In a long forgotten corner of the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum in Merthyr Tydfil, in south Wales an amazing discovery was made in the mid 1980s. 105 part books containing 350 arrangements for the Cyfarthfa Band.
Formed around 1840, the band was one of the most famous brass bands of its time with a rich patron in the shape of Robert Thompson Crawshay (known as the “Iron King”) who made sure that the band was provided with the very best instruments and players that money could buy.
Whilst the band itself is no longer with us, the legacy of its extensive repertoire provides us with a unique insight to these early origins of the brass band. To embrace the importance of these musical records, The Wallace Collection are pursuing a project which will enable the music to be brought to life once again, but re-crafted for the modern brass band.
With scores being arranged by Tony George and recordings being scheduled by the group, The Wallace Collection Cyfarthfa Series publications and soundfiles will be made available at The Wallace Collection Online Shop and provide a valuable link with the past for players and audiences of the future.
Recreating the ‘Celebrated Cyfarthfa Band’
An insight to the “Celebrated Cyfarthfa Band” has been encapsulated by the series of videos from OpenLearn as part of a 1980’s research project led by Trevor Herbert. The videos include interviews and comments by John Wallace who was directly involved in a recreation of the band for the research project.
Research Project Summary:
In the middle of the nineteenth century, Merthyr Tydfil was the world’s greatest supplier of iron and the largest town in Wales. It was dominated by Cyfarthfa Castle, the huge and ostentatious home of the greatest of the iron barons, Robert Thompson Crawshay.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Crawshay established a band: a brass band that was to become one of the greatest musical ensembles of the Victorian period. This programme, from the Open University course AA302 ‘From composition to performance: musicians at work’, shows how the musical and cultural identity of this band was reconstructed from a range of sources.
Professor Trevor Herbert, who first identified the sources for this story, was interested in addressing three key questions:
- When did this band come into being and how was it run?
- What did the band sound like?
- Why was such a band formed in a place like Merthyr Tydfil?