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2022 British Open Championship
The King of the British Open

Prof David King has now won five British Open titles at an event that has been part of his musical life since 1982.


The important things in the life of a King...

The hubbub of victory had long since died down by the time Prof David King emerged from the backstage confines of Symphony Hall.

Accompanied by his wife Rosie and with a Mortimer Maestro statuette in his hand, he wore a relaxed smile of satisfaction.

Now at last he had the time to reflect on a remarkable personal achievement as he had his picture taken with people who he acknowledged had been loyal supporters of his musical endeavors. 

Personal and engaging

His thanks to them, as they were to others in the immediate aftermath of a memorable victory, were personal and engaging.  

Now though the rush of celebratory adrenaline that fueled the emotional Brighouse & Rastrick players as they savored the end of the band’s 44-year British Open drought, had long since dissipated. 

On stage as others milled excitedly around following the presentation of the iconic Gold Shield, he spoke quietly to composer Edward Gregson and Martin  Mortimer – pointing out that his fifth personal memento meant just as much as his first.  

Now though the rush of celebratory adrenaline that fueled the emotional Brighouse & Rastrick players as they savored the end of the band’s 44-year British Open drought, had long since dissipated. 


Thanks...

Self belief

You were reminded of an interview he gave in 1997 just before he made his initial mark as the winning conductor at the British Open with the Yorkshire Building Society Band.  “I see myself reaping the visualization of the dreams of my own self-belief …anything I achieve and that I may accomplish is there to be shared.”

And that was just what he was taking time to do.

Now though the rush of celebratory adrenaline that fueled the emotional Brighouse & Rastrick players as they savored the end of the band’s 44-year British Open drought, had long since dissipated. 

Compelling figure

Discomforting limp aside (the product of a DIY accident), the Australian remains, both on and off the contest stage, one of the most compelling figures in the history of the British Open Championships.  

That is in part to a record that now embraces five victories in 30 attempts over a period of 35 years, spanning five decades. 


Celebrations

Must see

Yet, even if he hadn’t won one (and 19 years separated his fourth and fifth), it has been his musical approach – from the earliest years at Kennedy Swinton Concert (off the number 1 on his debut in 1987), via Black Dyke, CWS Glasgow, Yorkshire Building Society and now Brighouse & Rastrick that has maintained his position as one of the event’s ‘must see’ performers.

His association with the contest stretches back to 1982 as a young principal cornet player with Hawthorn City Band from Australia. The Free Trade Hall in Manchester provided him with his first experience of what it takes to win the oldest and most prestigious contest in the banding world.

Roy Newsome

The conductor who claimed victory that day with Besses o’th’ Barn was Roy Newsome – a man who was to become both a musical mentor and the closest of friends until his death in 2011. Amid the hectic celebrations on Saturday evening, you suspect that thoughts of him crossed his mind.  

The conductor who claimed victory that day with Besses o’th’ Barn was Roy Newsome – a man who was to become both a musical mentor and the closest of friends until his death in 2011.

And whilst he may never emulate his achievement of winning the British Open with Black Dyke (three attempts with a best of fourth place) he has now drawn level with him on the all-time list of winning conductors. It is rarified company.  He still has the time, energy and an insatiable desire to add yet more.


Directing to victory

Brilliance and bravery

The David King of 2022 is of course a very different musical force to that of the period 1997 (held in January 1998) to 2003 when he won his previous four titles.  

Then he was afforded the financial clout from generous sponsors to secure the very best players in the UK banding movement to fulfill his ambitions. 

The maturation in the intervening years which included a two-year gap when he didn’t conduct at the event, has been marked by patience and occasional frustration.

The Yorkshire Building Society Band of that period was a magnificent vehicle for his capricious talents, musical instincts and self-belief - the brilliance and bravery added to with a degree of theatrical showmanship to inspire victories on ‘Whitsun Wakes’, ‘…Dove Descending’, ‘Les Preludes’  and ‘The Planets’  that were commanding and decisive, polished with easy virtuosity.    

Maturation

The maturation in the intervening years (a wine-making term he himself used in the interview he gave at this year’s British Open), which included a two-year gap when he didn’t conduct at the event, has been marked by patience and occasional frustration.

The performance theatrics have been taken by others, the virtuosity now a result of hard, detailed rehearsal work. 


The fruits to ripen

Ripening

It has been a consistent ripening of the fruits of his labour at Brighouse over the last few years (five consecutive top six finishes including a brace of runner-up spots).  He has been in the country longer than usual, players saying that his approach has left nothing to chance. The passion remains – occasionally explosive in rehearsals – but always thought provoking and enlightening.  

Now, like the finest of wines, he uncorked a vintage performance that satisfied the palates of both audience and crucially, adjudicators alike.

Thinking conductor

Asked about ‘The World Rejoicing’  being a ‘thinking conductor’s piece’, he said: “I’ve known Edward Gregson for many, many years and I’ve enjoyed every single piece of music he’s every written for brass band.

I think this piece has so much about it that is scintillating for the musicians to play, emotional as well with the arias and the songs that it is just a joy to perform music by someone who understands the medium.”

I think this piece has so much about it that is scintillating for the musicians to play, emotional as well with the arias and the songs that it is just a joy to perform music by someone who understands the medium

He added: “I just like to say how grateful I am to be able to conduct a piece by Edward at this time in his life and in my life. It’s magnificent music and all credit to the band who did a terrific job as well.”


Standing but not for attention

Standing room

And as to that decision to get the main soloists to stand for their contributions the answer for him was all about the music? 

“It’s not at all to do with choreography. It’s more to do with the textures and demands of modern banding.

In just five minutes he covered all bases – his ethos of contest music making distilled into a few sentences that told you everything about his approach

It’s become very much about decibels and having the power. But at the same time when you want to get to the soul of the sound, you have to get a difference… and to get graded contrasts I had to maintain allegiance to my heart and what I feel in my head about that sound, so I experimented to see if it worked…and it did.”

In just five minutes he covered all bases – his ethos of contest music making distilled into a few sentences that told you everything about his approach – even if you knew that he was still perhaps, the only brass band conductor in the world who could possibly carry it off. 

In that respect then, his fifth British Open victory must have been all the more satisfying – and the smile as he handed over the Mortimer Maestro trophy to Rosie for safekeeping as he hobbled into the Birmingham night, told you that too.

Iwan Fox 

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