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This page is part of an archive of historical details from existing or defunct brass band websites. This is being maintained to provide a record of this information in the event of a band folding, its website disappearing or other loss of the historical record. Where possible, and appropriate, the information cached will be updated from time to time - and any corrections or updates are welcome.



City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Band

The City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Band can justifiably claim to be the oldest band in Wales. Not because of the age of its members, many of whom are only in their teens, but because its history dates from Napoleonic times. A Drum and Fife Band was formed in Whitchurch, Cardiff in 1798 to assist the recruitment of a Company of Volunteers to fight against the French, who were threatening to invade Britain.

In 1850 it had become a Brass Band under the aegis of the 13th Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers Corporation with T.W. Booker of Melingriffith as Commandant. The Band's headquarters was in New Houses, a row of workers cottages in the Melingriffith Tin Plate Works and an early record in the accounts shows a payment of 12.13s.6d to G. Davies for a quarter's tuition for the Band.

It was frequently referred to as 'Booker's Band' in the 1860's and 1870's and played at Club Feasts and semi-public occasions. In 1878 the Bandmaster was Mr. French Davies and in 1886 Mr Evan Owen.

At this time, the Booker undertaking appears to have failed and connection with the Works was broken. However, the Band continued to function and, for a time, there were three different combinations running simultaneously, 'The Volunteer Band', 'The Temperance Band' and 'The Drum and Fife Band'.

The first two combined to form a village band known as 'The Whitchurch Brass Band', conducted by Mr. F. Chivers.

In 1913 the Whitchurch Brass Band was incorporated with the Melingriffith Cadet Corps through the influence of Mr. Hubert Spence-Thomas, Managing Director of the Melingriffith Tin Plate Works. It was reorganised, in 1919, as 'The Melingriffith Volunteer and Cadet Corps Band' under Mr. Frank Morgan.

Mr. T.J. Powell was appointed conductor in 1920, heralding a new era for the Band. 'T.J.' as he became affectionately known throughout the Brass Band world, was a former Salvation Army Bandsman who had graduated as a Bandmaster in the Royal Marines, serving at H.M.S. Nelson, in Portsmouth.

His wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm were an inspiration to the bandsmen who responded well to his coaching. The Band entered contests organised by the South Wales and Monmouthshire Brass Band Association and, under his guidance, rose from Class 'C' to Class 'A' (Championship) status in 1932.

The Band's headquarters, until the mid 1930's, was a tiny hall at the end of Velindre Road, just above the Melingriffith Works. It was condemned in 1937 and the Band moved to a building on company land between the River Taff and the Glamorganshire Canal.

It changed its name to 'The Melingriffith Works Band' in 1941 - still under the direction of T.J. Powell. These were the days of military-style tunics with high collars and brass buttons and 'T.J', with his Royal Marines background, was a stickler for turnout and discipline. A former member recalls that anyone turning up with brown socks or unpolished buttons would be severely reprimanded - or even sent home!

T.J. Powell was the composer of many original works and arrangements for brass band. He was often referred to as 'The Welsh Sousa'and probably best-known for his series of marches named after the Castles of Wales; Castell Caerdydd, Caerphilly Castle, Caernarfon Castle and 'Castell Coch' - which he dedicated to 'The Melingriffith Works Band' - being his and, naturally, our favourite. It is now the Band's signature tune and played regularly.

The closure of the Works in 1957 came as a great shock to the local community and it took a while for the Band to adjust to being a civilian organisation, rather than a semi-sponsored Works Band. However, the Band continued to function with help from The Steel Company of Wales, who provided rehearsal facilities at the former Melingriffith Drill Hall.

Tragedy struck on Friday 29th January 1965. The Band was assembled in the Cardiff Orchestral Studio - a converted church in Charles Street - the Cory Band were competing in the BBC Radio series 'Challenging Brass' with opponents Luton Band in a London Studio. 'T.J.' was guest conductor for Cory and was drawn to play first. As he sprang to his feet ready to accept the challenge, he was taken with what transpired to be a fatal heart attack and collapsed in front of the Band. True to tradition, and just as he would have wanted, a Solo Cornet player left the bench, took up the baton and conducted the Band's performance. 'T.J.' never heard the result, that Luton had won - he died in the studio as the Band was playing. This was the end of an era. A glorious passage in the history of the Band, which had spanned 45 years and had given the band its richly deserved reputation, had come to an end.

In March 1965 the Band was given a new home and new life as 'The Excelsior Ropes Works Band' . Several bandsmen worked at the Excelsior Ropes Works in Cardiff, where Halfords now stands, near Tesco Extra superstore, and it received the enthusiastic support of the Works' Managing Director, Mr L.C. Davies and Manager Lt. Col. Gwyn Gay. Mr Haydn White took over as conductor and the Band's standard progressed once more, leading to further success on the contest stage.

The Band competed in the National Finals as Wales Regional Champions and became winners of the Wales National Eisteddfod on several occasions. It participated in the St. David's Day Celebrations in the Royal Albert Hall and devised the Excelsior Festival of Music - an annual gala held at the Sophia Gardens Pavilion until it collapsed under heavy snow in 1982. An Invitation Contest throughout the day was followed by a Gala Concert graced by the finest of Britain's brass bands and Wales' male choirs.

The Band's association with The Excelsior Ropes Works lasted for eight years and when their sponsorship ended in 1973, the Band reverted to its former and much respected title of 'Melingriffith'.

George Wimpey, the world-wide construction company, then provided rehearsal facilities and it continued to succeed in both the concert and contest fields, but, with the lack of any real sponsorship and the gradual loss of players to other bands, it became impossible to maintain the high standard of the Championship Section. After 45 years 'at the top', the Band was relegated to the Second Section of the National Registry in 1977. Regrettably, the Band was eventually relegated to the Fourth Section - a sad reflection of past glories!

The Band returned to Whitchurch in the early 1980's on the invitation of the Whitchurch Community Centre and rehearsed in the former Welsh School Building in Old Church Road. When it was sold in 1988, the Band moved to Tabernacle Church, Merthyr Road, Whitchurch where it remained until 1992.

Unfortunately, the Band's membership continued to dwindle until there were only five playing members and to put on a performance, guest players had to be imported. Key musicians from all the top bands in Wales were willing to turn out for 'Melingriffith', but it proved impossible to attract players on a permanent basis and Band withdrew from competitions.

The remaining players were determined that the Band should not be allowed to die and efforts were made to find a new home and identity to achieve a resurgence of interest. The Radyr and Morganstown Community Council, one of Cardiff's villages across the River Taff from Whitchurch, offered the Band a home in the Old Church Rooms, on the corner of Park Road and Heol Isaf.

The Radyr and Morganstown Band was formed in 1992 and the intrepid five; Arthur Atkins, Norman Collins, John Davies, Terry Short and Lee Swallow, moved the library and equipment to Radyr, where they began recruiting new members.

By 1994 the Band was performing concerts once more and its reputation had started to re-establish, although during these years it endured a number of transient conductors - some with brass band experience, and others without!

The Millennium dawned and the Band felt it could justifiably re-instate the much-loved name 'Melingriffith' to its title. The band adopted the name 'The Radyr and Morganstown (Melingriffith) Band' as a fitting tribute to the Band's heritage and the determination and fortitude of those five players who would not give up on the Band they had loved and served for so long.

In November 2001, under the conductorship of Gareth Hann, the band re-entered the contest arena and had instant success by being placed fourth in the South East Wales Section 4 contest at Treorchy. In 2002, they were placed First in the same contest, being awarded the Hawkes Championship Shield, along with the Nigel Jones Trophy for being second, overall, in the 2002 Welsh Championship Section 4 listings. Philip Morris (Soprano Cornet) was awarded the Evan Evans Bevan Cup as Best Instrumentalist in the Fourth Section.

The Band repeated that feat in 2003, retaining the Hawkes Championship Shield, with Colin Evans (Principal Euphonium) being awarded the Evan Evans Bevan Cup as Best Instrumentalist.

In 2004, the Band gained second place at the National Eisteddfod of Wales contest at Newport, and represented Wales in Section 4 of the UK National Championship Finals, having won the Welsh Regional Contest at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, but, unfortunately, were unplaced at Harrogate.

Gareth Ritter assumed the position of Musical Director in 2005, bringing with him experience of and enthusiasm for the "big time". Gareth led the band to think of higher things and was instrumental in making the band's first CD recording - appropriately titled "Heritage" - and the introduction of the Annual Gala Concert. Under his leadership, the band continued to prosper, developing both musically and in membership. As a result of recent success, the band adopted the title "City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Brass Band" recognising the close affinity throughout its history with what is now Wales' Capital City.

Local competition success continued, with Colin Evans (Principal Euphonium), Terry Lax (Soprano Cornet) and Alan Gwynant (Principal Cornet) successively being awarded the "Best Soloist" prize.

In 2006, the band gained promotion to Section 3, and in 2006 and 2008 the band represented Wales in the Third Section of the National Championships at Harrogate, achieving a very creditable third place out of twenty-seven competing bands on their second visit and gaining promotion to section 2, nationally.

In November 2008, the band won Section Three of the South East Wales Contest at Treorci. As well as being placed first out of the six competing bands and being awarded the Mel Huntley Memorial Trophy, the band's horn section was awarded the Mavis Thomas Memorial Trophy for the best horn section in the class. In addition, eleven year old Alexander Rees was awarded the Rhondda Cynon Taf Trophy as the best instrumentalist in the section.

Electing to play John Rutter's "Suite for Brass", which brought them such success at the recent UK Championships at Harrogate, the Band wowed the adjudicator, Peter Roberts. In thanking the Band for a "very fine performance of this work" Mr. Roberts complimented the quality of their technical performance and the excellence of ensemble playing, soloists, atmosphere and dynamic contrasts throughout the piece. He awarded the Band a score of 184 points, being 3 points ahead of second placed Upper Rhondda and 5 points ahead of third placed Seindorf Arian Crwbin.

That result meant that City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Brass Band had been placed first in each of the three qualifying contests for the second year running, so becoming the Welsh Region Section Three Champion Band, gaining promotion to the Second Section in the Welsh Regional Grading System (matching their National grading) and being awarded the T.J.Powell Trophy - particularly poignant, as T.J.Powell was the band's legendary conductor from 1920 to 1965.

In March 2009 the band were placed 1st in the Welsh Regional Qualifying Competition held at Swansea and, once again, represented Wales in the Second Section of the UK National Championship Finals at Harrogate in September. Presenting a near faultless rendition of Alan Fernie's "A Scott's Miscellany" the band was placed first and declared "Champion Second Section Band of Great Britain 2009". This was unquestionably the highlight of recent band history!

December 2009 saw a further advancement in the band's history with the creation of a second contesting band, known as Melingriffith 2 - or M2 for short. Twenty eight players turned up for the first rehearsal and by mid-January we had a full band. Dewi Griffiths, Principal Cornet with Tredegar Town Band was appointed to the post of Musical Director, and he soon had the band playing together as a unit.

Entering the Welsh Regional Contest in March 2010 - its first ever contest, M2 gained a creditable fifth place in the 4th Section. This is even more satisfying, given that all of the higher placed bands were graded in Section 3 for Welsh domestic contests. The National grading system has promoted M2 to Section 3 for 2011.

The main band, now colloquially known as M1,were placed Fourth in their first attempt at Section 1 in the 2010 Welsh Regional Contest so, with no trips to Harrogate this year, both bands look forward to a