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Thomas James Powell was born in Tredegar in 1897 and was a member of Tredegar Workmen’s Band and Tredegar Salvation Army Band prior to the outbreak of the First World War.
He left to join the Royal Marines, where he graduated as a Bandmaster, serving at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth. On his return to Wales, Powell was appointed conductor of the impressive Melingriffith Band in 1920 (above), and soon built a reputation as being a prolific and much admired conductor and composer, especially of marches.
This led to the great Harry Mortimer referring to him as ‘The Welsh Sousa’- with his bold compositions such as ‘Castell Coch’ and ‘The Contestor’, as well as a plethora of lighter items and concert works, still played to this day. He died in 1965, whilst conducting the Cory Band in a radio broadcast.
Very little is known of his composition ‘Burbling Brook’, other than it was written to be played either as a virtuoso triple-tonguing flugel or corent solo, and hails from around the early 1940s.
Although there is no record of it being ever being published, in research undertaken for the project, it was found that it was publicly performed, with Brian Buckley, a former principal cornet of Tredegar Band, recalling playing it in either the late 1940s or early 1950s.
Powell did return to conduct Tredegar around this time- most notably in 1948 for a joint concert with Melingriffth Band, in which his other work 'The Glory of Victory', written by him for the band was performed once more.
Brian Buckley became principal cornet of Tredegar Workmen's Band aged 14 in 1946, holding the role with distinction for 25 years, whilst the performance recorded here, for inclusion on one of CDs for the band's Heritage Lottery Fund project, is splendidly given by current principal cornet, Dewi Griffiths.
The original work remains a treasured possession of the City of Cardiff (Melingriffith) Band, where it was saved for posterity by a former player Geoff Atkins who played with Melingriffith as a youngster, under Powell. It was subsequently transcribed onto a computer programme by former BBC producer and T.J. Powell archivist Dave Howard, so that it could be preserved.
Tredegar Band is grateful to City of Cardiff (Melingriffth) Band for allowing the piece to be performed once more.
The aim of this Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported project is to provide an on-line multi-media resource that will celebrate and interpret the historical importance of the social, cultural and musical achievements of Tredegar Town Band over a time-line of the past 170 years – from the earliest reported origins in 1849 to date.