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Tydfil Overture

The Cyfarthfa Band was the first virtuoso brass band. Its music survives in more than a hundred hand-written part books. It is an archive of immense importance. Not only does it contain a wide range of music, but it casts light on musical taste and practices in the ninteenth century. Some of the pieces were composed specially for the band, and many pieces, such as The Triumphal March, The Tydfil Overture and The Carnival of Venice variations, do not exist in any other sources, but the majority are unique arrangements by the bandmasters or by George D'Artney.

This is a bespoke repertoire, so it is a perfect testimony of how well the band could play. D'Artney and the bandmasters would not have written music that was beyond the ability of their musicians; on the contrary, they would have wished to exhibit their strengths. The music illustrates the two main functions of the band. It was on the one hand a dance band which played all the main popular dances of the time, while on the other it had to function as a surrogate orchestra, playing the classics and the latest compositions, both light and serious, by the most presigious modern composers in Europe.

Joseph Parry's Tydfil Overture is perhaps the most significant piece in the repertory. It is almost certainly the first original work for brass band by an established composer. Parry, who started work in a coal mine when he was nine years old, became the most celebrated Welsh composer of the nineteenth century. The overture was probably written at some time between 1874, the date when Parry returned from America to be the first professor of Music at the University of Wales, and 1880, when he was awarded a doctorate by Cambridge University. The part books contain the inscription "composed and arranged by Joseph Parry for the Cyfarthfa Band". It seems unlikely that the copyists would not have referred defereftially to the composer as Dr. Joseph Parry, if he had owned the title by the time the piece was written.

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