17 Glorious Years for Foden's in Armagh

Posted by Ian Raisbeck on 6 February 2017

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The first weekend in February had become a special time in the Foden's calendar, for the past 17 years the band have travelled to Armagh, Northern Ireland at the invitation of Ivor Stevenson MBE a Vice President of the band. 

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As ever, the weekend was packed with music making - beginning on the Friday evening where Foden's Musical Director Michael Fowles led a rehearsal with the local Armagh Od Boys Band. On Saturday, Foden's Band hosted a workshop for soloists of all ages and abilities. The workshop was open to all, and featured players who had been playing for less than 3 months as well as much more experienced players. All participants were accompanied by the full Foden's Band and gained feedback from a Foden's principal player in what became an incredibly interesting public masterclass. One thing was clear, the future of Brass Banding in Northern Ireland is in safe hands judging by the strength, depth and enthusiasm of the players that several local bands sent along. 

Saturday evening's gala concert took place at the 1st Presbyterian Church Armagharmagh2 to a large and enthusiastic audience. Foden's performed repertoire from the new 'Patron's X' release which included stunning solo features from Richard Poole, Mark Wilkinson, Melanie Whyle, Sarah Lenton and John Barber. There was also a debut solo for new Solo Euphonium Gary Curtin. 'Eire Time', a selection of traditional Irish folk melodies, combined with Gary's stunning technical ability and flair was expertly composed by his former Black Dyke colleague Andrea Price and perhaps not surprisingly, was an instant hit with the Armagh audience. The band also gave a poignant rendition of 'Just As I Am' as well as a superb show of comedy and dexterity in the percussion feature 'Clock with the Dresden Figures' and the colourful 'Farewell to Arms'.   

One particular highlight was a performance of Eric Ball's 'Kingdom Triumphant', performed by request of one audience member who has now attended all 17 Foden's Concerts in Armagh. The support that Foden's have recieved in Armagh over the years has led to the band regarding the city as a second home, and the performance of Kingdom Triumphant led to raptourous applause from all present as well as a standing ovation.  

Armagh's now infamous hospitality kept the busy Foden's visitors well fed and watered throughout in what has become an incredible team effort by the people of Armagh, central to this the Stevenson family who work all year round to make sure the February event as well as the successful summer school continue to thrive. 

Our thanks go to everybody involved; after 17 years it is a great thrill for the band to see just how the enthusiasm for Brass Banding in Northern Ireland continues to grow. We look forward to the Summer School in August and next February's Foden's Band visit to Armagh. 

For any conductor and every audience, Foden’s Band is a musical Magic Carpet. It continually takes the listener to places that few other ensembles rarely even approach Howard Snell