Pic: Jenny Crossfield
The long trek to Gateshead the weekend before last proved to be well worthwhile for Friary. The Band successfully defended the Audience Entertainment Award, taking just under a third of the total audience vote, and our star trombonist, Isobel Daws winning two soloist awards for her dazzling performance of Arthur Pryor’s classic The Bluebells of Scotland.
Drawn to be the final band of the contest, Friary took to the stage at 8.30pm; it had been a long wait. The Band presented the sequel to the successful 2019 programme of Princess Isobel’s quest for true love, aided by her enchanting trombone, and was again narrated by the excellent Tim Mylchreest. Bach’s In Thee is Joy, provided a suitably majestic opening to introduce the princess. Despite Princess Isobel’s successful wooer in the previous episode, Tubalini, proving to be a disappointment, everything in the kingdom was good. That provided a suitable link to the second in Friary’s programme: a new arrangement by Callum Au of What a Wonderful World, a cornet solo by Richard Straker.
Sadly, though, the idyllic world in Friaryland did not last, with good king Christoph being struck down by a terrible lurgy, the only known antidote being some magic bluebells only found in the far-off land of Scotlandia. Princess Isobel set off to find them, aided by her trombone. Another new Callum Au arrangement of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn classics, including Take the A Train and Caravan provided the soundtrack for the journey, cleverly plotted on screen. Arriving in the wild wood where the bluebells were growing, Princess Isobel charmed them with a virtuoso performance of Arthur Pryor’s The Bluebells of Scotland before returning to Friaryland and healing her father (although he might require a bluebell booster after six months!). And so the circle of life continued, and Friary’s set concluded with a new arrangement by Chris King of that Elton John/Tim Rice showstopper from The Lion King.
The adjudicators made many favourable comments about the performance: ‘This was so entertaining’; ‘This is a well organised outfit’; ‘A cleverly concocted and performed programme;’ ‘Captivating from start to finish (What a Wonderful World) … a brilliant soloist with innate lyricism and an impressive range too.’ But the highest plaudits were deservedly for Isobel Daws: ‘Truly virtuosic trombone playing’; ‘Top drawer stuff’; ‘Wow! I’ve been waiting for this all day! Stunning artistry – world class.’ Those final comments came from euphonium virtuoso David Childs who was judging soloists and awarded Isobel not only the Don Lusher Trophy for the best trombone but also the Geoffrey Whitham Trophy for the best overall soloist.
With the markings based on performance quality, programme content, entertainment and presentation, Friary was placed 8th overall based on, narrowly missing out on 7th on a tie-break. The audience clearly loved the programme, with 32% of the total vote going to Friary.
Defending Brass in Concert champions Cory took the top slot, with National champions Foden’s runners-up and Flowers completing the podium places.
Finally, congratulations to our Chairman, Nigel Stevens, who helped ensure that the contest went ahead safely and successfully in these exceptional times. As a director of Brass in Concert, Nigel was unable to play with the Band but we are all immensely grateful to him and all involved with the organisation of the day.