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Friary Diary - Issue 84 - March 2022

Welcome to Friary Diary issue 84 - a monthly round up of news about the Friary Brass Band.


Ah well, all good things must come to an end sometime, and when you’ve been at the top for such a long time, sadly there’s only one way to go … At yesterday’s Regional Championships in Stevenage, Friary still made a podium finish, as has been the case each year since 2012, but agonisingly, it was third place, with only the top two bands being invited to the National Finals. And so this year it will be champions Haverhill and runners-up Redbridge who will represent London & Southern Counties in the National Finals in the autumn.

Drawn as the final band out of the 12 contenders, it was a very long wait from a planned midday rehearsal – with a very late venue change at that too – until Friary took the stage at around 6.30pm. The performance of Wilfred Heaton’s aptly named ‘Contest Music’ drew some excellent comments from adjudicators Steve Sykes and Stephen Roberts, but sadly there were a few slips which took their toll on the overall impression. Stephen Roberts commented on the third movement: ‘Engaging musical spirit – so much to enjoy here and a lovely elan to it! This is so enjoyable, it has a swagger and a great sense of fun. My favourite 3rd movement of today!’ ‘An excellent performance with so much musicality and spirit …’ he added in summary. Brass website 4barsrest commentator Malcolm Wood thought Friary had done enough at least to qualify, and possibly to take the title again but it wasn’t to be.

Friary Chairman Nigel Stevens was philosophical about the result: ‘Of course we’re disappointed – third is so near but yet so far from qualifying – but it’s certainly no disgrace. We’ve had a superb run of wins and it was bound to end at some point sooner or later. Congratulations to Haverhill and Redbridge, and we wish them all the best at the Royal Albert Hall.’ ‘It’ll be strange not being on stage there this year but I have no doubt we’ll be back,’ he concluded.

Interestingly, two other bands of the seven including Friary who had qualified for the National Finals each year since 2013 – Brighouse & Rastrick and Virtuosi GUS were also pipped to qualification this year.


Please don’t miss the joint Best of Broadway concert with the marvellous Vivace Chorus this coming Saturday evening at G Live, Guildford. Tickets for the stalls are sold out, but there are still some left towards the rear of the circle. If you are planning to enjoy an evening of favourite show tunes, don’t delay booking! For further details, including a taster of the programme and a link to online ticket booking, please see We hope to see you there.


Latest signing for Friary Brass Band is Ben Miller, who joins the Band on E flat bass. Ben’s tuba playing has taken him to all sorts of places, including a rehearsal in a multi-storey car park in Vancouver and Pinewood Studios as a brass playing extra in the Oscar-winning movie Les Misérables.

Ben grew up in West Lothian, the brass banding heartland of Scotland, and spent his teenage years playing with West Lothian Schools Band, Broxburn and Livingston Band and at the Royal Conservatoires of Scotland Junior Academy before going to Edinburgh University and playing with the university symphony orchestra. He was taught by Lorraine Bisson (CWS Glasgow) and Philip Hore (RSNO).

Since moving to the South East of England in 2010 Ben has played with a number of bands and orchestras, most notably as principal E flat bass of Thundersley Band for most of 2011 - 2019. His favourite banding memory is being part of Thundersley’s rise from the second section to the top table of banding, culminating at the National Championships at the Royal Albert Hall in 2018.

On joining Friary, Ben commented: “I’ve been rehearsing with the band for a few months now and I’ve been able to see all the ingredients that make it such a successful group up close: a wonderful conductor in Chris King, an ambitious, highly-organised management team and a hardworking, talented group of musicians which I am proud to join. Forza Friary!” “Ben is another top quality player whom we’re delighted to welcome to the Friary family,” added Friary chairman, Nigel Stevens.

Ben works in tech education and lives in Hove where he can occasionally, for very short periods of time, be found swimming in the sea.


No, Friary hasn’t been elevated to compete in the European Brass Band Championships … yet, hence the inverted commas! But as revealed in Nigel Stevens’ interview with 4barsrest editor Iwan Fox on 10th March Friary was asked to record the set work for the European Brass Band Championships, ‘Saints Triumphant’, by the composer, Prof Philip Wilby to ensure it sounded as he intended before being released to the competing bands. Nigel is part of the Brass Bands England committee charged with organising the whole European Brass Band Festival which takes place at Symphony Hall, Birmingham from 28th April to 1st May. For further details of all the events making up this fantastic festival of brass, please go to but to manage expectations, please be aware that some of them are already sold out.


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



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