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Friary Diary - Issue 83 - February 2022

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 83 - a monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


Our concert at Victoria Hall, Hartley Wintney on 30th January was originally booked for January 2021 but fell victim to the pandemic, so it was a real pleasure to play at this new venue for the Band, and we received an exceptionally warm welcome. A varied programme covered a wide range of music, including opera, hymn tunes, musicals and pop and showcased the band’s versatility as well as some fine soloists.

Chairman of the Victoria Hall charity, Edward Woods commented: “What an uplifting performance with wonderful variety, some great soloists and all the musicians as well as the audience enjoying themselves. A big thank you to a very professional group of musicians.”

Friary chairman, Nigel Stevens, was equally pleased with the event: “It was a delight to play for such an enthusiastic and appreciative audience, most of whom had not heard the band before. We would certainly be very keen to return. It also gave us an opportunity to run out part of our programme for the UniBrass Gala Concert,” he added. Friary has since received an invitation to return to the Victoria Hall, date to be confirmed.


The following Saturday saw Friary head up the M1 to the University of Sheffield, to stage the UniBrass gala concert, following the contest for university and conservatoire bands. Kicking off the Band’s programme with ‘Malaguena’ and the overture to ‘Colas Breugnon’, Friary was then joined on stage by notable jazz funk trombonist Dennis Rollins MBE. There might be a dearth of jazz/funk/brass band music, but Dennis’ unique talent came to the fore playing superb arrangements of Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘Fantasy’, Maynard Ferguson’s ‘Chameleon’ and particularly Bill Geldard’s ‘Autumn Leaves’.

Further trombone magic was then added by the arrival on stage of the hugely talented quartet, Bona-afide, whose programme included’ The Irish Washerwoman’ and ‘So Nice to Come Home To’ played with Friary and Sam Every’s arrangement of ‘Yesterday’, played together with Dennis Rollins. Friary concluded the first half with ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’, arranged by Philip Harper.

The second half of the programme comprised a blend of Friary’s two award-winning Brass in Concert ‘Princess Isobel’ programmes, with new narration by the excellent Tim Mylechreest. This included two of the recent arrangements by Callum Au, ‘Wonderful World’ (cornet solo featuring Richard Straker) and ‘The Duke’s Journey’, with Dennis Rollins joining the Band for the latter. In what was her final appearance with Friary, Izzi Daws entranced the audience with her rendition of ‘Thoughts of Love’. After Chris King’s arrangement of ‘The Circle of Life’, a memorable programme concluded with what has become something of a Friary anthem, ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’. An encore was inevitable, with Jaco Pastorius’ ‘The Chicken’ providing a perfect way to showcase the breadth of musicianship on stage. You could say it was a trom-endous gala concert!

Congratulations to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire who won the UniBrass Trophy section contest (adjudicated by Andrea Price and Friary MD Chris King), and University of Leeds who won the Shield section, not forgetting all those involved in organising the successful return of this contest after interruption by the pandemic.


Friary is delighted to welcome Neil Wharton to fill the solo trombone vacancy created by the departure of Izzi Daws. Originally from the North East, Neil started on euphonium at school and played for various local brass bands. He enjoyed successful spells with Reg Vardy, Sellers and Hepworth before joining the Royal Air Force in 2002 on euphonium. After filling in on trombone for a period he made the decision to make the move permanently and has not looked back since. Having spent the majority of his career at The Band of the RAF College in Lincolnshire, he was posted to The Band of the RAF Regiment where he’s a trombonist and Drum Major.

Neil commented: “I’m only too aware that these are big shoes to fill – and I won’t be wearing Princess Isobel’s sparkly ones - but I’ll certainly give it my best. I’ve been so impressed with the level of commitment and standard of playing so far and can’t wait to get going.”

Friary Chairman, Nigel Stevens was equally enthusiastic: “Neil is a highly accomplished musician with an excellent history in banding. We’re so pleased to welcome him to Friary.”

In his spare time Neil competes in Olympic weightlifting and was English Masters champion in 2019. He’s also a long suffering Newcastle United fan.


In just under three weeks’ time, Friary will defend its regional title of London & Southern Counties Champion Band, which it has held since 2015. Wilfred Heaton’s ‘Contest Music’ is this year’s appropriately-named test piece, and preparation is in full swing. Fingers crossed we can come away victorious yet again, but equally we are only too aware that the competition is intense and that there a number of bands only too keen to spoil what would be a record-breaking run of success by any band in the region. More news next month!


Once the regional championships are done and dusted, the Band can really look forward to the Best of Broadway joint concert with the wonderful Vivace Chorus at G Live, Guildford. Friary previously performed with this superb choir at G Live in the 2018 Concert for Peace, and this event has been twice rescheduled, originally from May 2020 and then May 2021. Please book early to avoid disappointment: conducted by Jeremy Backhouse, Vivace Chorus concerts have been sell-out events at G Live and we expect this concert to be no exception. For further details, including a taster of the programme and a link to online ticket booking, please see We hope to see you there for an evening of favourite show tunes.


With no further updates since December, Friary remain 19th in the world. For full ranking details, please go to



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