It’s tough at the top! Everyone else is snapping at your heels, and it was exactly like that last Sunday when Friary went to the London & Southern Counties Regional Championships at Stevenage, to defend the Regional title held for the past four years. Despite being regarded as the favourite, we were only too aware that competition would be extremely fierce, particularly from the likes of the rejuvenated Redbridge under David Thornton, Wantage conducted by Paul Holland and Zone One Brass taken by Richard Ward.
A draw to play 9th out of the 12 bands competing was favourable, but with performances of the test piece, Ray Steadman-Allen’s Seascapes, from both Redbridge and Wantage being highly rated by brass website 4barsrest in the first half, there was clearly no room for complacency.
Mercifully, after a late finish of the twelve performances, the wait for the result was relatively brief.
Adjudicators Michael Fowles and Dr Robert Childs awarded first place to Friary, and with it the awards for best cornet
(Richard Straker), best tenor horn (Chris Pannell), best euphonium (Chris Straker) and best trombone section (Chris Brewster, Ian Stewart and Adam Gregory): so a clean sweep of the trophies.
The five consecutive titles equals Redbridge’s record (2007-2011) and also means Friary again qualifies for the National Championships of Great Britain at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Along with Brighouse & Rastrick, Cory, Foden’s, Tredegar, Virtuosi GUS and Whitburn, Friary is one of only seven bands to have qualified for the Nationals the last seven years: the Magnificent Seven!
Band Chairman Nigel Stevens was thrilled with the result: ‘Each year it seems to be more difficult to retain the title, but we’ve managed to do it again. We’re immensely grateful to our Musical Director, Chris King, for his excellent guidance, and to all our players and deputies for their dedication and commitment. It’s been a terrific start to the year with our result at Butlin’s and now at the Regionals, and are looking forward to another year where we build on that success.’