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Friary Diary - Issue 74 - April 2021

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 74 - a monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


Fingers crossed, but we might be able to resume in-person rehearsals later this month, subject to appropriate social distancing and other Covid-secure requirements! In the meantime, the weekly online rehearsals have continued, with a monthly virtual social get-together. And there are some tentative engagements in the diary too. Let’s hope that the current rate of progress continues


Friary’s inclusion in BBC Radio 3’s ‘Breakfast Brass’ feature went ahead as planned on 6th April, just after 8.15 am. Izzi Daws’ stunning solo performance of Arthur Pryor’s Thoughts of Love, recorded as part of Friary’s award-winning 2019 Brass in Concert set and which earned Izzi the Don Lusher Trombone award, was sandwiched between music by Ludwig van Beethoven and Percy Grainger.I was delighted that part of the BiC audience’s rapturous reception was included (did Beethoven or Grainger ever receive quite that level of appreciation?) and that host Petroc Trelawny mentioned a bit of background about Izzi and Friary.


Friary had hoped to compete in the virtual version of this traditional round of contests, but with the attendant recording and editing demands so soon after the Kapitol Cory contest, it was regretfully decided that the Band would pass on this occasion. Hopefully the contest will be back to normal next year.


This month I’m very pleased to feature baritone player Stephen Thorpe who kindly agreed to be virtually interviewed. Many thanks, Stephen!

Do you come from a musical family - if so, what did they play?

I would have to say my musical side comes from my Mum. She plays a range of instruments including recorder and clarinet – she has always played with lots of different ensembles including ceilidh bands, recorder groups, and a galliard band. Both my parents encouraged my brother, sister, and me to learn instruments from a young age. My brother played the tenor horn whilst my sister was a percussionist, however both have not carried on playing.

When did you first start playing a brass instrument, and what was it?

I first started playing a cornet aged 8 – although I had been playing piano for a few years before then. We were very fortunate to have a local brass band around the corner from where we lived who offered free Saturday morning sessions, and free instrument hire and this was too good an offer to turn down.

If that wasn’t a baritone, when did you switch?

After a few months of playing cornet, it turned out there were far too many cornet players in the training band and not enough baritone players. The conductor duly thrust a baritone in my direction, and it seems to have stuck!

Have you continued playing since then?

Apart from a four-year hiatus during my degree, yes. I continued practising but was not actively banding. A lot of the bands, understandably, required a commitment that I was not able to provide at that time.

What bands have you played for regularly?

I have not played for many bands at all. I joined Chinnor Silver Band in the training band aged 8, progressed to the senior band and played with them until I left for university aged 18. I had a bit of a banding hiatus whilst at university, but continued practising, before returning home to Chinnor Silver after I finished my degree. My partner and I then moved to Guildford and fortunately I found a friendly band to play with there who I have been with since!

What do you particularly like about playing with Friary?

The players! I have never worked with a more committed group of people who are always striving to make the band better and raise the bar. It is a privilege to be able to play alongside such amazing musicians and friends.

Do you play or have you played any other instruments apart from the Baritone? I only play baritone currently, but I am tempted to purchase a pBone (plastic trombone) to try out a slide as well as valves. As mentioned earlier, I have previously played cornet, tenor horn, and started my musical journey on piano.

What’s your most memorable banding moment?

One must be Friary’s first appearance at the Royal Albert Hall National Finals – I had been many times to listen but never thought I would get an opportunity to participate in the competition itself. We were fortunate to play a fantastic piece, Of Distant Memories, and have a bigger than expected crowd (the spill over from Brighouse & Rastrick Band who played just before perhaps…). It was an amazing experience.

Another, weirdly, is my first performance at the Senior Trophy in The Spanish Ballroom, Winter Gardens, Blackpool. I had never been inside or heard the acoustics before walking on stage and playing, and both caught me completely off guard. It’s not often you get to play a test piece surrounded by Spanish castles and balconies.

What would you most like to achieve in the banding world? To get to the British Open would be fantastic.

Are you involved with any other types of music? No, I am not. (not a very exciting answer!)

Apart from brass, what other genres of music do you enjoy?

I enjoy an eclectic mix. I grew up listening to rock, indie, pop-punk and this gave me, and still does give me, ample opportunity to ruin my ears at lots of festivals and concerts. Put this alongside brass banding (both concert music and test pieces), film music, and 90’s and 00’s pop and we are probably only covering a small spectrum of my Spotify playlists!

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

I am going to be very awkward as I cannot pick just three pieces! Maybe three records?! Music has that fantastic ability to take you instantly back to many moments in your life, so will try and pick based on this.

My first pick would be any track off the Jimmy Eat World album Clarity – this was the band I grew up listening to and remains one of my favourite albums to this day.

Second would be the album Hot Fuss by The Killers. Mr Brightside never fails to get you up dancing, doing made up actions, and pretending you are a rock star. This was basically me at university…!

Thirdly, I should probably choose a band piece, and if it was going to be anything it would be either Philip Sparke’s Year of the Dragon or Tallis Variations. I enjoy listening to both of these; maybe a band could do a CD with both of these on it to help fulfil my altered desert island criteria! Should probably throw a “Macarthur Park on there too – one year at Butlins Mineworkers Championship, Chad Shoopman performed an incredible version which sticks in the memory.


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



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