Recorded at the Village Hotel, Coryton, Cardiff on 10th April 2019
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In this episode of the podcast I talk to Christopher Bond who has packed an amazing amount of his creative skill as a composer, pianist player, conductor and tutor into the first 27 years of his life.
With many musical skills at his disposal Chris certainly makes the most of them and is particularly skilled as a composer with some superb original works and arrangements for a variety of ensembles. I first encountered Chris when he auditioned for the resident conductors position at City of Cardiff Brass Band where he was subsequently appointed.
He is, in my experience one of the best resident conductors I have ever had the pleasure of working with and it is an absolute joy to have a highly talented composer in the middle of the band. I was privileged to play the world premier of his flugel solo “Lady of the lake’ – a piece he wrote for me and the band for the Welsh Open earlier this year.
He is currently one of the busiest people you will find in the brass banding movement, conducting not only my own band in Cardiff but in great demand across the British Isles. His conducting, adjudicating and composing talents have recently been ‘discovered’ in Europe and I am sure it won’t be long before brass bands further afield will be seeking his skills.
I was intrigued to find out more about his career to date as a composer and what methods he uses to compose his work.
Listen to the podcast with Christopher Bond 47 Minutes
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Transcript of the Podcast with Christopher Bond
Rob: Chris, welcome to the podcast.
Chris: Thank you very much.
Rob: You’re a cornet player, which I didn’t realise until recently. When did you start playing, and what drew you into the world of brass?
Chris: Well, I first started playing the cornet when I was seven years old, and it was as a result of a tutor coming around to the school where I was studying at the time, the primary school I was in Camborne in Cornwall, and, that teacher was Alan Pope who ran the Camborne Youth Band. So, he came around and did various master classes on these brass instruments when…which he had, because at the time he was setting up the Camborne Youth Band, he took over in 1999. So, this was just at that time really, a few months after he had taken it on.
So, I had been learning the recorder in school, as most children do at that age, and I wasn’t really enjoying it perhaps as much as my parents would have liked me to be enjoying the recorder. So they said to me, “Look, if you’re going to give up the recorder, you need to start learning something else and to replace it with. Why not take on a brass instrument?”
So, it was very much them that encouraged me to do it, but, I did do it and I haven’t really looked back since. I was also at the time learning the piano of course as well, so I started learning the piano when I was six. So, that was kind of ongoing, that was something which I had been learning for about a year, and then the cornet just got added in, really.
Rob: When did you realise that writing music was going to be a vocation?
Chris: I think probably that happened when I was doing my A Levels. So I admit, perhaps I didn’t know that it was going to be my vocation, but I certainly would have liked it to have been my vocation at that stage looking ahead.
I’d always written music from a young age, and I actually wrote my first piece when I was probably about 10 years old, 9, 10 years old. Just a little piece on the piano, nothing major, of course. I wrote my first brass-band piece when I was 12, and took it to my local youth band and we played it through. And, I’ve actually still got the written manuscripts for that. Perhaps I’ll have to bring it to my band and see if we can play it.
But, fast forward to when I was doing my A Levels then at Truro College, and that was the point when I was, kind of, exposed to these music colleges and started thinking about where I was going to go to university, what I wanted to do, and writing music just, was something that I’d always done. I knew that I wanted to do music of some description.
I wasn’t the best player when it came to the cornet, and so I thought, “Well actually, I would like to carry on with this and see where it takes me.” So, it was at that stage that I decided to apply for music colleges to do composition. And of course from that then, the obvious thing to do would be to take that forward into a career.
Rob: Have you other musicians in the family?
Chris: No. Well, I say no. My uncle plays the tuba, and he has always played the tuba in his local band and…in Cornwall. In terms of other musicians, no. Neither of my parents read music, actually. My dad sings in the church choir, but that’s about the extent of his musical talents. And, my mum has always been involved in, you know, amateur dramatics and, you know, that side of things, pantomimes and things. But again, she doesn’t read music specifically, so.
I’m an only child, so I don’t have any siblings that learn any musical instruments, or are musicians, so it was very much a kind of solitary thing, but, influenced I think in many ways by lots of the things that I experienced growing up.
So, I mentioned my mum involved in drama groups and, you know, things, and obviously, there’s always music associated with that, and attached with that, and performances and things, but also my grandmother and my auntie were both ballet teachers and dance teachers. And so, I would always be with them, and I’d always be sitting in classes and kind of experiencing this world of music kind of indirectly.
So, I was always influenced by music in lots of different settings as a child, despite the fact that I didn’t really have any family members that were big musicians in any way.
Rob: So, safe to say that you have really been surrounded by people within the family with entertainment background?
Chris: Yes, I suppose so. In many ways, yeah. Yes, entertainment, but not perhaps specifically music or brass bands, apart from my uncle who plays the tuba.
Rob: Your career is in music, but how does that work to earning a living?
Chris: Well, I always think of myself as being quite lucky in that respect, because I think many people that try and make a living out of music and certainly, you know, classical music, if you can term it as that, they have one or two skills, and to try and make a living out of those one or two skills can actually prove sometimes quite difficult.
Of course, some people manage it marvellously, but then others, less so. The thing that I think that is good for me in my work is that I have lots of different skills which come together.
So, by that, what I’m talking about is the fact that I can compose and arrange, and so, I have a lot of work in that side of things, but I also do the conducting, I also do a lot of teaching. I do a lot of playing as well, in terms of the piano and musical director work from the piano, and that kind of side of my work.
So, I’ve got lots of these different things which I do, and I’m lucky that they all come together in order just to provide my living, basically. And, I love all of them equally, so I’m quite lucky in that respect.
Rob: What would be your core income then? Which job? Is there a specific…?
Chris: Not really, because a lot of them kind of match each other.
So, I do a lot of teaching, and the teaching I do now is split between two main institutions, one of which is a school in Chepstow where I work, and I work there three days a week. So that’s called St John’s on-the-Hill. It’s a great school, and I teach about 40 students there every week, spread across three days. I teach piano and brass there.
But I also teach at Tongwynlais Music Academy, which is something that I set up with my colleague, Sam Jowett, through our company, Create Music Education. And, we set that up about two years ago. So, I teach in both of those places, and in total that probably equates to about, well, three days in one place, three days in another place, but of course, they’re not full days, they’re just bits here and there. So, that’s one big chunk of my income.
But then another big chunk of my income is all of the conducting the I do. Of course, I’m resident conductor with the band which you play in, which is City of Cardiff Band, but I also do other bits of freelance conducting as well. Tonight I’m off to a Brunel Brass in Swindon to conduct one of their rehearsals because their conductors away. So, there’s that side of things which I thoroughly enjoy, but then, there’s also my composing as well.
I do a lot of composing and, be it commissions or be it publishing as well, and that’s something else perhaps I should mention at this stage is the fact that I publish my own music, which was a decision that I took when I was around about 20 years old, I think. And, it’s very interesting at the time, because I was presented with this scenario where I didn’t know what to do in regard to my music, and I could either have it published with a formal, kind of, traditional brass-band publisher, or I could go about it on my own. I was really considering both options, and I was talking to lots of people about what the best option would be for me and my music, because I had about, I think about eight pieces by that time that I was looking to get published in some form, or start selling. So, I decided to go about it on my own and set up my own publishing company, Christopher Bond Music, which I’m so glad that I did because I absolutely love it, and to be able to have that kind of control and ownership over everything that I write and everything that I do in terms of my composing is just great. And, I see where my music’s going all the time and I just love it.
So that’s another part of my income as well. And luckily, all of these streams come together.
Rob: What is your composing process, and what software if any, do you use?
Chris: The main software which I use, as many composers do is, Sibelius, which I use to compose and arrange.
But the process itself is…that doesn’t come in until partway through the process. So what I’ll first do, most of the time is use the piano, because as I mentioned before, I play the piano fairly well, and that’s really important for me to be able to understand harmony and come up with different textures and things like that. So, I’ll use the piano in the first instance with some manuscript paper, and very simply, I will sit and I will come up with the original material for whatever piece it is.
Normally, I will come up with a structure at that point as well. So I’ll use this material which I come up with, and I’ll write it down, and I’ll decide what’s going to come where in the piece. I’ll plan out the timing of the piece, and I’ll actually write on manuscript paper in shorthand, really the whole piece.
I like to have that idea of structure in my mind before I actually take the piece any further. So, it’s normally then at that stage that I’ll go to Sibelius, and I’ll start scoring the piece. And, I’ll very much use Sibelius as a tool to score the piece of music. I don’t do that in…by hand, I do that on Sibelius.
But that process often is…and I say often, not all the time, but that person…that process quite often is quite easy because I’ve done the hard part as a composer which is, to come up with the material, make these big decisions as to what happens with the structure, where does the music go next?
All of those things, I’ve already set in my mind. So, sometimes I find scoring the piece is quite a, dare I say enjoyable task?
Rob: So, where do the ideas… You talked about the structure and the scoring, but where do the ideas come? Do you wake up sometimes with a tune?
Chris: YeS, yeS. How did you know? I do actually. Sometimes, I will just literally be at home and I will think of something in my mind, and what I do now, I just record it on my phone if I can sing something and there’s something that I don’t want to forget which I know that I probably will forget unless I do that, I just recorded it.
So, I’m not going to play them to you, but I do have various recordings on my phone. There’s a certain flugelhorn solo which I wrote recently which I have a recording of on my phone from where I just sang the theme that I came up with for the piece of music.
And, once I’ve, of course that’s the tricky bit, finding that, you know, be it a melody, be it a rhythmic idea, whatever the, kind of, basis of the piece is, that’s often the tricky thing to come up with. But once you’ve got something, then, you know, it can be a much easier process then.
Rob: Yes, I understand fully, because when I’m drawing cartoons I’ll often think, and normally first thing in the morning just when I’ve woken up I’ll get some great ideas, and I’ve got a notepad next to the bed because it’ll be gone…
Chris: Yes, exactly.
Rob: …if you don’t put it down. Or just before I go to sleep, I suddenly think, “Oh yes, that’s a good idea.” Or, it can be random, I could be on the train, observe something and you probably…it’s probably the same for you.
Chris: Yes, yes, absolutely.
Rob: Do you usually write a piece from start to finish in one go?
Chris: Yes, I would say that I do. I mean, as I mentioned, I come up with the structure or manuscript paper, so I mean, that has the piece from start to finish usually in my mind, and on paper in shorthand.
And then I’ll usually do, yes, write it in one go. Very rarely do I have a project which I kind of leave half-finished or come back to, and I think that just stems mainly from the nature of my work and the fact that a lot of the work which I do with composing and arranging is for a specific brief bit of commission or whoever it’s for.
So, I generally do work one project at a time back-to-back as opposed to leaving pieces unfinished or, you know, writing things, you know, at different times. Normally, it’s start to finish, one go, and get the job done.
Rob: When you write a new work, how does the approach differ from something totally your own to say a commission?
Chris: There’s quite a different process really depending on what the piece is for and, you know, as you mentioned, if it’s for me or if it’s for somebody else. A lot of the work that I’ve done in the last few years has been for somebody else.
So, you know, 90% of the work that I’ve done have been for commissions or for specific purposes for other people. And of course, when that is the case, there’s all of these decisions which have to be made by that person and not by myself, so the duration of the piece, the style of the piece, often these are things which the commissioner or whoever I’m writing it for tells me what they want, and that is, kind of, the starting point for that.
I haven’t actually written, if I’m completely honest, many pieces in the last few years that have just been for myself without a specific purpose or commissioner. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I often do think that it would be nice to have some time at some point to just write some stuff for me, and to just, kind of, carry on some projects that I think, “Oh, I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of that.”
But, I suppose it’s not a bad thing at the same time to be able to, you know, have continuous work, so I’m lucky in that respect.
Rob: I’ve only worked with you for a short while at City of Cardiff Melingriffith band where you are the resident. You’ve written and arranged some brilliant pieces for us and other top-flight bands. Have you any aspirations to write test pieces for say the Areas or Nationals in the U.K., or maybe commissions for other bands and competitions abroad?
Chris: I think that probably most composers for brass bands would relish the thought of a piece being chosen for the Areas specifically, but also the Nationals, of course, because they’re such unique competitions in so many ways.
If you take for example, the Areas you’ve got, you know, perhaps a hundred bands give or take, you know, 10 or 20, all over the U.K. that are going to play your piece. So, of course, it would be a great to have a piece chosen for that specific purpose, or indeed to write a piece for that specific purpose.
Similarly for the Nationals, such a prestigious event and something that’s got such a historic past as well. So it would certainly be a big aspiration to write for either of those things, I think.
In terms of other projects and things abroad, I haven’t done a lot of work abroad actually. I’ve done a little bit of work in Europe for a couple of bands over there. I recently wrote Lode Violet a solo, a cornet solo, which he’s performed and recorded on his CD, and I’m writing a piece at the moment for the horn section of his band to perform as well. So, I haven’t really thought about writing big compositions for any bands in Europe, but certainly, something that I would definitely like to consider in the future.
Rob: Do you think it is a reciprocal bonus for your advancement, composing and conducting, and would you advise would-be composers to do the same?
Chris: It’s an interesting question, that.
I don’t think that the two skills are necessarily linked directly. Obviously, one can influence the other, and one can aide the other, but I don’t think it’s a necessity at all. And, I think that if you are a conductor and you conduct a brass band, then there’s absolutely no reason why you should feel that you need to compose or arrange music, because the skill of conducting is a skill in itself. And, at the same time, if you’re a composer or arranger, I mean, I guess, it could be a benefit to conduct a band, just to work with players, and to have that interaction with the players and the instruments that you’re going to be composing for.
But, conducting specifically, again, is such a unique skill, I don’t see that as being linked to composing or arranging. So, my advice would be, if it’s something that you’re interested in, conducting, and you’re a composer or arranger, then certainly, go for it and get yourself a band to conduct, but I don’t think it’s necessary specifically at all.
Rob: What are your pet hates about brass bands?
Chris: Well, I wouldn’t say that I’ve got any pet hates, but I do sometimes despise the formality of brass bands, and what I mean by that is there’s certain, of course, traditions, and certain things which go back a very long way.
Things like the traditional uniform, which I sometimes think is quite restrictive in a way. You think about it, kind of, objectively and you take, kind of, take a step out of the box, you see an ensemble of musicians performing, and if you think, we’re wearing these uniforms that date back, years and, years and, years and, years and it’s not a fashion statement, is it?
And, you think the general public, certainly the younger generation of general public, must think that we’re absolutely bonkers. But of course, to us in involved in brass bands, it’s such a…it’s just something we don’t think about. We wear these uniforms because that’s the band’s uniform, but, you know, you wouldn’t catch a choir wearing band uniforms, would you?
And, it’s just so unique in many ways. And so, things like that, things like some of the competitions out there sometimes can feel very formalized, and sometimes that can take the fun out of it I think, because let’s not forget that for the vast majority of people, brass bands is a hobby and should be a hobby, and so, it needs to be fun, doesn’t it? So, sometimes the formality I think is questionable, but overall of obviously, it’s a really enjoyable thing.
Rob: Taking plain ability aside, what qualities do you think make a good bandsman or bandswoman?
Chris: I think probably the biggest one for me would be commitment to the band that you’re playing in, because if you’re not committed to the band and you’re not at rehearsals regularly, then obviously there’s not much which can be done with you to really help the band.
So, I think that even if you’re not the best player, and even if you know that you’re not the best player, but you’re there all the time, you’re 100% committed with your attendance to that organisation, then that shows that you’re a good bandsperson and it shows that, you know, the conductors got you there to work with, and you can improve and you can become part of the team musically, because you’re there. So, I think that’s the first thing to mention.
And then, of course, there’s other things like getting involved in the band, you know, just being a team player, because when you’re a member of a band, you’re one of say 28 players and you’re part of a team. So if you think that you are the pinnacle of the band, and you are the absolute best player in the band, you’re not always necessarily working as a team.
In my short experience as a conductor, I’ve come across several players that, well, firstly, often think that they’re better than they are, and they make it known that they think that, which is often a difficult situation to manage, but then you’ve got other players that think that they should be in a specific seat, but then, of course, they actually, you think as a conductor, “You should be in another seat because for the best of the band, it would be better if you were in that seat, and somebody else was in this seat.”
And, it’s the players that are willing to have those conversations with you and willing to listen to you and trust your judgment as a conductor, I think, that make the best bands people. And, who am I to say, but, I do think that sometimes the players that aren’t willing to compromise on scenarios like that are the ones that don’t make the best bands people.
Rob: As an adjudicator what was your opinion on the age-old debate of open and closed adjudication?
Chris: I think, of course, it largely depends on the circumstance of the competition, but as a general rule, I would always be an advocate of closed adjudication, because I do think that that is the fairest way of managing a competition certainly at the upper levels, because the brass band world in the U.K. which is what I refer to on the whole, is such a small world, and the reality is that everybody knows somebody in every band really, don’t they?
And certainly, adjudicators will likely know people involved in various kinds of bands, and whilst the integrity of adjudicators is often completely 100% fine, you know, there’s nothing to say that an adjudicator is making any decision in a way that they shouldn’t be, there’s always going to be people that question, “Ah, but what about this, or what about that?” And so for me, I just think to avoid those, you know, conversations completely, it’s often best to just keep it as closed adjudication.
Having said that, there are scenarios where I think that open adjudication is great. And I was a couple of weeks ago at the National Youth Brass Band Championships of Great Britain where I adjudicated the elementary section, and that was open adjudication.
It wasn’t actually entertainment so to speak, so the thing that we were adjudicating was just the quality of the playing, but it’s just lovely in that environment to have that open adjudication and to see the kids that are performing. So often, I think perhaps in competitions that are involving children, or perhaps fourth, third section bands,
I think actually, it’d be lovely to have that open adjudication just to see the people that are performing. But certainly, as you go up those sections and into the higher sections, I think closed adjudication is probably the best thing.
Rob: You compose music for the annual summer season of firework displays at Land’s End in Cornwall narrated by Miriam Margolyes. How did that come about?
Chris: Well, there’s a funny story really with that…with how it came about. In 2011, so eight years ago, I began working at Land’s End, because my cousin had a job there and he was the Catering Manager, and he’s since gone to be the hotel Manager as well.
So I was, how old would I have been then? I would have been 19, I think. Yes, 19, and it was very much a summer job for me. So, I did it for seven years, believe it or not, when I was studying, and then after I finished studying at university as well. I went down there in the summer. I worked for six weeks at Land’s End, every summer selling pasties. And that was very much a very important part of my life for about six, seven years.
So, I had great contact with Land’s End, and I got on with all of the staff there very well indeed. One thing which they did every summer was this firework display, and it was called “Magic In The Skies”, and it would be every Tuesday and Thursday evening throughout that six weeks of the summer period. And of course, it was hugely popular with not just the locals, but all of the tourists as well in Cornwall for those six weeks.
I had decided that actually, the firework displays weren’t very good. And I say that now because they didn’t do them with music, and being a musician and having seen lots of firework displays that had been synchronised to music and really spectacular, I felt that to just have, you know, these fireworks that were going off in their own time, nothing special, I thought was an awful shame, especially given that the setting of Land’s End, of course, on the cliffs in Cornwall is such a magnificent setting, so I felt like the potential was huge actually.
So, when I got to my fourth year studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, I needed to do a big project as my final, kind of, fourth-year finale. So I had this crazy idea, “Why wouldn’t…why couldn’t I put a symphony orchestra together at the college, and why couldn’t I write a soundtrack basically, for the fireworks at Land’s End?” But, not just any old soundtrack, a soundtrack that was actually specifically written for Land’s End, kind of, with them in mind. So, something that was very much tailored to Land’s End.
So, I came up with this crazy idea, and I came up with the fact that it would have a bit of a narration, and it would tell the story of the Lost Land of Lyonesse, which of course is a lost supposed land between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly in the sea somewhere.
So, that was my idea for the narration, and I came up with all this musical material, and I, kind of, went to Land’s End and said, “Look, I don’t think your fireworks are very good. I think that what would make them much better is if you set them to music, and why not set them to my music, and I can write you a tailored score, you know, that’s going to be unique, and, you know, the advertising you can have with that is obviously massive.” And so, they said, “Yes,” and, remarkably…and I think a lot of it was relying…I mean, they put a lot of trust in me and they put a lot of, well yes, just trust in the fact that I would deliver and do a good job.
And, the Managing Director at Land’s End came up to Cardiff for the first performance of the piece, which was I think in about the May of that year, and the fireworks were first going to be used…the music was first going to be used in the July. So, two months before, it kind of premiered, and he came up and watch the orchestra play it through and everything, and he was just blown away. He thought it was great. And, before that, we’d had the recording session with Miriam.
How that came about was very simple. I concluded that I needed somebody to be involved in the narration. The way that the narration had been written was that it was between a grandmother and two young children, and she was reading them a bedtime story about this Lost Land of Lyonesse. So, I knew that I wanted to work with somebody that could provide a voice that sounded authentic, like a grandmother, a kind, loving, caring voice. So, I just…I contacted Miriam’s agent and we had a discussion about it, and they put it to Miriam, and she loved the idea.
So she came to Cardiff on the train one wet day, and we had a recording session. I picked her up from the station, took her to the college, we sat in a recording booth for about an hour or two and recorded it. And of course, as a 21-year-old, 22-year-old, taking responsibility for booking one of the most famous actresses in the country, and kind of managing that day was quite daunting at the time. But she was actually lovely and working with her was a…just a delight really. And, we kept in touch a little bit afterwards via email, and she was always so warm-hearted and so kind. And so, yes, I’ll never forget that experience. It was great.
Rob: In early 2015, you became the composer in association with the world’s premier band, Cory. I understand Cory’s Musical Director, Philip Harper, had spotted your talent very early when he was the resident conductor for the Cornish Youth Brass Band’s 50th celebration in which you composed the opening fanfare aged just 16. It must have been a massive opportunity to write for the very best band in the world.
Chris: Yes. I mean, it was and it continues to be. I’ve had that partnership with Cory now for just over four years, and I still sometimes pinch myself to be able to be associated with such a magnificent band.
You’re right in saying that my relationship with Phillip started when I was very young. I was a member of the Cornwall Youth Brass Band from the age of about age 13, 14, and I was a member for…I think for about five years, four, five years in that band, and Philip had come down twice to work with the band. Once in 2006 which was actually my very first course with the band, and then he came down again, I think, in about 2009, something like that, and that was the time when he conducted this fanfare which I’d written. I
t was a competition which the band had held, and I’d won that competition, and the judge, in fact, was Goff Richards, and he’d judged this fanfare to be supposedly the best fanfare. I’m not quite sure how many people entered, maybe it was only me, I don’t know. But, the band performed this fanfare as part of their course and Phil was conducting it. So, that was, I think the first time that Phillip and I had, kind of, had any kind of, you know, formal relationship, talking about the piece, working on it in rehearsal, all of those things.
And then, there was another time that Phil came across me, which was, I think in about 2012 when he worked with a band, which was doing a concert for brass for heroes. I think it was up in Huddersfield. And I wrote a piece for that as well, and he was conducting that concert, so he premiered that piece as well. So, that was the second piece, which he’d, kind of, premiered, which I’d written.
And then, when I was doing my degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, I was kind of communicating with him a little bit through that time. And he actually came in and ran a module during that time, and it was a module on composing and arranging for brass and all of the things associated with that. So, I was, kind of, working on a piece in partnership with him really, and he was giving me advice and things on that piece which I was writing for brass band.
So, I was very…I wouldn’t say surprised, but it was just a huge honour when he approached me in early 2015 about being associated with the band. And obviously, it’s a partnership which has run now for four years, and I’ve done lots of various projects with the band, be it writing solo pieces for different solo albums for some of the players, writing whole band pieces, doing arrangements for the band, and even an outreach project which saw me go into a school with a couple of the players for, I think about a three month period.
And, we worked on this project with pBuzzes and I wrote a big piece at the end of the project which was performed with the band and a choir of pBuzzes, so that was quite unique. So, there’s always different things that are going on and it’s just lovely that I’ve got that relationship with the band, and indeed they’ve got that relationship with me, and it’s just a great partnership.
Rob: Yes, It must be magnificent to produce the music and then hear it played at the highest quality?
Chris: It really is. Yes, it really is, because no matter how much you think, you know what it’s going to sound like, when you take it to rehearsal and then they play it for the first time, which usually sounds great when they’re just sight reading it through is always really quite something. And then, of course, if they work on it a little bit more, it goes to the next level, it’s really great. But, they all respond so well to it, and they really do make me feel a part of the team, so it’s nice.
Rob: What new compositions are you working on at the moment and in the near future?
Chris: Well, the thing that I’m working on right at the moment, is an arrangement for Hal Leonard of Bring Me Sunshine, which is for a project, I believe that’s happening in the summer, unbelievably since it’s called, “Bring Me Sunshine.” But, yeah, that classic tune, which I’m arranging for them.
I’m also due to start very soon a horn feature for the horn section of Brass Band Willebroek, which is commissioned by Tim De Maeseneer. So, I’m work, those are the kind of two things that I’ve got at the moment on the back burner.
I’m also doing an arrangement of my piece of music, “A New Dawn,” which is a piece I wrote for Owen Farr a few years ago. So, I’m doing arrangement of that for Rachel Neil, who is the solo horn at Fairies, because she’s doing it as part of her final recital I think for her masters, which she’s doing this year. So, I’m arranging that for I think a 10-piece is what she wants as opposed to the full brass band version.
And there’s some other projects as well which I’ve got in the pipeline which probably not at liberty to talk about. There’s always things happening, and there’s always projects which I’ve got on, which is nice and, kind of, what I was alluding to earlier with the fact that, it’s very rare that I get a spot where I’m not writing something or I don’t have some project for someone that I’m working on. So yes, there’s always exciting things happening.
Rob: That’s good. It’s nice to be fully booked up with what you love doing.
Chris: Yes, exactly, yes.
Rob: Excellent. As a conductor, you are able to pack an awful lot into a two-hour rehearsal. I’ve been very impressed with your approach, work-rate, the way in which you get the best out of players around the stand, and you make it an enjoyable experience? Have there been some big influences in your style of conducting, and how do you see this role?
Chris: Again, I think, a lot of what I’ve experienced over the last 10, 15 years has really helped what I do now. And so, I’ve worked with actually, quite a lot of conductors that, of course, all have completely different ways of doing things, and I’ve seen firsthand, how bands respond to that.
It started when I was in my own youth band and when I was in the Cornwall Youth Brass Band, and we worked with various people. We’d always get Alan Morrison down before a competition in my youth band to work with the band, and, you know, I’d see him working with the band, and, of course, that in itself was different to our regular conductor. And then, when I was in the Cornwall Youth Brass Band, we’d have a different conductor for every course, and there was two courses a year.
So from a young age I was working with conductors like Ian Porthouse, Richard Evans, various people and seeing firsthand the different approaches in how they would respond to working with bands.
And then since then of course, when I moved to Cardiff and I was 21 when I was appointed resident conductor with Tongwynlais Band, and so, that was something massive for me at that age, because at the time, the band, I think we’re 10th in the world in terms of their ranking, and, of course, it was early 2014 so that was the period where they’d just won the Areas, the Welsh Areas, the year before that, and they’d come fourth, I think the year before that at the National finals in London.
They were preparing for the European championships, so this was a massive time in that particular band’s history, and suddenly I was thrown into that role of resident conductor as a 21-year-old, which was very daunting. But, what that position led to over the course of what was four years, again, was working with some great conductors, and for one reason or another, there was various professional conductors that came to work with the band during that period.
And it…you know, it was the likes of, well, I started with Steve Sykes when he was there initially, and then there was Jeremy Wise, there was John Berryman, there was Glenn Williams, there was Mike Fowles, there was all of these various conductors that came and went. And so, again, to see all of those conductors in action, and this time to work with them, you know, being slightly more informed as what I was then a professional as opposed to just a kid in the youth band, was just very interesting.
And so, I think for my own conducting style, what I’ve been able to do is, having worked with so many other great conductors is just, take the bits I liked from each, and I think that’s what a lot of young conductors do, probably. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way of doing things when you conduct a band, but, it’s just taking what works. So I’ve done that.
I mean, in terms of my style itself though, I took a lot from working with Mike Fowles, and I really think that he… when…certainly, when I worked with him at Tongwynlais, he was so good with the band, and he got so much out of the band, and he did it a lot of things with the band which I really thought were great. And so, I’ve taken a lot from him and his conducting.
And then, of course, there’s the obvious link with Cory. So Phil as well, who I work with regularly. So, I’ve taken a lot from him as well, and just watching him in rehearsal and how he manages the band, how the band respond to him. There’s a lot that he does as well, which I probably unknowingly put into my own style. So yes, I think those two people particularly have influenced me certainly in the last few years.
Rob: If you could get into a time machine and go back to when you first started playing, what advice would you give to the young Chris Bond?
Chris: I’d probably just say, “Just do what you enjoy doing, and don’t have any fears about anything.”
I mean, when I first started playing, obviously it was well before I’d even thought about what composing was, let alone done any. And I, you know, I don’t think in the first instance I was particularly keen on playing the cornet, but actually, you know, I should’ve been a lot more keen than I was when I first started. I think the thing that really spurred on my interest was being involved in the youth band and certainly when the social element came into it, I enjoyed it a lot more.
And, you know, that happened quite quickly after a year or so of playing, but I think the advice that I’d give myself if I was going back to when I was seven years old, it would just be to persevere, work hard, and obviously in the end, you’ll be glad that you did it, and grateful that you did it.
Rob: Where can the listeners find out more about you and your work?
Chris: The obvious place, of course, would be my website, which is www.christopherbondmusic.co.uk and of course, that’s where I sell all of my music from, on the online store and everything. But there’s a lot more information on there. The other thing which I do and update very regularly is all of my social media. So I’ve got various Facebook pages, and Twitter, and Instagram, and I’m quite regularly posting plugs for various projects or things that I’m working on, so definitely follow those. That’s probably it, really.