Music of the Gilded Age — The Cyfarthfa Band

in Daily Programme, Radio Drama, Radio Riel Main, ZBS Radio Hour

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 9 March, 2013

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, 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:


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