Yes, we did it! There was a tense atmosphere right to the end on Sunday at the Stevenage Arts & Leisure Centre, with 12 bands competing for the London & Southern Counties Regional Champion Band title. The test piece, Herbert Howells’ 1935 masterpiece, Pageantry, may not be as technically challenging as some more recent works, and so left the field wide open (as happened in other Regions), yet it demands complete attention to detail. The work is in three movements – The King’s Herald; Cortège; and Jousts, and as the titles suggest, it portrays scenes from medieval court life. Friary was drawn to play 6th, with another much-fancied favourite, a rejuvenated Redbridge Band in good form, bringing the section to its conclusion. Commentators from 4barsrest and British Bandsman both felt Friary’s was a winning performance: ‘A performance that would have done well in any area this listener has attended this year’, but would the adjudicators David Hirst and Steve Sykes agree? Fortunately they did, and they also awarded Friary the prizes for Best Trombone Section, and Best Cornet to Richard Straker. The title also earned qualification for the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall in October for the fifth successive year. Only eight other bands across the UK can match that record! Redbridge finished runners-up, thrilled to qualify for the National Finals at last after the bitter disappointment of four consecutive years being placed third at Stevenage. Of the 28 Friary players on stage this year, 23 played in all three Regional winning performances; 21 played in all five of the performances qualifying for the National Finals; and 14 played in the performance which won the First Section National Finals in 2010.
For solo horn player, Chris Pannell, it was something of a family occasion too: his mother conducted Hadstock Band, coming a creditable 8th in a large 4th Section field, and his father (Baritone) and brother (Principal Cornet) both played for Haverhill who were placed 4th in the Championship Section. ‘It was the first time I’ve actually competed against my Dad,’ admitted Chris!
BBC RADIO 2 YOUNG BRASS AWARD: Congratulations and the best of luck to our former trombone player, Isobel Daws, who has qualified for the final of this prestigious competition. The final will be broadcast live on Radio 2 from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester on Friday 21st April, presented by Clare Freeman and Listen to the Band's Frank Renton. The four players will perform alongside Foden's Band who will give a short concert of their own before the results are announced. For the semi-final performances, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08fwrss which is available until the end of March.