Caerleon Remembered - Father
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My father was always interested in music from an early age and learned to play when he was quite young. Although he was not an accomplished player he was able to accompany a small group of singers, which every village had. They would take part in competitions with other villages in the area. Dad was only a boy of twelve or thirteen years old. The group bought him a harmonium, a small peddle organ with a handle each side so that the men were able to carry it in turn to the competitions, for they always walked, it was not very heavy. As Dad grew older he became an avid reader of books usually about music, singing and conducting and voice production. He was a member of Dowlais Male Voice Choir, one of the crack choirs of that time, and became deputy conductor to Mr Evans the Conductor. Mr Evans was an excellent conductor, a very talented man. He worked at the iron works, so that when he was on nights, Dad would take over on practice nights.

Some years later, after moving to Caerleon, Dad and a friend Mr Richards who was the surveyor, formed the Caerleon Male Voice Choir. Dad became the conductor. It was quite a good choir, they gave many concerts for charity. Every March they gave an annual concert in Caerleon Town Hall, top artists were engaged, usually Eisteddfod winners of that year. I remember one concert in particular. Together with top artists, a boy soprano and a boy elocutionist were engaged, they brought the house down. The hall was packed, the audience continually calling "encore" for artists and choir. The concert went on quite late, people seemed loathe to leave. It was an excellent evening enjoyed by all.

After the concerts all the artists and a few of Dad's friends were invited to our home, where my mother always had a lovely knife and fork supper awaiting them. Afterwards they retired to the sitting room for a sing-song and tales.

Dad was very good at interpreting words and music. One well known male voice piece, called 'Martyrs of the Arena' depicts everything that took place in our own amphitheatre in Roman times, although the music was written with the Colosseum in mind. The opening lines of the piece say: "The town keeps holiday today." One could imagine the head of Roman Caerleon heading a procession down Broadway to the games in the amphitheatre, which was situated outside the city wall. Dad would take the choir down the Broadway to the amphitheatre, following in the footsteps of the Romans, painting a word picture which he did so well, of all the things that took place in the arena, the gladiators fighting, the roaring lions and the martyrs being killed. When the choir sang "The Martyrs of the Arena" they were able to picture the scenes and interpret the music well.

A few years after coming to Caerleon, Dad became a member of Caerleon Urban District Council, and was a member for twenty-five years. He was also a member of Caerleon Endowed School Board of Governors. In 1937, when Chairman of the Council, he opened the first council house on the Lodge Farm Estate and was presented with a silver key which opened the first house, and a silver salver to mark the occasion by Messrs F. Swash surveyor and H. W. Bate building contractor.

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