Friary Guildford Band started the contest season with a return invitation to the Butlin’s Mineworkers Contest at Skegness last weekend.
The contest ran over two days: Saturday was the set test piece, Breath of Souls, a real challenge by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, and one which the band didn’t entirely settle into comfortably. Nevertheless, the adjudicators did acknowledge that there was some expressive playing which portrayed the required moods.
On Sunday, however, Friary came into its own with an entertainment programme themed around music and dance. The programme opened with three arrangements by Musical Director, Chris King: Malaguena; The Foggy Foggy Dew; and America. Principal cornet Richard Straker then produced a stunning performance of Nessun Dorma, bringing a tear to the eye of many in the audience (and Chris King!). Edward Gregson’s Dances and Arias appeared to bring the programme to a close, before a ‘surprise’ encore of the Queen favourite Don’t Stop Me Now brought the set to a rousing conclusion.
Friary was placed sixth in both sections of the contest and overall, and was very narrowly pipped by Virtuosi GUS to the Most Entertaining Band award which Friary won last year on its debut. Soprano cornet player, Simon Tong, was singled out for special praise by the adjudicators.
Richard Straker summed up the weekend: ‘We didn’t pull off the test piece quite as we’d hoped, but we were delighted with the audience’s reception to our entertainment programme on Sunday. The hall was packed to capacity – about 2,000 – it was case of one out, one in: something we’re not used to at most of our concerts! I thought we all played to our best, and whilst we’d have loved to retain our award from 2015, it was no disgrace to miss it by a whisker this time.’