Llanelly Town Band
(an account from 1893)
The position now held by the Llanelly Town Band in the forefront of Welsh Bands is one they may justly feel proud of, and which has been won by sheer hard word and perseverance, it is their pride and boast that they have built up their band from home talent, almost every man having been taught and trained in their own band. Rather than import, the ready-made bandsman they have taken and worked up the raw material found at home, and the result proves that their policy has been a wise one, and one which other bands would do well to more closely follow.
The band was formed as recently as 1885, and resulted from an abortive attempt to form a Rechabite Band. This latter proving a failure, owing to the very narrow circle from which members might he recruited, a few of the members resolved upon forming a band upon more open lines, and the result was the the Town Band was formed. The history of the band for the first few years is one of constant struggle. Brass bands had long been looked upon as being hardly respectable, and public support was very scant indeed. So small a measure of support was accorded that the band had to content itself with a start of about 10 instruments, which were augmented as opportunity offered. But the promoters had foreseen and calculated upon these difficulties, and being lads of mettle were not in the least discouraged. They had started with the determination of making a good band, and in spite of all difficulties a good band they would have.
Their first conductor was Mr. R.T. Jenkins who had been leader of the collapsed Temperance band. He, however, resigned after a few months, and after considerable persuasion the Secretary, Mr. T. C. Edwards, undertook the duties of teacher on the express condition that as soon as practicable the band would secure the services of an abler man. The result showed that the band had made a very wise choice. Mr. Edwards was evidently determined that what lay in his power should be thoroughly done, and the band flourished under his hands. Gradually he collected around him the right class of material and imparted to all a thorough grounding in the rudiments of music and the elements of brass band playing. Mr. Edwards is now well known as a strong upholder of band contesting as an educational institution, and therefore it is not surprising that he missed no opportunity of thus gaining experience and knowledge.
Ere many months had passed they entered a contest at the local flower show and came off victorious. Thus stimulated they ventured further afield, but being a very young and small band they were not for a long time very successful. But they were evidently determined to succeed, and after each successive reverse worked harder than ever. The Llanelly Band may justly claim for Mr. Edwards that he established for South Wales a better style of band playing than was then generally in vogue. From the very first he resolutely set his face against the prevailing method, and the Llanelly Band became known for a style of playing that was peculiarly their own, and even during the time when unable to secure prizes, their intelligent reading and sympathetic rendering was generally noted. Mr. Edwards held the position of conductor for something over 3 years. The Band had then achieved a most creditable position, and. its future success was ensured.
Then in the summer of 1889 seeing an opportunity of securing a first-class man, he held the Band to the condition under which he had accepted the office, and Mr. James Samuel, an old Llanelly boy, who was returning home after a long absence, was engaged for the position. The selection proved a very fortunate one, for having had a wide and varied experience Mr. Samuel's abilities have proved of immense service to the band. In the summer of 1890 it was evident that the Llanelly boys had reached what was then high-water mark in Wales, for entering into 3 contests they twice secured first prizes, defeating the leading Welsh bands. Early in 1891, they - in concert with the principal Welsh bands - took part in the formation of the South Wales and Monmouthshire Band Association, the object of which is to improve the status of Welsh bands. As a result of the Association's influence contests have greatly multiplied and improved in South Wales. The first contest under the auspices of the Association was held at Merthyr on July 6th, 1891, and the Llanelly boys swept the boards, securing first prize. Of their performance on that occasion the judge, Mr. Ainsworth wrote: "Andante Religioso, finest I have yet heard at any contest. Evidently a musician at the head."
Since then their progress has been a triumphal procession. Under the Association rules they have attended 9 contests and have secured 3 first and 1 second prizes; and have also won the Association medals in 1892 for the best solo-cornet and solo-euphonium players. Like Alexander of old, sighing for fresh worlds to conquer they in 1892 entered for the Belle Vue July contest. Their enterprise did them credit and their temerity was rewarded, for they succeeded in securing the 4th prize; being, as far as we are aware, the first Welsh band to figure in the Belle Vue prize list. In the following September they entered for the Championship Contest, but on this occasion their performance was unaccountably disappointing, and they returned home empty-handed, but not daunted. The experience gained was not lost, and their record for 1893 bids fair to eclipse all their previous efforts, for since Christmas last they have attended the three great contests which have been held, and on each occasion have came off victorious. Referring to their performance at Neath on Easter Monday last, one of England's ablest brass band judges, Mr. R. Stead, said: "Unison time, intonation perfect. Basses, trombones, and all concerned built up the band splendidly, giving the true colour to a in every particular all performance excelling that I have previously heard from any Welsh brass band."
So much for the Band's musical successes. Just a word as to its organisation. When the band had been established a couple of years the bandsmen thought it prudent, with the view of ensuring the permanency of the Band as a town institution, to invite the co-operation of a Committee of townsmen. This was done, and Mr. Tom Hughes, the present Chairman of the Local Board of Health, and an accomplished amateur musician, was elected President. Since its formation the personnel of the Committee has periodically varied, but the President and also Mr. J. F. Jones, Station Road - a gentleman whose exertions and enthusiasm know no bounds - have never ceased their labours on behalf of the band. Band property is vested in the Committee, on which the band has a representation of one-third. Twice weekly during the summer months the band gives public performances in the People's Park, where the authorities have erected a band-stand for their convenience.
They are also always ready to assist deserving causes, and individually and collectively they often figure on local concert programmes. A sketch of the Llanelly Band would not be complete without due acknowledgement of the steadfast service rendered by the following who way be looked upon, in addition to the gentlemen as “fathers of the band," viz. Messrs. Isaac Davies (Treasurer of the Band since its formation), T. Pugh, J. C. Jones, David Willlams, W. Arnold, and Henry Griffiths. They were original members and founders of the Band, and in and out of season have worked hard for its success. The position they now occupy is one of which each and all are justly proud, and we have no doubt but that a still more brilliant future awaits them. One thing is certain, that whatever difficulties arise, so long as the Band retains men of the above stamp, they are sure to be surmounted
The constitution of the band is at present as follows: Conductor - Mr. James Samuel, Eb Soprano (and hon. sec.), Thomas C. Edwards; Solo Cornets, Tom Morgan, J. C. Jones, W. Saunders, W. G. Morgan; 2nd Cornets, Isaac Davies (and treasurer), and D. G. Downing; 3rd Cornets, David John and W. T. Ware; 1st Flugel Horn, D. Hughes; 2nd, T. Stephens; Solo Tenor Horn, D. Williams; 1st, W. Morgan; 2nd, J. Edwards; 3rd, S. Hughes; 1st Baritone, Jno. John; 2nd, E. Stephens; Solo Euphonium, W. H. Williams; 2nd, E. Jenkins; 1st Trombone, W. Arnold; 2nd, T. Thomas; Bass, T. Phillips; Eb Bombardons, J. Thomas and D. Hughes; BBb Bombardons, T. Pugh and S. Evans; Drums, H. Griffiths.