The New Year could hardly have started better for Friary with the Band’s fifth appearance at the Butlins Mineworkers Festival, Skegness. The contest was spread over two days, with a choice of test piece on Saturday followed by the entertainment contest on Sunday. With the majority of bands selecting a slightly less challenging piece than Hector Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, Friary was lagging in 6th place going into Sunday’s performance. The Saturday placings, however, are not disclosed until the end of the whole contest.
But on Sunday, the Friary fairytale was unfurled, devised and written by Chris King and Nigel Stevens and narrated by the rich tones of Frank Renton … Once upon a time, in a land far away, young Princess Isobel (Daws) lacked for only one thing: love. Indeed, All You Need is Love. Her father, King Christoph (Chris King) invited musicians from across the land to play for her and try to win her heart, word being spread by the splendidly attired Town Crier (Nigel Stevens). Many suitors played For the Love of a Princess, but to no avail. To find solace, Princess Isobel took to her trombone and gave a stunning performance of Thoughts of Love. But just as she was in despair, a lowly bass player Rossolini (Ross Graham) arrived and played Your Song. Princess Isobel was smitten with true love and ready to celebrate: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. And of course they all lived happily ever after.
The audience loved it – ‘More camp than Butlins,’ observed the British Bandsman magazine – and so did the adjudicators. ‘You bring the whole show to a great close. Bravo on playing and music,’ wrote Brian Rostron. ‘You’ve just hijacked the whole day – great concept, arrangements, playing – fabulous!’ enthused fellow adjudicator Alan Fernie. ‘I’ll bore everyone silly in Scotland telling them about this,’ he added.
An undisputed first place for the entertainment section as well as third for technique lifted Friary to second place overall for the weekend, the Band’s best result to date at the contest, and earned the Most Entertaining Band trophy for the third time in five years. And for Princess Isobel, as well as true love, there was also the well-deserved Best Soloist award. Special thanks go to Chris King for his excellent arrangements and to him and Nigel Stevens for the script.
Following the contest result, Friary has risen to 23rd in the World Rankings, its highest placing so far, and is 16th in the UK.