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European Championships 2002:
The Chain Gang – YBS and Dr King take another Euro title

Date Posted: 09.05.02

In it’s short history, the Yorkshire Building Society band has won many accolades and titles – the Yorkshire, British Open and All England Masters trophies have all found their way back to the sponsors headquarters, but it has been the European Championship that has possibly defined YBS into the band they are today – and what a band they are.

The 6th win in seven years at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels and their fourth in consecutive years was possibly their finest ever win, as it came against the strongest ever field assembled from across Europe and it ended with YBS winning by the huge margin of 6 clear points and winning both the set work and “own choice” sections into the bargain. Even by their standards, this was some achievement. With this in mind we managed to catch the Musical Director, Dr David King at the hotel the following morning and asked him how it all felt.

Dr David King“Of course I’m delighted.” he said, “But I’m delighted for the members and supporters of the band rather than just myself. This has been an achievement for the new YBS – a band that had nine new players come into its ranks at the beginning of 2002 and a band of young players, nearly all of whom are new to contesting at this level and have overcome the disappointment of the Yorkshire Regional Championships to come here and give, what I believe have been two quite outstanding performances.”

Asked what it felt like to equal the record of four consecutive wins held by Black Dyke and to create a new record of six wins in seven years, Dr King was adamant that those records have little meaning to him.

“I think we get to hung up on the quantity of wins rather than the quality of the performances we create. I’m not interested in how many times we have won, or if we have created a new record in doing so – I’m interested in the way in which we at YBS have performed and I’m not motivated by the setting of records at all. I enjoy the competitive element of contesting for sure, but that is not the reason why I do it. I strive to create quality performances of important works with the band – performances that can be remembered for the musicianship of the players and the band as a whole.”

4BR team with Piet Swerts
The 4BR Team meet Piet Swerts

So was “Chain” by Piet Swerts a quality piece of music?

“Very much so. I always get vibes about a new work when I first start looking at the score, and I really felt that this was a piece that had so much to offer. I had heard that many people didn’t think much of the composition, and that they found it too abrasive in character, but not for me. It’ so well constructed – very transparent with clearly defined musical architecture. It’s very much in the European tradition of composition with clean musical lines and contours, and I think it has been a fine test of the bands and the MD’s”.

4BR explained to Dr King that we thought it was a high-risk strategy that he took in his bands performance in the morning, in that it was certainly different in terms of speed from nearly all the other bands.

“I didn’t think that was a high risk strategy. The composer had clearly marked the score “Agitato” – holding back as if the music is exploring its way forward rather than powering ahead without care. It for me had to portray nervousness and uncertainty, and it wasn’t until the last “Energico” section that the work moves at a pace of 132 crotchets. That was the composer’s aim I felt – a continual movement towards that speed and build towards the climax of the work – that was the musical chain of events.”

It obviously was what the composer intended as well, as 4BR caught up with Pete Swerts afterwards and he was delighted with the interpretation given by YBS and couldn’t speak highly enough of the way in which Dr King and the band had performed his work. He was a very musically satisfied man. The judges were also mightily impressed too and gave the band 97 points and first place. There were very few in the audience who disagreed.

As for the “Concerto Grosso”?

“This is a tour de force of immense proportions” Dr King explained. “It has all the right ingredients of a truly great test piece, and I believed the band would give a superb performance of it. They worked immensely hard on its preparation and I knew all the soloists would be able to create a bit of magic. On the day they gave an amazing performance – brilliant ensemble work as well as great individual playing. It would be unfair of me to single out certain players in these circumstances, but Peter Smith on tuba, Ben Godfrey on flugel and Mike Howley on euphonium were outstanding – everyone else for me was just as good.”

And so. Where does this win stand in relation to the others?

“Just as highly as any of them in my opinion. However, I don’t look back to see if one was better than another. 2002 saw us under immense pressure, but we gave two outstanding performances to win the title, and it is that which for me is the most important aspect of the whole weekend. The quality of the achievement means more than anything. We have superb sponsors in the Yorkshire Building Society and they give us tremendous support and commitment to try and achieve what I think we as a band are capable of. When it comes off like it has this weekend, it makes it so worthwhile.”

And next?

“We are off to do a great concert in Stroud on the weekend and then it’s preparation for the forthcoming All England Masters in Cambridge.”

But one last question. Of all the European contests you have been involved in, which performance in terms of quality do you think remains the most memorable experience? 4BR were being a bit cheeky and we thought Dr King would give us the obvious answer – “This one of course” – but no.

“Blitz” – in Kerkrade. That was the most memorable for me” he said.

And with that he smiled and thanked us for our time and was engulfed by even more well wishers. It was in a way the answer that told us so much about the man himself. It was the quality rather than the quantity that was the most important thing to him. Two firsts and a 6th title here against 8th place and out of the prizes four years ago. You can see what drives him on.

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