As for the last two years, 2017 started with a long but very worthwhile trip North with Friary invited to make a further appearance at the Butlin’s Mineworkers Contest at Skegness. It was a contest spread over two days, with a test piece on Saturday (Metropolis 1927), and short entertainment programme on Sunday. Against a strong field, Friary came 4th overall, an improvement on last year’s 6th placing. We were also delighted to regain the ‘Most Entertaining Band’ award, together with the huge trophy, reminiscent of the FA Cup!
February saw a new engagement for the Band, at the kind invitation of the Cranleigh & District Lions Club. It was a bitterly cold evening, but a Spanish-themed start to the Showtime programme soon warmed everyone up. The Baptist Church was packed with a highly enthusiastic audience, and we hope that this might become a regular event. We also saw the benefit of the solid result at Butlins by rising to 27th in the World Rankings, our highest ever placing.
March as usual was focused on the Regional Championships at Stevenage, where the test piece was Herbert Howells’ Pageantry, a test for all the competing bands. A much better draw (6th) than last year’s (1st) helped, but there were some inevitable nerves as Friary went for the hat trick. A newly resurgent Redbridge, one time National Finals regulars, gave a strong account, but Friary was crowned London & Southern Counties Champion at Stevenage for the third year running and with it, earning qualification for the National Finals for the fifth successive year. It’s a record which, for the period, only eight other bands in the UK can equal.
April was a quiet month for the Band, spent in preparation for the Spring Festival, and also for a major concert with the Occam Singers, a Guildford-based chamber choir of which Mike Trumble (euphonium) is a member. However, we were delighted to learn that our previous trombonist, Isobel Daws, won the BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Award. Congratulations!
After last year’s disappointment at the Spring Festival at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, the Band was keen to bounce back to the Grand Shield contest which is the gateway to the British Open. The test piece was Peter Meechan’s Fragile Oasis. A sound performance earned second place and saw the Band heading back to the Grand Shield section for 2017. Mission accomplished!
Holy Trinity Church, Guildford was the venue for Fanfare! - a programme of French music for brass and the superb voices of the Occam Singers. It was a full house, and a memorable evening. Brass and voices go so well together. Later in the month we returned to the charming village of Westerham for the annual Corpus Christi parade.
July was once again time for our annual concert in memory of Band Chairman Nigel Stevens’ parents, to raise funds for the Salvation Army and the Alzheimer’s Society. This year we travelled to Boscombe, home to one of the major Salvation Army Bands and Songsters. The evening was compèred by Frank Renton of BBC Radio 2’s Listen to the Band and featured Dewi Griffiths, principal cornet of Tredegar Town Band as guest soloist. What a fantastic player! The evening raised £1,200 split equally between the two very worthy causes.
We returned to the College Garden, Westminster Abbey for a lunchtime concert in the lovely tranquil setting, far removed from the hustle and bustle of London traffic. The end of the month saw us return to Godalming bandstand for an informal concert on a blazing hot afternoon. We were glad of the shelter provided by the bandstand.
We were equally glad of the shelter provided by the bandstand at Farnham the following week, but for a totally different reason: heavy rain! The joys of British weather! It was an excellent concert, and full credit to the hardy souls who stayed to listen. Chris Pannell even started his Over the Rainbow tenor horn solo with a few bars of Singin’ in the Rain. Sadly you need sun for a rainbow, and there was none of that to be seen. It has been a few years since Friary last competed at the scaba Autumn Contest at The Hawth, Crawley, but the occasion provided an opportunity to run out the National Finals’ test piece, and the trip proved to be well worthwhile. Friary took the Championship section trophy, and the awards for the Best Hymn Tune; Best Percussion Section; Best Bass Section; Best Instrumentalist (Simon Tong – Soprano Cornet); and Best Conductor (Chris King).
October was once again the highlight of the Band’s contesting year, with another trip to the Royal Albert Hall for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain – ‘The Nationals’. This year’s test piece was Howard Snell’s Gallery, along the lines of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Drawn 17, the Band had a long wait before playing, and a few splits and clips took the edge off a very musical performance. Nevertheless, a 12th place, as at last year’s Nationals, was a good result. Brighouse & Rastrick took the title with the final performance of the day.
November started with our now customary marching performance at the Cranleigh Bonfire Night. The following weekend was Remembrance Sunday, with the Band leading the civic procession down the High Street and up to the Castle Grounds. For the past few years, a wreath has been laid at the War Memorial on behalf of the Band; without the sacrifice of so many, who knows what music – if any - we would be playing now. The month continued with two concerts, the first a return to St James Church, New Malden, and the second at another new venue, St Mary the Virgin Church, Worplesdon. The latter was a fundraising event, for the British Heart Foundation and the Parish, and raised over £850. On a cold evening, the warmth of the audience shone through with their enthusiasm, and it was a beautiful setting. Who can forget the sight of the five children in the front row really getting into the swing of the music!
Christmas preparations started for the Band as always with our concert for the British Heart Foundation at Park Barn Centre. The Centre was even more packed than ever, and the audience so receptive. Christmas was definitely on its way! The following Saturday took Friary to yet another new venue, Teddington Baptist Church. We are so pleased to have been able to play to so many different audiences this year, and hope that there will be some brass music converts. The first of our two carolling events, at The Meadows, Sandhurst on Sunday raised nearly £1,000, split equally between the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust and Band funds, and we will conclude our engagements for 2017 as usual at the Hog’s Back Brewery on Christmas Eve. There’s time to relax for just a few days … but only until rehearsals re-commence for the Butlins Mineworkers Contest in Skegness in mid January! Here we go again …
Friary has been invited to take a major part in the Mayor of Guildford’s Musical Extravaganza on Sunday 25th February at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. This promises to be a marvellous evening, showcasing music from the Borough. Proceeds will be donated to the Mayor’s charities, including the British Heart Foundation and the Fountain Centre. Tickets are available from the Yvonne Arnaud Box Office telephone 01483 440000 or online at http://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/production/the-mayor-of-guildfords-musical-extravaganza