Welcome to Friary Diary issue 47 - a look back over 2018, another busy year for the Friary Brass Band.
2018 started with the now familiar trip North with Friary again being invited to participate in the Butlin’s Mineworkers Contest at Skegness. The Band was also asked to put on the Friday evening concert before the weekend’s contesting began – the hall was rammed! Friary’s performance of the chosen test piece The Year of the Dragon managed 5th place, but the Band bounced back on Sunday with its ‘people’ themed entertainment programme earning the Band 3rd place for the Entertainment section of the contest, and 4th place overall, the same as in 2017. January also saw the annual awards dinner, an excellent evening with Chris Straker (euphonium) taking the Player of the Year; Alex Sears (baritone) - Most Improved Player; Sarah Stevens (Librarian) - Bandsman of the Year; Euphoniums and Baritones – Section of the Year. But as was commented on, everyone in the Band was a winner: it’s a team effort.
Friary had the honour of opening and closing the Mayor of Guildford’s Musical Extravaganza, held at G Live at the end of the month. It was a memorable evening, full of song and dance, raising funds for the British Heart Foundation and the Fountain Centre. We were also delighted to welcome top soprano player Martin Britt to the Band.
March as usual was focused on the Regional Championships at Stevenage, where the test piece was Kevin Norbury’s Odyssey. Drawn to play fifth but with the other main contenders playing later, the tension waiting for the results was palpable. However, after an anxious wait, Friary was crowned London & Southern Counties Champion for the fourth year running and with it, earning qualification for the National Finals for the sixth successive year. It’s a record which, for the period, now only seven other bands in the UK can match. Thundersley took the runner-up podium place, to qualify for the National Finals for the first time.
April was a quiet month for the Band as far as engagements were concerned, but we were delighted when our previous trombonist, Isobel Daws, who won the BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Award in 2017, won the Brass Section final of the BBC Young Musician contest. (And we’re thrilled that, after her time at Chetham’s in Manchester, Izzi has returned South to continue her studies, which means she can now play for Friary more frequently again – welcome back!). In the rankings, Friary rose to 26th, its highest placing ever.
It was a successful trip to the Spring Festival at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool for the Grand Shield contest, the gateway to the British Open. The test piece was Peter Graham’s The Triumph of Time. A solid performance earned sixth place – sadly not quite enough to win the coveted ticket to the Open this year, but it was nevertheless an excellent achievement, and Izzi Daws won the Best Instrumentalist award. The Band also presented a cheque for over £1,100 to the Kent Surrey & Sussex Ambulance Trust, from funds raised by Christmas playing. May saw GDPR come into force, too: sadly, we had to lose contact with many of our supporters who failed to respond to the request for their consent for us to keep in touch.
We returned to the charming village of Westerham for the annual Corpus Christi parade – it was a blazing hot day, and the Band’s stylish sun hats had an outing!
Having practised marching skills at Westerham, there was another opportunity for playing on the move as Friary led the parade for the Pyrford and Wisley Flower Show, before entertaining show goers in the arena. It was another scorcher, so the sun hats were sported once again. We also welcomed Kat Hawkins (cornet) and William Rowling (percussion) to the Band.
We made a welcome return to Godalming bandstand for an informal concert on a blazing hot afternoon – what a summer it was! We were glad of the shelter provided by the bandstand. A few days later we returned to the College Garden, Westminster Abbey for a lunchtime concert in that wonderfully tranquil setting. We also welcomed David Richards, former Bandmaster of the RAF Regiment and the RAF Central Bands, to the Band on BBb bass.
The month started with a busy weekend: a Last Night of the Proms concert at Ruislip for the local Lions Club followed by a trip West to Stroud on the Sunday, for a concert at the Subscription Rooms. The Ruislip concert was sold out, and the theatre a mass of Union flags, which were also emblazoned on all kinds of garment. It was some evening, with soloist Ruth Fortey adding her wonderful voice to the proceedings. Perhaps the most entertaining piece was the Post Horn Gallop, featuring Richard Straker on …post horn, and Simon Persin favouring some non-brass instruments, including a funnel, watering can and even a toilet bowl on the end of a hose: surprising tuneful! Sunday was a much more sedate occasion! At the end of the month the Band was in full swing of preparations for the National Finals, and we took the opportunity to run through the test piece as part of our programme for the scaba Autumn contest at Crawley. Friary has usually done rather well at this event, but this year swept the board, winning all twelve prizes on offer!
October was once again the highlight of the Band’s contesting year, with our sixth successive trip to the Royal Albert Hall for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain – ‘The Nationals’. This year’s test piece was Dr. Kenneth Downie’s Handel in the Band. Drawn to play 18th out of the 20 bands competing, the Band had an extremely long wait before playing, and a few splits and clips took the edge off a very musical performance. Nevertheless, 11th place, one better than last year, was a good result. Foden’s took the title. With the pressure of contests off for a few months, we started our run up to the end of the year returning to Worplesdon where again we played to a packed venue, with an enthusiastic audience. Even the lights going out midway through one of the solos did nothing to dampen the occasion!
November started with our now customary marching performance at the Cranleigh Bonfire Night. The following weekend saw Friary performing at G Live in Guildford alongside the magnificent Vivace Chorus for A Concert for Peace to mark the end of the First World War. Then came Remembrance Sunday, with the Band leading the civic procession down the High Street and up to the Castle Grounds. As in recent 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 another Proms-style concert at Ash, again a stirring evening.
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! Later in the month Friary returned to Teddington Baptist Church for a rousing concert. The first of our two carolling events to conclude the year was at The Meadows, Sandhurst raising funds split equally between the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust and the Band, and our final outing was 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 …
On behalf of the Friary Brass Band, thank you so much for your interest and support, and we wish you a very happy and healthy New Year. We hope to see you soon!