Foresters Friendly Society held their annual AGM over the weekend of the 16th and 17th of June.
The AGM moves around the country to enable different Courts to take part, which means that Foresters Brass have grown accustom to elongated coach journeys the length and breadth of the UK. With this year's AGM being held at the Riviera International Centre (RIC), Torquay, the players and supporters were up early to load the coach and hit the road by 6:30am.
Foresters Brass MD John Davis was taking a well earned break in sunny Spain, so the band called in Christopher Small, a rising star in the Midlands scene. Chris currently conducts the G. Seller & Co Wigston Band based in South Leicestershire, and as Chris has previously led Foresters Brass for a few rehearsals, we drafted him in.
The weekend was underway by 1:30pm on the Saturday. A quick leg stretch, an organised unloading and a speedy warm-up later, Foresters Brass were ready to perform. With an entertaining programme featuring such pieces as Caravan, Birdland and Nobody Does It Better, combined with excellent direction from Chris, Foresters Brass performed to members of the Ancient Order to showcase our musicians. The Soloists for this set included Steph Ayton on Trumpet with Satchmo, Paul Speed-Andrews on Solo Horn with An Untold Story and Andy Parker-Bates taking the lead on Soprano Cornet with Brass Machine.
Foresters Friendly Society kindly supplied us with a hotel after the concert and even treated us to dinner out in Beacon Quay! Following our meal, Foresters reduced numbers to a 10-piece to perform for an informal concert to evening revellers at the John Burton Race Hotel, just a stone's throw away from the RIC. The jazz dectet entertained Foresters and public alike with a swing-inspired set featuring Little Brown Jug, Swing Swing Swing and It Don't Mean A Thing and were led once again by Chris Small. There was even time for some choreography! Chris taught the audience how to "dab", and also showed the punters various moves to embarrass their Grand-kids with. This livened up the evening, had the band in hysterics and carried the entertainment on through the night. Bravo!
An early morning call once more saw Foresters Brass providing music for the AGM's traditional Church Service on the Sunday. Fortunately, after just a few hymns and a blast through Toccata In D Minor, the band were able to grab some breakfast and enjoy the sights of Torquay before our final set. There was Crazy Golf, a Classic Car show and of course the beautiful Torquay coastline to take in.
Foresters returned to the RIC for one more performance, a full band set for Foresters members and public. It was a last hurrah of high impact playing, drawing cheers and applause from all sections of the audience. We even revamped Salsa Tres'Prado to throw Chris in at the deep end!
Speaking about his weekend with the band, Chris enthused, "Following some excellent and rather intense rehearsals in the run up, I was absolutely thrilled at how the band applied themselves over four concerts in under forty-eight hours. The audiences we've played to certainly enjoyed the music we were performing and credit to the band for playing with such discipline and musicality. They made me feel so welcome. They are a fantastic bunch and it was lovely to be able to showcase the band's skills in front of their sponsors, for whom I know the band are so grateful!"
Organiser, Chairperson and Principal Cornet Steph Ayton, "Chris came in and really showed his class. From the Church service, through both full band sets and even leading the dance moves in the 10-piece, he delivered everything we asked, plus more. He's done a fantastic job and we look forward to working with him in the future! A big thank-you to the band as well. These weekends are a tough ask, so for it to go so smoothly, no complaining, no lateness, no problems whatsoever is a great feeling. Our deps were great - Stephen Fraser, Kate Slater, Becca Charters and Diana Randle, thank you."
There was also enough time for a quick weekend awards show! Chris Small was presented with a bottle of his favourite whisky for his work over the previous week and weekend, and was also challenged to pick his Player of the Weekend. After a nod to the work of Stephen Fraser on kit, the award went to Lucy Smith. Lucy stepped up-to the plate magnificently by moving onto 1st Horn without any preparation, to cover for usual 1st Horn Carole, who had to pull out very late due to illness. Well done Lucy, and we hope you're better soon Carole!
Principal Cornet Steph also picked her Player of the Weekend, the award this time going to Debra Smith on Repiano Cornet, "Debra has been an excellent addition to the band and her playing standard remains at an all time high, so she was the natural choice for the award! She sits behind me so I can hear everything she does and she leads the back row brilliantly!"
Returning home past 10pm shows the dedication that our players have and the passion that remains for performing. Spending 12 hours over the course of a weekend cooped up on a coach isn't easy, but the band did excellently. We managed to secure some more performances for the band in new Courts all over the UK!
A huge thank-you to Foresters Friendly Society for their continued support. It makes us proud to be the receiver of the longest unbroken sponsorship of any band in the UK, or potentially even the World.