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The second world war had just ended . Those who had survived the horror years were returning to Colwyn Bay, and folk were organising parties to celebrate. One day I was standing near the Marine Hotel, Old Colwyn when in the distance I heard the sound of a brass band. Down the hill past Glan-y-don marched a group of men, mostly in their army demob suits playing a variety of old dented silver instruments. Up to those minutes I had never showed the slightest interest in music of any kind. But there was something wonderful in the sight of these working men passing through the village and the sound they produced; triumphal maybe……that we had won the war, but it seemed to be a fanfare of better things to come.
Georgie Jones, a pal in Church School had become a member of the village band, and I started asking him what it was like to play an instrument. He persuaded me to join, and I was presented with an ancient dented old cornet……but I couldn't get any sound out of it for some time. Eventually I managed to make some sort of noise and was allowed to sit in with the full band at a practice in their "bandroom" ……an old loft above a garage in the village, reached by climbing a ladder. During the war a handful of players had kept the band going, but by now there was a full complement of musicians. To sit amongst them as they played their music was quite an experience……to be engulfed in the sounds of Sousa and Strauss was electrifying .
The conductor Mr. Woolford allowed me to join the band and my first engagement with them was at the Tan y lan celebrations for the end of the war. Even now over fifty years on I can recall pretending to play the third cornet parts, and copying the way pal Georgie pressed down the cornet valves.
It was the start of my lifetime interest in all kinds of music for which I am forever grateful. It is difficult to express the satisfaction one experiences in playing music together in a group of dedicated musicians. And those men in Colwyn Band really were dedicated to their music. None had ever had professional tuition…….and I marvelled how they were able to produce such a great sound…….ordinary working men coming together to play the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Gilbert and Sullivan, etc. In 1947 the band took part in the Colwyn Bay National Eisteddfod,, and resumed their concert work in the lovely lakeside bandstand in Eirias Park, and on the promenade at Old Colwyn and Rhos-on-sea,…….proving a great attraction once again for visitors to the then-popular resort. Not one member owned a car in those days, and some evenings the whole band and the instruments would be transported from the bandroom in Old Colwyn on the back of John Will's lorry to Rhos-on-Sea. After Mr. Harry Edwards, a professional trombonist in the town's municipal orchestra became the conductor the band started winning prizes once again, and I fondly recall villagers turning out late at night to greet the band when it returned from some successful contest or other in England. Being a member was practically a full-time business……twice weekly rehearsals for concerts and competitions, combined with civic occasions, parades, carnivals, rose days, etc. But it was great fun, and even now old members can evoke happy memories of those times…….carolling at Christmastime, when the weather was so bitterly cold that the instrument valves and trombone slides froze solid, and we all had to go home to thaw them out.
It is difficult to find out the whole history of Colwyn Band, but I believe it was formed some time in the mid-19th century, after villagers had raised enough funds by public subscriptions to purchase a set of instruments. How sad that such a great institution should die after over a century in existence and just became a memory. It is a great loss to the town, and I firmly believe some form of band could once again play an important role in the restoration of Colwyn Bay. There must be many folk in the area who received instrumental tuition brass and woodwind in the schools over the past thirty years or so…….and probably still have their own instruments hidden away in the attic ! Youngsters who were keen young musicians years ago I believe had their lives enriched through their musical interest, and it has helped them in their chosen careers and professions. Parents should realise that it helps a young person's C.V. to show a prospective employer that they have had an active interest in the arts, and have played in a band or orchestra.