Black Dyke Mills Band


Conductor: Nicholas Childs

St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.
February 17th 2001

Using analogies in describing brass bands in footballing terms can seem to be a bit of a bad idea at first, but in reality it gives you the opportunity to see that there is a genuine comparison between both. As in football, competition is the spur to success, so when a band that has been accustomed to winning regularly at the highest level hasn't won anything of any real stature for close on six years then you've got to start asking questions why.

Black Dyke, to use the football analogy is the Liverpool of the banding world. Accustomed to winning the Nationals, Open and European titles on a regular basis up to 1995, the band from Queensbury has only a Yorkshire Area title won in 1998 to it's name since. OK, they have been close to winning the others at some time, but the Area title is a bit like the Worthington Cup, and for Dyke, just like Liverpool, that's been their only success since 1995 also. Now, things may possibly be changing.

The last few years have seen Dyke meander thoughtlessly, and in a manner that saw them first start to lose at the major contests, then lose the quality players, and finally the sponsors and their Musical Director. There was little doubt that the band was in a bad way for whatever reasons, and a bad enough way that required fairly serious surgery if a return to the glory of the past was to be resumed. Enter Nicholas Childs.

Although not quite resorting to open heart surgery to revive the Black Dyke corpse, he certainly hasn't indulged in a bit of cosmetic nip and tuck either. A good second place at the 2000 British Open cemented his position of authority, and the following months have seen key changes in personnel and musical direction that have the stamp of a conductor who knows what he wants and isn't afraid to put a few noses out of joint to get it. Both were on display for this concert.

Although the programme wasn't the most taxing that he could have chosen, it was a programme that was made with very clear intentions. March, overture, cornet solo, hymn tune, serious work, flashy finish – and that was the first half. Fanfare, novelty, two more solos and a duet, a bit of showy stuff and the crowd pleaser to finish and that was your lot. Two hours and couple of encores and Black Dyke had just wowed an audience of over 750 people. It was clever stuff, very well presented and slickly performed, and for an audience of Rotarians with an average age of over 50, it was manna from heaven. Much of the programme had the stamp of its Musical Director written all over it, with "The Corsair", "Battle of Trafalgar", "Chicago", "Gaelforce" and the encores, "Lucerne Song" and "Toccata in D Minor" all staple diet of his tenure at Fodens. It worked there for him on more than a few occasions, and on this night it worked again.

It was traditional fare for a traditional brass band audience, and with soloists of the quality of Roger Webster, David Thornton and Brett Baker all on good form, and with the band now starting to sound much more balanced and less brassy than they have for some time, the foundations for success seem to have started to have been put in place. There are still concerns however, especially in what seems to be a somewhat underpowered bass end and with other key positions possibly needing amendments in the future.

However, still very good stuff and for the Dyke fans out there, real signs that like Liverpool and Monsieur Houllier perhaps the good times are staring to roll again. We wait and see with interest.