One of the great soprano players in banding world has decided to hang up his championship mouthpiece.
In an exclusive interview, Alan Wycherley told 4BR that the day to day reality of top class soprano playing has finally taken its toll, and that the recent European in Montreux would be his last competitive performance with Fairey or any other UK band.
"Time has caught up with me," he said. "I want to be able to carry on playing, but am finding it increasingly more difficult to keep up the day to day intensity and home practice required to play at the very top level anymore."
Alan has been realistic about his playing future as he added: "I can’t complain with the banding career I’ve had – I’ve been very fortunate, but at 54 I know it’s a young man’s game on soprano now, so it’s time to sit back and enjoy my playing at a reduced pace and I intend to do just that."
It means the end of a top-flight career that spans five decades – and one that started when he first stepped into the Fairey Engineering bandroom in Stockport in November 1972 to fill the soprano seat left vacant by the legendary Brian Evans.
To be able to come full circle after starting with Fairey seemed appropriate. I had a year at Desford, 12 years at Leyland, a decade at Foden’s, before returning ‘home’ to Stockport. It just feels rightAlan Wycherely
Since that time he has graced every major championship event with his elegant, lyrical playing – perhaps the last of its kind — winning two National Championships, four British Opens and countless other major titles all over the world.
"I wanted to give the European one more go, because it would have given me the full set, but it wasn’t to be. I’ve been lucky to win more than most, so I’ve no complaints on that score."
There are some things he will miss though: "You can’t replace the sheer thrill of playing in the very best top section bands, and the life long friends you make there, but I won’t miss the need to go to rehearsal after a full days work every night for two weeks before contest.
I want to enjoy my music making for some time to come, but maybe it will be with a small white stick in my hand rather than my sop."
Long and hard
Alan thought long and hard about the decision to leave whilst still performing at the very top of his game.
"Every since my health scare last year, I was determined to get back in top playing shape, and it was great to be able to make my decision knowing my playing is in fine fettle.
I didn’t want hang about too long – I’ve worked too hard to ruin a decent reputation as a player!"
The soprano star was also happy that he was able to make his decision whilst still playing with the band that has always remained closest to his heart – Fairey.
"To be able to come full circle after starting with Fairey seemed appropriate. I had a year at Desford, 12 years at Leyland, a decade at Foden’s, before returning ‘home’ to Stockport. It just feels right."
Pick and choose
Thankfully he will still be heard on stages throughout Europe this year although he is happy that he will now be able to ‘pick and choose’ the gigs he wants to take on.
The immediate future though is already planned out. "I love Whit Friday, so I will be playing there hopefully with Fairey, and then I have offers to play at the Swiss Open and back in Norway, so I will still have to keep the lip in trim."
It may be the end for one of the true soprano greats of our time in the fast lane of Championship banding, but he has no intention of finishing his amazing musical journey quite yet.
"I think I have a few years left in me still – even if they will be played at a slightly slower pace," he chuckled.
"I just want to put on record a very big thank you to all the various conductors I have played under and learnt so much from over the last 40 years."