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Menai Bridge Brass Band
The Menai Bridge Band Porthaethwy has been in existence for over a hundred years. The Band was established during the 1890s with various dates given as the first practice or concert. We can say for certain that band was formed between 1890 and 1897 and that the earliest known concert was given on the 22nd of June, 1897 (probably on the pier) although there may have been others prior to this. Little is known about the early years of the band. We know that each member had to sign a form agreeing to abide to the rules of Menai Bridge Brass Band and the earliest "signed" member was Charlie Roberts of Chapel Street, Menai Bridge and he signed on the 24th of July, 1899.
The Senogles family were very important in the forming of the band. The first conductor was Captain George W. Senogles (pictured right) of Mona Road, Menai Bridge and he conducted from the start of the Band until the late 1920s. We know that as from the first of December, 1928, his sons, David and Harold were Bandmaster and Assistant Bandmaster respectively. In December 1930, David Senogles resigned due to being offered a post in Yorkshire and Harold Senogles took over.
Each summer, the band played on the bandstand by the Pier every other Saturday, taking it in turns with the Menai Bridge Orchestra. The earliest known concert here is in July, 1905 and these concerts continued on a regular basis each summer up until the Second World War when, according to the register, the band lost a lot of players for obvious reasons.
In 1903, George Senogles, purchased a former chapel in Mount Street, Menai Bridge for £150 as a permanent home to the band which it still occupies today. In 1988, the band room was renovated and in 2001, the Band were successful in gaining a Lottery Grant for £35,000 to refurbish the bandroom, purchase instruments and upgrade the equipment, such as seating etc.
The earliest known contest the band entered was the Llanfairfechan Contest on December 28th, 1901 where the band played a Gilbert and Sullivan Selection that had been used at the Crystal Palace Contest the previous year. This contest was followed three days later in Colwyn Bay, with a completely different test piece!
The next contest we hear about is an Eisteddfod (probably local) in 1921. The Band came second and the winning band was the Llandudno Town Band.
The band came dangerously close to folding in 1978 with only eight regular members but things changed rapidly with the &appointment of a new conductor in 1979, a local peripatetic brass teacher, Dennis Williams, under whom the band flourished.
By 1981, the membership of the band had increased dramatically with playing membership up to forty-six and non-playing over fifty, with many of the players still being at school. The band entered contests on a more regular basis, with one of the highlights being the band reaching the National Finals in London in 1992, coming fifth out of thirteen bands.
In the summer of 1994, Dennis Williams handed the baton over to Wyn Williams and the band continued to progress, winning first prize in the Aberystwyth Brass Ten-piece Contest in the 3rd Section in 1995. In the same year, the band received a grant from the National Lottery for £20,000 to purchase new instruments.
In 1996, the band came second in the first Beaumaris Festival Brass Band Contest and the following year went one better, a feat which was repeated by coming first at the 1997 National Eisteddfod held in Bala. After this triumph, Barry Hodgson took over as Musical Director. Under his direction, the band continued their run of success at the Beaumaris Festival of Brass Contest in 1998 by being placed first.
2000 was a year of mixed fortunes for the band - the Senior and Youth Bands came 3rd and 1st in their sections in the Beaumaris Festival Brass Band Contest and later in the year, the Band came 2nd in the North Wales Rally held in Ysgol Friars, Bangor. Unfortunately, due to the band not competing in the 2000 Welsh Regional Contest, the start of 2001 saw the band slip to the 4th section.
In it's first year in the fourth section the band bounced back, finishing second behind local rival Conway in the Welsh regionals, thus meaning the band qualified as a Welsh representative for the British Brass Band Championships in Torquay in September 2002, eventually placed 7th from 24 bands. The band were once again placed second behind Conway in the North Wales Rally in November.
In 2003 the band narrowly missed out on a return to the British Championships by finishing third in the Welsh Championships. In June 03 the band competed in the Rhyl Festival of Brass where they were placed in second place with the percussion team of Dewi Ellis, David Browning and Tomos Owen won the best percussion award. In August 2003, the band were crowned champions of the 4th section in the Meifod Eisteddfod (celebrations pictured right). The band also competed in the Potins competition in Prestatyn, and where placed 6th of 19 bands, before going on to win the 4th section by two points in the North Wales Rally, aswell as second in the 3rd section behind Conway and ahead of Beaumaris 'B'.
Due to the success of the previous few years, the band were promoted back to the 3rd section at the start of 2004. The band were plaeced a respectful 5th out of 8 bands in their 'debut' in the 3rd section at Swansea. The band once again entered the Pontins competition, with the band receive it's best ever placing in the competition, 5th out of 20 bands from North Wales and the North West of England. The band went one better than 2003 in the North Wales Rally, notching a first prize in the 3rd section.
The band started 2005 by competing in the Nationals again, and were placed 4th - the highest placing the band had achieved at the Welsh championships.
Competing in the Eisteddfod, held on the band's doorstep at the Faenol Estate, third section for the first time in 6 years the band claimed 3rd place behind Beaumaris and Newtown. In the North Wales Rally, the band came 2nd and won the Best March prize, but the star of the day was Bass Trombone Dr Alun Morris, who won the Best Trombonist Award for Section 2 and 3.
In March 2006, the band were placed 7th in the Welsh Championships, and won the North Wales Rally.
2007 started with an impressive 5th place finish at the Brass at the Guild Hall, Preston. But, the undoubted highlight of the year was a 2nd place finish at the National Championships at the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. This meant the band competed at the British Championships in Harrogate in September (pictured below). Despite finishing a dissapointing 18th, the youthful band enjoyed the performance and night out. The band finished the competing year by finishing 2nd in the North Wales Rally.
The Year 2000 saw a number of changes occurred within the band: Peter Jones became the Musical Director and also an Intermediate band started, conducted by Sue Massey, the 1st Baritone player in the Senior Band.. The Beginners band or "Band Bach" also got a new conductor, in the giant form of Gavin Saynor (right), one of the country's top Tuba players, who had recently returned from his studies on the famous "Band Course" at the University of Salford , bringing with him his experience of playing with some of Britain's finest bands such as Y.B.S., The Leyland Band and also The Williams Fairey Band.
The start of 2002 saw a number of changes in the band. A new conducting team took over and had almost immediate effect. Gavin Saynor and Chris Williams became the new Musical Directors, with Gavin taking the Senior band to the Welsh Area and helping the band to qualify for the National Finals in Torquay. This year also saw the band playing the National Anthems for the Wales v France International U18 at Bangor and also meet the Queen in Llanfairpwll to celebrate the Golden Jubilee.
2003 saw the band winning the National Eisteddfod 4th section in Meifod - and in September the band celebrated it's centenary in the current band room!
In 2004, the band were promoted to the 3rd section, and under Gavin the band finished 5th in the regionals in their return to the section. The band were infected with Scarlet Fever as they played on the pitch prior to the regions rugby team The Scarlets televised match against the Glasgow Borders (pictured, right). The band also debuted in the Rhyl Festival of Brass, with Percussionist Dewi Ellis Jones won Best Soloist Award playing Chris Williams' arrangment of 'Flight of the Bumblebee'.
In September 2005, Gavin Saynor stepped down from his role as Co-Musical Director, meaning now Chris Williams was in sole charge of the band - but Owain Roberts returned to conduct the juniors.
After competing in the British Championships in September 2007, there was change in the conducting set-up, with the senior band's Soprano player Phillip Williams taking over as Intermediate conductor and Leah Grabener taking over with the juniors.