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Friary Diary - Issue 77 - July 2021

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 77 - a monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


Despite some early apprehension at the thought of our first public engagement for nearly 600 days, it was an absolute joy to return to the wonderful setting of College Garden, Westminster for our lunchtime concert. The weather was kind, the audience enthusiastic and the Band and soloists well-rehearsed. “It’s as if you’ve never been away,” remarked one member of the audience to me afterwards, “You sounded as good as ever.”. The varied programme had something for everyone, and included a new arrangement by Callum Au of What a Wonderful World, played by principal cornet Richard Straker. A review of the concert can be found here .


There’s an opportunity to hear some of the Westminster concert programme again, along with some Proms classics at our concert in Godalming this coming Saturday (4th September), details below. At the present time the weather is forecast to be good though there are contingency plans to retreat to the nearby church should it be wet. Please come and join us if you can – due to social distancing measures we’ll be adjacent to, rather than in the bandstand itself, but there’s plenty of room in the park.


The draw for Brass in Concert, to be held at The Sage, Gateshead on Saturday 20th November, has been announced, with Friary taking the final slot out of the ten competing bands. That will mean an evening performance but at the same time Friary’s playing should be fresh in the memory when it comes to the audience entertainment award!


To mark the end of lockdown, All Saints Church, Woodham (our usual rehearsal venue) held an afternoon Songs of Praise celebration with brass accompaniment by six Friary players, Nigel Stevens, Alex Sears, Mike Trumble, Lauren and Richard Straker and Madi Cave.“It was a joyous occasion,” commented Nigel .“It’s always uplifting to play hymn tunes, and it was an opportunity for at least some of us to get used to playing in public again, ahead of our Westminster concert.” “And we’re really looking forward to returning to All Saints for rehearsals in September,” he concluded.


This month I’m delighted to feature another of the Band’s stalwarts, trombonist Ian Stewart. Thank you Ian for being my interviewee.

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

Dad was a chorister, then a trombonist when he was older. His Band was Wharncliffe Silkestone near Barnsley, and apparently, he depped on occasion for Grimethorpe. He went to school with their secretary, Ken Hirst. He stopped playing when he married, however started again when I joined my first brass band. He maintained learning BBb Bass was better than sitting listening! Mum never played, but had a great sense of rhythm. She was a National Champion at 16 as part of a ballroom dancing team.

When did you first start playing?

I started playing at 11 years in 1966. Although I didn't know about Dad's history then, there was no doubt that the trombone was for me.

Have you continued playing since then?

Apart from 1986 - 1993 when I only played occasionally (due to being an Army Bandmaster) I have played something on a regular basis.

What bands have you played for regularly?

West Wycombe Brass Band (Bucks) 1968 - 1973 (including 6 National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain courses, some with a certain Mike Trumble)

2nd Bn The Royal Green Jackets 1973 - 1983

Kneller Hall Band and Fanfare Trumpet Team 1983 - 1986

Horsham Borough Band 1995 -2004

Friary 2005 - present

What do you particularly like about playing with Friary?

In no particular order:

  • Chris King, the musical magician

  • Being part of the best trombone section I have ever played with

  • Being accepted as a part of a very rewarding musical ensemble

  • Team spirit, or esprit de corps that is Friary

Do you play or have you played any other instruments apart from Trombone?

I can play Baritone, Euphonium or Eb Bass, but not to Friary levels!

What’s your most memorable banding moment?

This is really difficult to single out just one, so if you will indulge me a few, here they are:

  • Playing the flower song from Carmen as a trombone solo to 20,000 Iranians in a football stadium in Tehran.

  • Conducting the Kneller Hall Fanfare Team in St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey in front of HM Queen Elizabeth and other members of the Royal Family.

  • Winning National titles, 1st Section with Friary in 2010, and as a conductor, with Lewes, Glynde & Beddingham in 3rd Section in 2013.

  • First time in the RAH National Finals 2013.

What would you most like to achieve in the banding world?

Play in the British Open, just once while I'm still good enough.

Are you involved with any other types of music? Nothing on a regular basis, but open to offers if I can fit them in. I have played with Sussex Symphony Orchestra on occasions. Likewise various pit bands for shows, occasionally wind bands, orchestral brass ensembles, and big bands.

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

Bits of everything really; as long as I like it, I'll listen to it. So my collection ranges from orchestral and organ classics, brass & wind bands, brass chamber groups, show and film music, groups varying from Deep Purple to the Carpenters.

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?

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody - sheer musical genius.

  2. Bruckner Etude, Enrico Crespi - played by a Czech trombone ensemble. Best heard in a dark room with a G&T to refresh the soul.

  3. The live recording of Distant Memories, Friary at the RAH in 2013. This was the first Championship Section National Final for so many of us and will always be special.


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



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