Pro-Platform: Christopher Parkes
David Childs interviews Christopher Parkes - Principal horn of the Swedish Radio Symphony and John Wilson orchestras, Superbrass and Fine Arts Brass member, and Guildhall School of Music and Drama tutor.
DC: You're now recognised as one of the leading French horn players of your generation, having performed as principal horn with many of the World's finest orchestras. However, I still remember you as solo tenor horn with the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain (NYBBGB) under your father's baton with your talented brother, Jonathan, on solo trombone. By that time, your father - the great Major Peter Parkes, had already won seven 'National', six 'Open' and eight 'European' titles as a conductor, including a Grand Slam with Black Dyke in 1985 and a ‘Double’ with Fairey in 1993! What are your earliest musical memories, and do you think your exposure to brass bands had any impact on your own development as a musician?
CP: It’s probably no surprise that my earliest musical memories all involve brass bands, specifically the ones my father was involved with. I was very young when he was with Black Dyke, so I have many more concrete memories from supporting Fairey and we had great times up in Scotland with Whitburn. Although I’m sure I attended many concerts, it’s the contest atmosphere that sticks with me the most. How my father reacted to the draw in the morning, his reaction to the final run through (he was more calm if this went well, but not too well!) and then hearing the performance. And the nervous speculation in the surrounding pubs afterwards, which my dad was keen to shield us from! When the result came, only a win was ever enough. His success seemed entirely ordinary to me in the early years, but the ‘Double’ with Fairey, followed by the ‘European’ win in ‘94, meant so much to us all. That was a special time.
DC: At the age of 15, you switched to the French horn and went on to study at Chetham's School of Music, during which time you were also a member of the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) of Great Britain. Why the French horn and how did this new musical environment differ from previous experiences?
CP: The decision to switch instruments was initially my father’s! He saw the direction I was heading and that I wanted to be a musician, and knew that it was almost impossible on the tenor horn. Apart from completely different fingerings and a much smaller mouthpiece, it was…
Read this interview in full, featured in July/August 2017’s BBW, by subscribing to BBW Digital. Alternatively, subscribe to the printed magazine delivered by post: £40 (UK); £68 (Europe); £81 (Rest of the World)