Cornwall Youth Brass Band

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CYBB - The Cornish Charity That Helps Young Brass Band Musicians Take Their Playing to New Heights

Band members benefit every year from two four-day residential courses. These are directed by leading conductors from the brass band world, and outstanding levels of performance are achieved in the Gala Concerts that provide the climax to every course.


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The Early Tutors by Tony Mansell

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The Cornwall County Youth Brass Band was formed in 1955 and for the first four years it was divided into two groups: the seniors, led mainly by Fred Roberts of Camborne, and the training group led by Frank Moore of St Agnes.  These two men were significant in getting the organisation off the ground.

In 1958, the then Cornwall Music Advisor, Mr W Pearson, invited the famous conductor, Dr Denis Wright, to a meeting at the Red Lion Hotel in Truro to discuss how to give the band added impetus. This discussion led to the decisions to combine the two bands and to offer members an annual residential course.  We do not have a list of those who attended but Frank Moore was certainly there and was to become an important figure as the band moved into the second phase of its life which was to be under the umbrella of the Cornwall Brass Band Association.  Either at this meeting, or shortly afterwards, Cecil Brewer, Edgar Floyd and Eddie Williams came on board as tutors.

The first event for the reconstituted band was a residential course, in 1959, at Pentewan.  It was held under canvas, a feature which the course director, Dr Denis Wright, did not feel was conducive to good music making.  Despite that, it was well-received and provided a foundation for an annual event.  The next few courses were held at St Austell Grammar School but it was probably due to Frank Moore’s brass band teaching involvement at Fowey School that the courses moved to there in 1963 and for the next 15 years the band was welcomed by headmaster Ken Eglin.  Later, there were two courses each year: during the Easter and Christmas school holidays.  In 1965, the word County was dropped from its title and it became the Cornwall Youth Brass Band.

I have many happy memories of my time in the Band and will always be proud to have been a member.  As is the case today, the young players of that era were drawn from many Cornish brass bands.  Membership presented them with the opportunity to make lifelong friendships and to play under the tutors and major figures from both the brass band and the orchestral worlds.  And what a privilege it was – a unique opportunity afforded them by a group of men who asked for no other reward than the satisfaction of helping young people make music.

These early tutors laid the foundation for the Cornwall Youth Brass Band (CYBB), an organisation which is still flourishing today and these short biographies are written as tributes to their memory.  

Cecil Brewer (1909 to 2004)

Cecil Brewer WEBF George Ellis PicturesCecil Brewer (right) receiving an award at one of his many contests
(photograph courtesy of George Ellis)

Cecil Brewer was born in Tavistock of Cornish parentage.  When he was about three years old his family returned to Cornwall – to St Austell where he grew up and eventually began working for St Austell Brewery.

He began his playing career at St Austell Band in 1923, on cornet, an instrument he was to play for his entire playing career which included two appearances at the Crystal Palace in 1927 and 1928.

In 1938 he became the St Austell Bandmaster but the war years intervened and with players leaving to join the armed forces, it was impossible to continue.  Following the cessation of hostilities the band reconstituted with Cecil Brewer as its musical director, a position he held until the early 1960s. He then conducted Mount Charles before moving to take the baton at St Blazey.  He was said to have been delighted to be asked to conduct the massed bands at Constantine Sunday on two occasions.

Cecil’s involvement with CYBB continued until the early 1980s.  He was still there in 1982 having missed only one of the annual courses.  He tutored the cornets and occasionally the basses or, as he always referred to them, the basses – to rhyme with brasses.  He was a popular figure with the youngsters with whom he always had time to share a joke and a chat.  Indeed, they often found themselves waiting in anticipation for one of his risqué jokes.  To most of the players, the tutors were addressed as Mr… but Cecil was the exception, he never objected to being referred to by his first name.

Cecil Brewer is remembered with affection.  He was one of the leading figures in the reconstituted CYBB both as a tutor and as treasurer, a position he held from 1967 to 1988 when his considerable contribution was rewarded when he was made President of the Cornwall Brass Band Association.

Edgar Floyd (1914 to 2002)

Edgar FloydEdgar Floyd was a Cornishman and we are fairly sure that he was born in Four Lanes. He became a Local Government Officer and worked for Kerrier District Council.

Edgar began his playing career at Redruth where his father was the MD but he is mainly remembered as a fine tenor horn player at Camborne Town where he played from about 1928 to the 1950s and gained many awards.  He had two compositions dedicated to him: the hymn tune St Stythians by Donald F Broad and Just as I am by Monty Pearce.  During his last few years at Camborne he was the bandmaster while, at the same time, the musical director at Stythians, a position he took in 1948 and retained until 1976.      

Roger Gluyas, a former player, recalled, “I think any leisure time in my early years was completely dictated by my father’s dedication to St Stythians Band.  Rehearsals and practices were of utmost importance and life focused around the band so it was no surprise that when Mr Floyd (note Mr Floyd not Edgar Floyd) started a learners’ class in 1958, I was one of the first to join.”

Edgar’s involvement with CYBB continued through to the mid-1970s.  He tutored the horn section although he also worked with the cornets, baritones and euphoniums or, as he always referred to them, the eephoniums.  Edgar was renowned for having a fine tone and always sought to achieve the same with the youngsters who came under his baton.  Roger Gluyas was playing flugel in 1960 (he later moved to tenor horn) and recalled, “Mr Floyd recommended that I should join the Cornwall County Youth Brass Band.  The auditions were held in the Redruth Band Room, underneath the giant viaduct in Falmouth Road.  For my set test piece I played The Ash Grove, and was then asked by the audition panel, of Fred Roberts, Eddy Williams and Edgar Floyd, to play several major and minor scales.  I must have done enough because I was accepted.  Regional rehearsals took place on Saturdays and in my case it meant a journey to Helston Band Room.  The following day there was a full rehearsal at Truro All Saints Church Hall where we rehearsed the music to be used on the Easter course.”

Edgar Floyd was one of the leading figures in the reconstituted CYBB, a dedicated tutor who did much to develop the Band.

Edgar Floyd rehearsing the band at Penweathers School, Truro in 1967

Above: Edgar Floyd rehearsing the band at Penweathers School, Truro in 1967

Frank Moore (circa 1907 to 1979)

Frank Moore with the Gorsedd Kernow award for Services to Cornish MusicFrank Moore with the Gorsedh Kernow award for services to Cornish Music (right)

Frank Moore was born in India circa 1907.  He joined the St Agnes Silver Band on Eb bass when he was a teenager.  In 1926 he transferred to euphonium, an instrument he played for the next 13 years.  Those who remember him as a player recall his technical ability and his enthusiasm to learn the rudiments of music: his dedicated hours of study were to stand him in good stead throughout his musical career.

When the Second World War began in 1939 many players left to join the fighting and, as in many other brass bands, playing was suspended.  Following the cessation of hostilities the band reconstituted and on the 4th June 1945 rehearsals resumed under its new musical director – Frank Moore.  Many former players re-took their seats and very soon they were enjoying a growing programme of engagements and contests.  He had been a playing member of the band for about 20 years and he went on to become the longest serving bandmaster and the most successful in terms of competition.

The band was noted for its fine tone and this was certainly due to Frank Moore who had the players practising long notes and slow hymn tunes.  An enormous amount of hard work was followed by a steady climb through the sections but he was never able to measure his, or the band’s, ability to compete consistently successfully in the top flight as his retirement came shortly after promotion to the local championship section.

In 1970 Frank Moore retired from St Agnes Band but he continued his involvement with a number of school bands and, of course, with the CYBB.  Henry Mills, the then Cornwall Music Adviser, was present at a dinner given in his honour and gave him much of the credit for brass bands in Cornish schools.

It was probably during the early 1950s that Frank began teaching brass bands in schools.  His first appointment as a professional tutor was at Truro School where he formed a band and led it for many years until his sudden death.  It was undoubtedly this which prompted the Cornwall Music Service to employ him as a peripatetic brass teacher, a job which took him into a number of secondary schools across Cornwall.  During his professional career many fine players developed under his baton including some who went on to carve out a career in music and who have good reason to be grateful to him.

During the 1950s an increasing amount of Frank’s time was spent with brass bands: either his own at St Agnes or the various school bands from which he derived a living.  He still ran his market garden business but the balance of involvement had changed considerably and from the state of his greenhouses it was clear which aspect he enjoyed most.

Frank’s involvement with the CYBB began in 1955 when he conducted the training group.  For him, the Band was very important and it consumed much of his time and enthusiasm during the rest of his life.  He was at the forefront both in its creation and in developing and moulding the young players.  One abiding memory is of him showing his displeasure when, on one of the residential courses, one of the youngsters removed the clapper from the Fowey School bell.

Frank’s considerable contribution to music and young people in particular was recognised when he was presented with the Gorsedh Kernow award for services to Cornish Music.  He devoted a huge part of his life to the Cornwall Youth Brass Band: he believed in the concept and loved the involvement.  Indeed, he attended every course from 1959 to 1979 and was still playing an active role just prior to his death in August of that year; he was then 71.  A newspaper eulogy referred to him as, “One of Cornwall’s best known brass bandsmen.”  It continued, “Under his baton, the St Agnes Band made consistent progress up to first-class status in competition festivals.”  Mr. Henry Mills, the Cornwall Music Advisor, referred to his wider involvement adding, “With his passing, Cornwall has lost one of those irreplaceable people to whom banding owes a great deal.  He has done more for brass bands in general and young players in particular than anyone else in the county.  He was a teacher par excellence, and many of our older players who have now moved all over England owe their prowess to him.  He will be sadly missed.”

It was a fitting tribute to a man who had contributed so much of his time and energy to the Cornish brass band movement and to the CYBB in particular.  Its continued success is his legacy to the young brass players of Cornwall.

Fred Roberts (circa 1908 to 1978)

Fred RobertsFred Roberts was born in Treherbert, South Wales but his family had strong connections with West Cornwall and moved to Camborne when he was quite young.

He began his playing career with Camborne Salvation Army.  That was in 1913, when he was just five years old.  His father was the bandmaster and Fred’s first instrument was a bass drum, or a scaled down version of one, made by his father.  The framework was an old cheese tub to which was fitted skins and tensioning cording and, apart from size, it performed just like the real thing.  When he was a little older he moved to cornet, an instrument on which he was to excel.  I’m not sure when he joined Camborne Town Band but it was certainly when Edwin Williams was conducting, sometime before 1920 perhaps. He became principal cornet at the age of 14 and built an impressive reputation before leaving for a short period to play with St Dennis.
Before long, however, the lure of playing for his adoptive town brought him back to Camborne.  His love of music took him in many directions including as a member of a small group who accompanied silent movies at a nearby cinema.

In 1930 he was offered a position with Gresford Colliery Band in North Wales and he and his family made the move north.  This turned out to be a stepping-stone and, after about a year, he joined Brighouse & Rastrick.  During 1933 and 1934 he played with the famous Munn & Feltons (later the GUS Footwear Band) but sometime during mid 1934 Fred and his family made the trek back up north to play with Brighouse & Rastrick again where he was principal cornet for many years including in 1946, its National Championship year.  He transferred to Manchester C W S (the old “Tobacco Band”) in 1947, as principal cornet and bandmaster, and during his time there the Band had considerable success including winning the British Open Championship.

Fred returned to Camborne to work in his father’s business but in 1953, he began working for Holman’s where he remained until retirement.

Mr A W Parker conducted Camborne from 1925 to 1950 but he was aware his health was failing.  He contacted Fred and asked him if he would be prepared to take over the Band and in 1951, Fred Roberts became the Camborne Town Band Musical Director, a position he held for about 20 years. During this period he had considerable success with what has been described as a softer, more orchestral sound, in line with how brass bands were developing at that time.

In 1971 Fred Roberts began conducting St Austell Town Band as well but this caused some friction and he resigned his position at Camborne.  He stayed at St Austell for five years and led them to considerable success but his health was failing and he could no longer meet the demands of being musical director of a championship section band.  His reluctance to be far from the conductor’s position, however, lured him back and he became musical director of Redruth Town Band.  He remained there until his health made it impossible for him to continue and during the latter stages of his illness he lost the power of speech and could only give written instructions.

Fred’s involvement with the CYBB began in 1955 when he conducted the senior group.  Without doubt, his musical ability and his vast experience gained by playing in some of the top bands in the country made him a considerable asset for the embryonic band.  It would seem that his involvement lasted for about five years, until the Band was reconstituted on new lines.  New tutors then came on board and his involvement ceased.

Fred Roberts died in October 1978, of motor neurone disease.  A huge funeral procession marched solemnly down Trelowarren Street led by a massed band of 40 players drawn from the eight Cornish bands with which he had been associated.  A large number of former players were also in the procession.  He had written down exactly what he wanted; the music to be played, the cortege route and the choice of bands to be represented.

Eddie Williams (1922 to 1983)

Eddie WilliamsEddie Williams was born in Bugle, the little village that was the scene of so many of his contesting triumphs.

Within a few years the family moved to west Cornwall where he played in both Carharrack and St Day and Lanner Bands, both conducted by his father Edwin J Williams.  Next came a move to St Ives where his father also conducted and where Eddie likely played. Sometime around 1939 he transferred to Camborne Town where his father had once been the musical director.  It was his father, Edwin, who wrote a number of tenor horn solos for Eddie but it seems that they were never published.

Like most beginners, Eddie began by playing cornet and who knows how different his life might have been but for a cycling accident when he was eight or nine years old.  It resulted in a badly cut lip which affected his embouchure and necessitated a move to a slightly larger mouthpiece – the tenor horn.

In 1951 Eddie moved “up country” to play for Brighouse & Rastrick where he lodged with Fred Roberts and family.  He had a prestigious playing career which included a period in the Fairey Band and two appearances in the All Star Brass Band of Great Britain.  He was a great tenor horn player and must have been proud to receive a medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians of the City of London.  In 1958 he returned “home” to become musical director of St Dennis Silver Band and a job as wages clerk at ECLP.  He led the Band to considerable success on the local and national contest stage and died in early 1983, aged just 61.

Eddie’s involvement in the CYBB began in 1959, with the reconstituted Band.  He was one of its leading figures and, like Fred Roberts, was able to bring with him the experience gained by playing in some of the top bands in the country.  He tutored the cornets and the horn section, the instrument that he had made his own when he was one of the top players in the country.  He was involved as a tutor from 1959 to 1964 and then again from 1970 to 1976 with a further appearance in the early 1980s.  He remains as a popular figure in the memory of the players from those early days.  He was a great musician and in recognition of his dedication and achievement as a teacher of young players he was made a Bardh of Gorsedh Kernow.