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Report & Results: 2017 London & Southern Counties Regional Championships: Championship Section

The impressive Friary Guildford make it three in a row at Stevenage as a rejuvenated Redbridge join them at the Royal Albert Hall.

Friary Guildford make it three in a row
  Friary Guildford make it a hat-trick of Area titles as Redbridge join them in Kensington in October.

Friary Guildford brought the curtain down on the 2017 Area Championships with a top section victory at Stevenage that substantially endorsed the provenance of their major title winning credentials.

A polished rendition of 'Pageantry' also reaffirmed their dominance of the London & Southern Counties Area, as they claimed a hat-trick of wins under MD Chris King to return to the Royal Albert Hall for a fifth consecutive year.

They will now head to the Senior Cup at the Spring Festival in Blackpool in a few weeks time as a short-priced favourite to take a step closer the British Open.

Odds dropping

Also seeing their pre-contest Senior Cup odds drop will be Redbridge, as they returned to impressive Area form under Jeremy Wise to regain their Kensington Gore berth for the first time since 2011.

In a contest that gave judges David Hirst and Steve Sykes plenty to think about due to the varied, and at times, variable musical approaches to the Howells' score from the twelve competitors, a typically bravura account from Zone One Brass finished third, with the remaining top-six places going to a persuasive rendition from Haverhill Silver, and well managed performances from East London Brass and Aveley & Newham.


That broad spectrum of interpretation was certainly appreciated by the judges, as Steve Sykes revealed in his pre-results address.

The resoundingly positive response to his question of whether or not bands had 'enjoyed' the 'Pageantry' experience reinforced his opinion that both players and conductors would 'be all the better' for playing it. It was also noted that two of the individual awards went to performers from bands that did not feature in the prizes, but whose contributions certainly caught the ear.

However, both he and David also took time to emphasise the areas of concern where they felt bands overall didn't quite master the challenges of Howells' work — notably with tempos in the 'Cortege' and the need to show dynamic contrast and balanced detail in both the opening 'King's Herald' and 'Jousts' finale.

With that in mind as the excellent team of Regional organisers collated the results, the consensus feeling in the Gordon Craig Theatre from those 4BR spoke to, was that the Area title would head once again to Friary Guildford.

A confidently portrayed account, full of detail, ensemble balance, ensemble and solo security allied to the MDs expertly nuanced tempos and dynamics at the contest's midway point, saw them put clear water between themselves and their rivals.

And with principal cornet Richard Straker deservedly claiming the 'Best Cornet' award and the 'Best Trombones' accolade also heading in their direction, the announcement of the individual awards rather confirmed predictions.


"I'm delighted that the judges appreciated our performance," the delighted winning MD Chris King later told 4BR. "It was very important to me to create a measured and respectful performance on Pageantry but also one that had character and detail.

It is a difficult acoustic to play in here at Stevenage, but that suited the work I felt. You really had to concentrate on balance, blend and dynamics — so that is what we had worked on constantly since our appearance at Butlins."

Chris added: "It's another great win for the band and another positive move in the right direction. Our focus now is for a little bit of a celebration and then start work on our challenge for the Senior Cup."

Redbridge challenge

It was not in fact until Redbridge, as the last band of the day, that Friary Guildford's dominance was challenged by an equally confident, richly characterised account. Jeremy Wise brought an intellectual vibrancy to his reading that was only tarnished by some noticeable minor errors.

Meanwhile, Richard Ward will know that even his talented troupe of individuals at Zone One Brass may have needed an extra rehearsal or two to have really have brought a more cohesive sense of ensemble balance and blend to bear on what was another engaging contest performance.

Solidly portrayed

And although the bands towards the bottom end of the results table did find obvious difficulties with the challenges of the 80 year old score, there was certainly further evidence of the emerging top section strength in depth as the podium finishers were pushed by the likes of Haverhill's considered musical approach led by Mark Ager and the solidly portrayed accounts of East London Brass and Aveley & Newham.

None though could quite do enough to deny an increasingly impressive Friary Guildford from claiming their third consecutive Area title. On this form, many more bands could be faced with the same problem at major championship events over the coming months.

It was very important to me to create a measured and respectful performance on Pageantry but also one that had character and detailWinning MD, Chris King


Championship Section:

Test Piece: 'Pageantry' (Herbert Howells)
Adjudicators: David Hirst and Steve Sykes

1. Friary Guildford (Chris King)*
2. Redbridge Brass (Jeremy Wise)*
3. Zone One Brass (Richard Ward)
4. Haverhill Silver (Mark Ager)
5. East London Brass (Jayne Murrill)
6. Aveley & Newham (Robert Nunnery)
7. Thundersley Brass (Nigel Taken)
8. Medway (Melvin White)
9. Wantage Silver (Craig Patterson)
10. Northfleet Brass (Melvin White)
11. Staines Brass (Dan Floyd)
12. East of England Co-operative (Nigel Cooper)

*Top two bands qualify for the National Final at the Royal Albert Hall

Best Trombones: Friary Guildford
Best Tenor Horn: Tim de Maeseneer (Medway)
Best Euphonium: Sam Wyne (Wantage Silver)
Best Cornet: Richard Straker (Friary Guildford)


It's All About You at Bolsover...

March 22 • The Bolsover International Brass Band Summer School will have plenty of attractions for its delegates this year... led by Steven Mead.


EEBA announces adjudication swap

March 22 • Ian Porthouse and Russell Gray asked to swap roles to ensure EBBA's perception of anonymity in adjudication in Utrecht.


Regional thanks as well as concerns from AoBBA

March 22 • The Association of Brass Band Adjudicators has expressed its gratitude as well as their concerns following the recent series of Regional Championship events.

Flemish Open

Strong line-up for Flemish Open

March 22 • There is a strong line-up of competitors for the forthcoming Flemish Open in Mechelen.

Black Dyke Band - Mirfield Parish Church

Thursday 22 March • Mirfield Parish Church, 38 Church Lane, Mirfield WF14 9HX

Regent Hall Concerts - Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama Brass Band

Friday 23 March • Regent Hall. (The Salvation Army). 275 Oxford Street. London W1C 2DJ (opposite RESERVED) W1C 2DJ

The Fairey Band - Ensembles from Bramhall High School

Friday 23 March • Bramhall High School. Seal Road. Stockport SK72JT

Croydon Citadel Band - The International Staff Band of The Salvation Army

Saturday 24 March • The Salvation Army. Booth Rd. Croydon. CR0 1XY CR0 1XY

Black Dyke Band - Newtown (Powys)

Saturday 24 March • Theatre Hafren, Llanidloes Rd, Newtown SY16 4HU

Cheshire Constabulary Band

March 22 • We are still looking for a Tenor Horn, Cornet and snare drummers (for our Corps of drums). Smart friendly well run band with varied engagements, just one rehearsal a week. Open to all walks of life (you do not need to work for the Police!)


March 22 • Do you want to be part of one of the best run brass band organisations in the North West of England? Then look no further. The Pemberton Old Wigan DW organisation are holding auditions for the position of Conductor for their B band. The band is currently well placed in the 2nd section North West area and are looking for an ambitious and forward looking candidate who can take the band forward. No time wasters please.

Chelmsford Silver Band

March 22 • Chelmsford Silver Band require the following. Bb bass, Cornet and 2nd Baritone players. A non-contesting band, established for over 50 years and enjoy a good reputation performing at local and regional events plus organizing our own concerts.

Sandy Smith

Conductor, teacher, adjudicator and arranger