Bob On! - The winning conductor tells us how it was done
winning conductor of the 150th British Open Champions tells 4BR about his thoughts
on the piece, the day and the feeling of winning the premier contest in the banding
We managed to catch up with Bob Childs the
day after BAYV Cory had won the British Open for the second time in three years,
and had done so in such a convincing manner that there were few voices in Birmingham
who didn't believe that the famous shield was going to it's rightful resting place
for the remainder of the 2002/2003 contesting season.
Amid all the people
coming up to congratulate him on the achievement, Bob discussed with 4BR his first
impressions of the "Maunsell Forts". "My first impression was that
this certainly wasn't going to be an easy piece to perform and especially to win
on. It didn't give me the opportunity to utilise my star players, it wasn't loud
or fast, and it had that look about it that it needed to be studied very carefully
"It's a very fine piece of brass writing in my opinion,
and asks the type of questions of both players and conductor that we find the
most difficult, and in many ways we have let lapse over the years. It is so subtle
in construction and architecture that you need to take considerable time to realise
the musical shape and structure. I found it a very challenging score to fully
understand - it was so precisely constructed - the composer knowing exactly what
musical picture he wanted to portray."
"We therefore took the
opportunity the practice the very things the music demanded of the bands. Quiet,
balanced ensemble work - hymns and pieces such as "Spring" and the second
movement of the "Downland Suite". It made me, and the band aware how
difficult quiet playing is, but made us appreciate the effort we needed to put
in if we were to make the right impression."
"I looked at the
score to see what problems would needed to be addressed and there were so many!
Some you can see the solutions to - others you need to camouflage, but the beauty
of the music was in its construction of a musical picture that just ached of atmosphere.
When you consider what the servicemen had to go through when working and fighting
on the Forts you can clearly see why there is such understated menace, and a sense
of foreboding in the different sections of the work."
so many areas of the work that had to be understood if you were to make sense
of the writing in the piece. John McCabe made his intentions very clear, but still
left the conductor scope to try and create texture and colour, shape and style.
There were canon figures that were repeated then inverted, a Passagaglia ground
bass theme that was sometime clear and transparent, sometimes hidden - at one
point it appeared in the Bb bass line and the superb effect of textures that incorporated
the softer tones being overwhelmed by more strident colours in the climaxes."
felt there were 7 sections of the work that completed the work for me. The opening
and end were atmospheric - creating the picture of the Forts before and possibly
after attacks, whilst the 3 fanfare sections echoed for me the attacks from enemy
forces. The two other sections encapsulated the sense of the coming attacks -
the foreboding of a hidden menace".
It was obvious that Bob Childs
relished the piece, both as a musical challenge and as a piece of fine composition
and he felt that although it may not be universally liked at the moment, in time
it will take it's place as one of the most significant pieces written for brass
"Composers such as John McCabe should be wholeheartedly encouraged
to write more for brass bands. Both he, and composers such as John Pickard explore
territory that is fresh and challenging - sometimes a bit to fresh and challenging
for some ears, but it is music of the very highest quality. We forget sometimes
that bands have lost the ability somewhat to play quietly, with balance and tone
- there is nothing better to listen to than a good band playing quietly."
will this mean the same approach to the Nationals then? - If it is, then he had
a glint in his eye and wouldn't say! We also pressed him to say if BAYV Cory will
be seeking a place at the Masters in 2003 - and once more there was a diplomatic
He would love to be able to conduct his band at Cambridge he said,
but understands that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed before
that could possibly happen. "I believe top class level competition can only
be good for all bands, and I would love to try and win the Masters. I want to
be able to measure BAYV Cory against the very best bands on more than just two
occasions a year on the contesting platform, so lets hope something can be sorted
Who knows eh? On the evidence of Saturday 14th September it would
take a damn good band to beat the band from the Rhondda. The contenders for the
Nationals have been warned.