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Newbridge (Celynen) Band
The Celynen Collieries band was reformed in 1952 under the Musical Directorship of Mr Rhys Tilley. Many of the previous band with members of other discontinued bands in the area gathered to form the nucleus of the newly formed band. A learners class was formed under the control of Mr Ernie Hayward to quickly produce players to fill the gaps in the band. Mr Cyril Shipp was appointed band sergeant to co-ordinate activities in the running of the band.
The instruments used were held in a cupboard in the Institute for many years and were a bit worse for wear. The best instruments were selected for use and the rest repaired professionally by Tommy Roberts in his garden shed. The band started rehearsing in the Institute but soon moved to the Newbridge Hotel where they stayed for a few years before moving to the Masons Arms (The Black). During this time the band had improved sufficient to start attending competitions and local engagements such as local carnivals. The first competition was at? (any idea anyone) the test piece was "Dawn of Spring".
The competitions in those early days were held in many outlying Welsh townships such as Upper & Lower Cwmtyrch, Cwmllynfell, Gwaen Cae Gerwen, Beddau to name just a few. During this era all these competitions, plus the infamous Miners Gala were used to select the champion bands for each section just as the four contests we use as at present. To survive, a steady income was needed to run the band. To assist in this function a ladies section was formed which was second to none as a fund raising body and organizers of social functions. After much debate the committee of the band were successful in arranging for a penny donation from each of the miners in the Celynen Collieries. This enabled the band to purchase badly needed instruments.
At this stage the band sought premises they could call their own without having to pack away their instruments after each practice. The only place available within the bands financial resources was "The Old Barn", top end of Newbridge. This was, as its name implies a disused barn with a dirt floor, no windows, bare stone walls and was cold and dark. We all got together and spent weeks converting the barn into a habitable bandroom with a concrete floor "covered with a conveyor belt from the colliery", windows, hardboard covered walls and ceiling. The heat was provided by a coal/log stove. No toilets but we managed. This was to be the base of the band for many years until snow got under the eves and brought the ceiling down. This was the end of an era for the band.
The band then embarked on a nomadic existence often moving premises commencing with the central hall Abercarn. This was followed by The Community Hall Chapel of Ease, The Red Lion Newbridge, Pentwynmawr Club, Newbridge Con Club and finally to its current base in the Institute in Newbridge. Back to first base after 50 years. During the years the band has won countless awards in many competition venues one of the most noteworthy was 3rd in the London National Finals in 1964. After a few successful years with the band Mr Rhys Tilley left the band to form the TA Band based in Newport. We were fortunate to have in the band at this time Mr Dave Probyn a well-experienced bandsman. He welcomed the opportunity of taking on the conductorship of the band a position he held for many years.
After Mr Probyn finished with the band after a successful period Dave Bandwell offered his services until a permanent successor was found. His successor was of a loveable old gent Mr Albert Mason who offered his many years of experience to the band. Mr mason had to finish due to ill health and was followed by Mr Colin Radford who was one of the younger generation conductors. Colin had a new more liberal approach to banding which suited the now youngish band. Again the band did well under Colin. The band was disappointed when Colin chose to give up the band to pursue his academic musical career. We wished Colin well and sought a new conductor who was Neil Watson.
At this point the band was really progressing and soon reached the second section. After Mr Watson the band had a succession of conductors namely, Mr Adrian Browning, Mr Derek Lewis, Mr Bryn Davies, Mr Wayne Shipp who returned to the band after serving many years in the army band, Mr David short, Mr Kevin Gibbs leading to the current MD Mr Paul Holland.
As you see we have seen a number of conductors come and go over the years likewise players also finished to pursue other interests. We are pleased to say that many of our players have risen to undertake positions in many Championship bands such as Tredegar, Park & Dare, Mid Rhondda, Black Dyke Mills and YBS. Namely Dave, Anthony & Jason Bandwell, Nigel Thomas, Leanne Blackledge, Adrian Harris, Ian & Neil Roberts and of course, Paul Holland.
The band also provided the basis on which some members moved on to become conductors namely Dave Banwell with Blaina, Cwmbran and Celynen, David Hayward with Frome Town, Dave Hughes with Uckfield, Adrian Harris with Glyneath and Dave Roberts with Pontypool, Ebbw Vale and Abertillery. One other member worthy of note is our Sean Moore who is Percussionist with the Manic Street Peachers. The band has also played cupid to bring about many brass band marriages from members within the band. Indeed the story of the Celynen band can be compared with the film "Brassed Off" in many aspects. Recently the chairman of the band Mr Colin Price was awarded the MBE, for services to the Newbridge Band, an award richly deserved. Thank you Colin for carrying out your duties with vigor and determination a trait that was started in the early days by past band and committee members.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge and a lot of puff has gone through many an instrument in the last fifty years by the 200 musicians at the last count. This is just a brief history of a successful band in both musical and social achievements. I wonder what the next fifty years will hold in store?