Interview: Iwan Fox of 4BR talks with David Childs
Being the son of a famous father can be both a blessing and a curse:
a blessing in that you can bask forever with the pride gained from
having a dad who was most probably better than anyone elses
at what he did, but a curse in that what ever the son chooses to
do with their own life, they will forever be held in inferior comparison.
For the sons of most famous fathers it has unfortunately been
the latter outcome that develops, but for the very gifted few, the
son outshines the father to become even more famous than both may
ever have wished. David Childs is a case in point.
David is of course the son of Robert Childs, erstwhile Musical
Director of the Buy As You View Cory Band, the current holders of
the National Championships of Great Britain and the British Open
titles, as well as being universally recognised as perhaps the greatest
euphonium player of his or any other generation. Thats a hard
act to follow for any son, but at the moment its the father
whos the one who basks in the parental glow as the son develops
into both an acclaimed euphonium soloist in his own right and a
thoroughly gifted and dedicated musician. This is a young man who
is setting out on a career that promises to eclipse even his fathers
amazing playing achievements.
We caught up with him a few weeks ago at the International Brass
Band Course in Swansea where he combined a dual role as tutor and
soloist with student players from all over Europe.
Even when rehearsing with a very accomplished piano player for
his evening recital, the first impression you get of him as a player
is one of complete professionalism in what he does. Its a
trait that he says he gained not surprisingly from his father. My
Dad has always been my inspiration both as a player and a person.
Hes given me the belief in my own abilities, but the attitude
that success can only come through hard work and dedication.
Never a truer word as he runs through his recital for the umpteenth
time before both he and his accompanist are satisfied that everything
is up to scratch then its a very polite thank
you and the instrument is laid to rest. The accompanist smiles
and quietly walks past us whispering brilliant playing eh?.
Hes talking about the euphonium player of course.
Brilliant playing doesnt come by dint of talent alone and
David Childs acknowledges that he has to put in his fair share of
practice. Ive not got a set routine like many players,
but I must do a couple of hours a day of dedicated practice. My
father instilled in me that its not the quantity but the quality
of practice thats important and that it should be varied,
interesting and fun. Im never bored when I have to practice
because Im always looking for something new to try and do.
Some days I pick up my euphonium and everything feels great, but
on occasions I find myself checking down the bell to see if something
is stuck down there! Its when your lips feel awful and your
sounding well below par that you need the self motivation to sit
down and spend time working things out.
Its nice to know that even the most talented players can
sometimes sound just like you and me, but you get the feeling that
these days are rarities, even if David Childs is a little too modest
to tell us. Thats the other thing about this young man. Throughout
the interview its like drawing teeth to get him to shout about
what hes already done as a player, even though you know damn
well that lesser players would be crowing like Chris Eubank if they
had done half as much as hes already done in his short playing
career. It is a very likeable trait in a very personable and likeable
He is currently in the third year of a BMus Honours degree at
the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and has already
become an Associate of the Royal College of Music with honours.
During his A-level studies he taught lower brass at the University
College of Ripon and York. In addition hes a solo artist for
Boosey and Hawkes and has played with many of the leading symphony
orchestras in the UK. Hes played with Brighouse and Rastrick
as solo euphonium in winning the National, European and Masters
titles and won the coveted Harry Mortimer Award for performance
whilst attending the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain.
In 1996 he won the Junior International euphonium prize and is currently
the International Euphonium Player of the Year. All this and hes
only 20 years of age.
2000 also saw him raise the profile of the euphonium as a serious
orchestral solo instrument when he won the title of BBC Young Brass
Musician of the Year. It was an amazing experience. After
all the fuss to get the euphonium into the competition, I began
to feel the pressure and quite honestly thought I had no real chance
of getting through the early stages, especially as the standard
of the players I was up against was so high. Luckily I managed to
get through the four stages of the competition and win the Brass
Final, but was left with the problem of what to play in the Concerto
Final that could stand up against Concertos from Strauss,
Rachmaninov and McMillan. Thankfully, Philip Wilby was able to produce
a fantastic orchestral score to his Euphonium Concerto that the
BBC Philharmonic thought was out of this world. It just showed what
a great composer he is and as a result it really showed off the
euphonium as a serious orchestral solo instrument. Even though I
didnt win, I think people had their eyes and ears opened to
what the euphonium as an instrument could do. It was an experience
of a lifetime.
The success of the BBC Competition has really opened new avenues
for the player and he sees his future firmly as a soloist. I
want to try and carry on the work of players such as my father and
Steven Mead in trying to promote new and challenging works for the
euphonium, both with brass bands and in the orchestral field. Now
that the door has been opened ever so slightly, I feel Ive
really got to try and push through and get the profile of the euphonium
raised even further in the general publics eyes. Just look how percussion
has become such a popular feature in orchestral programmes since
players such as Evelyn Glennie and Simone Rebello forced the public
to accept the brilliance of their performances. Thats what
I want to do with the euphonium.
The first step along this path has been the release of a CD, entitled
Prodigy that sees him take an eclectic mix of the new
and the traditional (he even performs on the trombone) and also
incorporates pieces that he has arranged himself to feature string
quintet, harp and piano. Its been a great success (recent
concerts have seen the stock he takes with him run out before the
end of the first half!) and spurs him on to try and get further
releases with new and more challenging repertoire in the near future.
I hope to be able at some time to release a CD that will
feature not only a performance of the orchestral version of the
Wilby Concerto, but also other substantial works. I
love playing all the flashy pyrotechnic band solos It's what
I have been brought up on, but unfortunately this type of solo is
not always well received by non-brass playing musicians. I have
recently been successful in commissioning Carl Rutti (who recently
composed the brilliant Montreux Wind Dances for the European Championships)
to compose a 12 minute work for euphonium and wind orchestra which
I intend to record in the future.
Does this mean that he will be seen less in the brass banding
world and the contesting scene then? No I still love
brass bands, and Im very fortunate to be able to play with
CWS Glasgow. They allow me to combine my growing work as a soloist
with my love of playing in a brass band. I get a huge thrill out
of walking on stage with The Coop to compete in the major competitions
or brass festivals. Top flight contesting is fantastic training
for any kind of performance. I find it a lot more nerve racking
playing a relatively small solo part on a contest stage than I ever
find it playing on my own. If I under achieve in a solo performance,
Ive let myself down, if I under achieve in a band performance
Ive let myself and 27 other passionate bandsmen/women down.
Playing in front of a packed concert hall with 5 million people
watching you at home as it was with the BBC Final appears to be
a lot more manageable once youve experienced something like
Dove Descending or Harrisons Dream!
However, the demands on this young man are such that the last
month or so has seen him rack up more air miles than Alan Whicker.
During the recent International Band Course held in Swansea David
made two trips to Manchester for rehearsals with the BBC Philharmonic
in preparation for playing in front of the cameras again with a
live performance at the BBC Blue Peter Prom Concert with an audience
of 7 million at home and the Royal Albert Hall full to the rafters
to hear him perform his own arrangements of Carnival of Venice and
Flight of the Bumble Bee. I felt a bit out of place at the
prom it was full of teenage pop stars and celebs. It went
very well though and I had a great time performing with the BBC
Phil again. After the afternoon prom in London it was straight
back down the M4 to play in the brass band summer schools evening
concert in Swansea.
After this it was off to the Canford Summer School in a teaching
capacity and a rip to the Forest of Dean halfway through the week
to give a concert with the Lydbrook Band. Then it was off to Finland
with his dad for the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference
before a further flight to Ireland to take part in a week long course
with members of the Fodens Band and some of the most enthusiastic
Irish brass band students you would ever likely to meet.
The last few weeks have been hectic to say the least, but
have also been brilliantly rewarding, particularly playing duets
with my Dad thats really special for me. There are
so many nice people out there all of whom want to see the profile
of the euphonium raised. I cant help feeling that because
of their attitudes it makes the hard work of practicing from the
Arban and learning new repertoire all worthwhile.
It's one of the pleasures of life seeing young talented people
perform. Its even nicer when you get to meet them and they
come across as personable, articulate and thoroughly nice as well.
David Childs fits the bill to a tee and it will be no surprise to
4BarsRest that when we meet up with him again in the next few months
this fine young man will have made his famous father even prouder
than he already is. Thats the measure of what he has already