Music of the Gilded Age — The Cyfarthfa Band

Today on Radio Riel we present a col­lec­tion of music from the Vic­to­ri­an and Edwar­dian eras: in fact the pro­gramme runs from around the mid-19th Cen­tu­ry to around the end of the First World War and cov­ers music from Britain and the Unit­ed States.

51XsXCRyjCLIn par­tic­u­lar on today’s pro­gramme, we are fea­tur­ing an album of brass music from the Vic­to­ri­an era by the Wal­lace Col­lec­tion: The Ori­gin of the Species (a mar­vel­lous mul­ti­ple pun there*).

Found­ed by John Wal­lace in 1986 to explore and per­form the exten­sive brass reper­to­ry, the Wal­lace Col­lec­tion has become one of the world’s pio­neer­ing brass ensem­bles with an inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion for inno­v­a­tive pro­gram­ming.

The works played on this disc were tak­en from the hand-writ­ten part books of the Cyfar­th­fa Band (found­ed in 1838 at the Cyfar­tha Iron­works in Wales). Most of the arrange­ments are by for­mer band­mas­ters or by George D’Artney (the band’s offi­cial transcriber/arranger hired in the 1840’s). The band includ­ed a num­ber of unusu­al instru­ments such as keyed bugles, oph­i­clei­des and sax­horns and these had to be obtained and learned for the record­ing. You can read more about the band and this album here (PDF) — an arti­cle by Pro­fes­sor Trevor Her­bert of the Open Uni­ver­si­ty, who worked on tran­scrib­ing the mate­r­i­al with trum­peter John Wal­lace.

…Anoth­er set of har­mo­nious black­smiths awak­en the echoes of the remotest Welsh moun­tains. The cor­re­spon­dent of a lead­ing Lon­don news­pa­per, while vis­it­ing Merthyr, was exceed­ing­ly puz­zled by hear­ing boys in the Cyfar­th­fa iron­works whistling airs rarely heard in the fash­ion­able ball­room, opera or draw­ing room. He after­wards dis­cov­ered that the own­er of the works, Mr Robert Craw­shay, had estab­lished among his work­ers a brass band … I had the plea­sure of hear­ing them play and was aston­ished by their pro­fi­cien­cy.”

- House­hold Words Mag­a­zine, (owned and edit­ed by Charles Dick­ens), May 1860.

The hand-writ­ten man­u­scripts of the music played by the Cyfar­th­fa band were redis­cov­ered in the 1980s and were record­ed by The Wal­lace Col­lec­tion for Nim­bus Records in 1996.

The show also cov­ers a wide range of musi­cal styles and gen­res, from music-hall songs to par­lour bal­lads, from clas­si­cal pieces to waltzes and dance-hall music, and music from mechan­i­cal instru­ments of the peri­od. Record­ings are a mix­ture of mod­ern and vin­tage.

The ZBS Radio Hour

CASEThen join us at 11am or 7pm Pacif­ic Time (19:00 or 03:00 GMT) for anoth­er one-hour spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion in The ZBS Radio Hour. This week it’s The Case of the Dis­ap­pear­ing Witch — anoth­er adven­ture fea­tur­ing Lit­tle Frie­da from the Jack Flan­ders sto­ries.

In a lit­tle the­atre, off off off Broad­way, Simon Gray is attempt­ing to direct a pro­duc­tion of Mac­beth, but every actress that plays Witch #3, dis­ap­pears. Simon calls in his old friend, Mojo Sam. When Mojo sees an actress van­ish before his eyes, he brings in Lit­tle Frie­da, a girl who looks about 12 years old, wears pig­tails that rise straight up in the air when she sens­es dan­ger, smokes Havana cig­ars, and has no pupils in her eyes. She can see thought forms. When she final­ly talks Simon into allow­ing her to play Witch #3, Lit­tle Frie­da also dis­ap­pears, in fact, right on stage, “Poof!” she’s gone. But then, in the Realm of the Muse, Lit­tle Frie­da meets the real Witch #3, and she is siz­zling mad and out for revenge.

Wait ’til you hear the music that Tim Clark did. It is awe­some! Real­ly excep­tion­al, a full orches­tra back­ing the skew­ered humor of Meat­ball Fulton’s script, along with his real­ly bent take on Macbeth’s witch­es.

*Well, there’s the fact that the Wal­lace Col­lec­tion also refers to a famous muse­um in Lon­don with a col­lec­tion includ­ing the paint­ing the Laugh­ing Cav­a­lier by Frans Hals. That Alfred Rus­sel Wal­lace prob­a­bly coined the phrase “ori­gin of species” and can be regard­ed as the “for­got­ten father” of evo­lu­tion; and of course that trum­peter John Wal­lace col­lect­ed the group of musi­cians togeth­er.


Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin and pro­duced by Radio Riel. You can lis­ten to the pro­gramme in-world now at http://main.radioriel.org, or sim­ply click here to start your play­er, if your brows­er is con­fig­ured to do so. Lis­ten­ers in the Unit­ed States are encour­aged to tune in using this link: http://loudcity.com/stations/radio-riel/tune_in

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2 Responses to “Music of the Gilded Age — The Cyfarthfa Band”

  1. […] Thus the music today ranges from ancient and ear­ly music, through Baroque and clas­si­cal, to Vic­to­ri­an and mil­i­tary brass bands, to rag­time, trad jazz, a touch of big band, right up to mod­ern works includ­ing a mar­vel­lous suite of pieces for wind band inspired by the works of Shake­speare. Patri­ot­ic songs next to New Orleans brass bands. The pro­gramme also includes the mar­vel­lous arrange­ments for the Vic­to­ri­an Cyfar­tha Band — read this entry for more details. […]

  2. […] The music today ranges from ancient and ear­ly music, through Baroque and clas­si­cal, to Vic­to­ri­an and mil­i­tary brass bands, to rag­time, trad jazz, a touch of big band, right up to mod­ern works includ­ing a mar­vel­lous suite of pieces for wind band inspired by the works of Shake­speare. Patri­ot­ic songs next to New Orleans brass bands. The pro­gramme also includes the mar­vel­lous arrange­ments for the Vic­to­ri­an Cyfar­tha Band — read this entry for more details. […]

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