history what Mary Berry is to baking.  Professor Stephen Allen, a two-term President of the North American Brass Band Association, has been recognised internationally for his work that has transformed the brass band scene in North America where he currently is a Professor at the Rider University, New Jersey. Prof Allen is an internationally highly acclaimed speaker and lecturer on a wide range of musical genres as diverse as The Beatles, Radio Head, Stanley Kubrick film music, Beethoven, Elgar and Benjamin Britten and of course the history of brass band music. 

Despite being resident in the US, Stephen's roots are in the UK and brass banding.  His musical career began by gaining performing and teaching diplomas (from the age of 16) in brass instrument playing and by winning national awards and television appearances as a euphonium soloist. He founded and conducted his first brass band - Horley Youth Brass Band - at the age of 15. In 1979 he won the UK National Solo Champion award in the Open Section followed by a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Music awarded by Eric Ball OBE and Geoffrey Brand. He graduated from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with the highest BA (Academic with Honours) degree in that institution's then 100-year history and later went on to get his PhD from Oxford University. He is a recognised world authority on the music of Benjamin Britten.

Friary was delighted when he agreed to join us on two of our weekly socials (via Zoom) to, in his own inimitable style, remind us of the wealth of history the brass band movement have in its musical archives. The ground covered in the two talks was remarkable with seemingly endless stories, facts and anecdotes covering many of our long-forgotten music library gems from the 17th century right up to the 1990's. It made a change for the Band from the weekly quiz and reminded us all of why we as a band are so passionate about our art form and ensuring it is not forgotten.

Professor Stephen Allen was indeed a real inspiration and ray of hope in these difficult times, reminding us all that brighter days will hopefully soon be here!”


The role of Band Manager can be a somewhat thankless task, but Friary is hugely fortunate to have David Wicks to look after our logistics and keep the Band in order! With David in the role, things just happen, thanks to his calm but effective authority. Here’s a bit more about him:

Do you come from a musical family - if so, what did they play? My mother played the piano. Her family lived in Hebden Bridge with Harry Mortimer frequenting their church and playing the occasional solo there. My brother Chris used to play Eb Bass at Leeds and Yorkshire Schools Brass Bands.

When did you first start playing a brass instrument, and what was it? When I was 10, my teacher asked the class what musical instruments we would like to learn. Dreaming of glam rock stardom, I requested a guitar. Predictably, the school acquired a few battered old brass instruments. I picked up a cornet and thought ‘that’ll do’ - Yorkshire speak for ‘that’s what I really want’. A few weeks later, the brass peripatetic teacher invited me to join the Junior Leeds Schools Brass Band and I didn’t look back.

Have you continued playing since then?

I played all the way through school, ending up as repiano cornet at Yorkshire Schools Brass Band with Keith Wilkinson, and trumpet with the Leeds Symphony Orchestra. The difficulties of practising in digs whilst studying physics at university led me to give up for 10 years but I finally picked the cornet back up when I moved to Woking and joined Bisley Village Band.

What bands have you played with regularly? Bisley, Woking and Egham Brass Bands.

What do you enjoy most about playing with Friary?

The commitment across the band, the ever-improving high standard of music-making and some fabulous performances at major concert venues. We’re a fantastic team that never takes anything for granted.

Do you play or have you played any other instruments apart from cornet? Whilst at school, I had piano lessons to help me with A-level music but never really enjoyed the solitary experience. I also attempted keyboards, rhythm guitar and occasional lead vocals in a heavy metal band with school friends (yes, this was as bad as you could imagine). In recent years I calmed down and focused on flugel horn, tenor horn (one contest), soprano cornet and various trumpets (Bb, C, D/Eb – I hate transposing augmented 4ths).

What's your most memorable banding moment? That’s a really tough one – there are so many over the years. Each of the contesting bands I have played in won an area contest and competed at the National Finals. If I had to choose, it would be Friary’s stunning performance of Cambridge Variations to win the regionals from the number 1 draw. I still have the photo of the back-row stage celebration on the mantelpiece at home.

What would you most like to achieve in the banding world? Talking about banding achievements seems less important at the moment. I am very much looking forward to the band making music together and entertaining audiences again in 2021.

Are you involved in any other types of music? I play trumpet with the Kingston Chamber Orchestra and have ‘sung’ bass with a few come-and-sing choirs.

Apart from brass, what other genres of music do you enjoy? I love many genres of music, in particular, Jazz (1950/60s), Classical (19th/20th Century), Rock (Blues, Heavy, Progressive, Goth, Indie) and Pop (70s/80s/90s).

If you were cast away on a desert island, what would be your top three music pieces you’d like to listen to?

  • Appalachian Spring – Aaron Copland (Bernstein, New York Phil)

  • So What – Miles Davis

  • Resurgam – Eric Ball


With no further updates since April, Friary remains 23rd in the world. For full ranking details, please go to



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