Flowers French Exchange

On the 6th June, Flowers Band held their regular rehearsal from 8pm until 10pm in Gloucester. After a quick load up onto the coach, we began the long journey down to Amboise, France, to compete in the 25th French Brass Band Open.

Some 15 hours and a ferry trip later, we arrived at our hotel for the weekend! The players were let loose in Amboise to relax before a busy day beckoned on Saturday.

By 10am on Saturday, Flowers Band were rehearsing and brushing up on all aspects of marching. A quick drive later, we were at our first performance of the day. We marched up through central Amboise with Army of the Nile and took our place to perform our contest march, The Cossack.

Both performances were incredibly well received. We had a huge audience gather to hear us play and hearing the whole centre fall completely silent before we started was something truly special. We later discovered we had one of the highest ever results from the French Open, with 118 points out of a possible 120.

A quick reprise of Army of the Nile brought us back to our starting point and to the awaiting coach to head off for some food. Bellies full, Flowers Band were taken to our rehearsal venue at a local music school. The room showed huge posters from previous years at the French Open featuring Flowers Band as the Gala Band, providing great nostalgia for the players! Here, we topped and tailed pieces ready for our French Open Contest performance.

A few hours later Flowers Band performed at Le théâtre Beaumarchais with a programme of Jacob’s Ladder (Jonathon Bates), followed by some exceptional playing by Principal Cornet Thomas Fountain. His delivery of Ben Hollings Threnody had the adjudicators openly in tears, and secured the prestigious French Open Soloist Prize. The set test piece was Philip Wilby’s Ascension and depicts the ascent up to heaven. A stern test, made all the more difficult as the composer himself was sat adjudicating the overall performance!

Flowers Band were on great form through the entire delivery, winning the Overall Contest with 119/120. To drop just a single point over three demanding pieces was a fantastic achievement and highlights the resurgence of Flowers Band under MD Paul Holland.

After playing, the band were treated to another meal, ready to perform for the Gala Concert. This is where the awards for the day’s playing were announced.

Carlton Sykes (Carnival for Bass - Tuba), Lauren Chinn (Tokyo Sunset - Flugelhorn), Matt Rowe (Lament - Euphonium) and Paul Richards (Let Freedom Ring - Soprano Cornet) all featured as soloists during an evening of outstanding music. The audience were on fine form, every piece being well received and even joining in!

Flowers Band took their place after the awards ceremony back on stage to deliver the final set and final bit of playing for a very busy, albeit very successful weekend.

Rob Wilshaw