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Friary Diary - Issue 71 - January 2021

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 71 - a one page monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.

Despite our initial hopes for 2021, the year didn’t get off to the best of starts, but thankfully the overall picture looks more encouraging. That said, most of the major band contests for the year have already been cancelled, and we seem to be a long way from getting back to live performances. We all fervently hope that the pandemic situation continues to move in the right direction.

Although it’s disappointing to have no other Band news to report for January, every cloud has a silver lining, as they say, because it gives me the opportunity to feature a virtual interview with another member of the Friary family, and this month it’s the Band’s repiano cornet player, Ali Richards. Many thanks, Ali.

Do you come from a musical family - if so, what did they play? My mother sings and plays the piano. I'm the first member of either side of my family to break out into the world of brass banding. My mother then followed suit and now plays the tenor horn.

When did you first start playing a brass instrument, and what was it? I was 8 and I took up the trumpet at school because it looked and sounded more fun than a guitar or flute.

When did you switch to cornet?

I moved onto the cornet when I was 12 so I could join my local brass band, Amersham, as my teacher at the time played in the band.

Have you continued playing since then?

I had a brief period of not playing when I went to university and enjoyed the social delights that higher education can bring. Once I returned home from University I got back to banding more seriously.

What bands have you played with regularly? My first band was Amersham in South Buckinghamshire who are now flourishing in the London region. I had a brief spell with the now defunct Ellesborough band on principal cornet also in Buckinghamshire before spending a year with Denham Hendon Brass. I spent a very happy 4 years with Newtongrange Band in Scotland just outside Edinburgh where I managed a unique double of winning the 1st and Championship Scottish Areas in successive years and a dream come true to play at the Royal Albert Hall in the finals. Returning to England I had a great time playing flugel for Marlow Band for a couple of years before Hannah and I then moved to Surrey and began our association with Friary in 2007 which has continued, across three spells to the present day.

What do you enjoy most about playing with Friary?

It's a great bunch of people who have stayed together as a unit for a long time. It's been great to be part of the band's progress over the years to the successful position the band is in now. I've been extremely fortunate to sit in the repiano chair for longer than I'd ever expected to and it's great to just be able to play a part in the band's journey.

Do you play or have you played any other instruments apart from trumpet/cornet? I can play the piano, but I'd strongly advise against anyone listening to it!

What's your most memorable banding moment? This is a really tough one. It's either winning the Scottish Championship Section in 2005 with Newtongrange or Brass in Concert 2019 with Friary. Given the reception we had in Newcastle, I'd say possibly BIC just takes it.

What would you most like to achieve in the banding world? After first going to the national finals in 1998 all I wanted to do was have a chance to play in the contest. I've been extremely fortunate to now be able to do that 8 times. It never gets old.

Are you involved in any other types of music? Banding is more than enough.

Apart from brass, what other genres of music do you enjoy? I like pretty much anything. I do like a lot of electronic music, something I've not been able to shake when I was accidentally introduced to Jean-Michel Jarre's music when I was 4 years old (long story).

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

  • Campfire Headphase - Boards Of Canada

  • The Trip Volume 1 - Ulrich Schnauss

  • Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

They're all very long - if I'm stuck on an island with only 3 choices then I've got to get as much value for money as possible - and they all have some significant memories and associations attached to them so I could happily listen to them on repeat.


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



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