There are no known records of the Society’s history prior to the Second World War. However, thanks to some research by Bethan Barlow we now have some evidence from the newspaper archives held in the National Library of Wales concerning the formation of the orchestra in 1886.
This cutting from The Monmouthshire Beacon on 31 October 1857 refers to Abergavenny Orchestral Union, indicating that there was certainly orchestral activity in the town at that time. It is possible that the Jane Williams mentioned here is local harpist Maria Jane Williams (1795-1873) who was the inspiration for Raymond Warren’s Gwent Carnival Overture.
This one from The Abergavenny Chronicle and Monmouthshire Advertiser on 14 May 1886 was written at the time of the Abergavenny Eisteddfod and laments that fact that there is now no band in the town. Or at least no good band…
And yet on October 31 1886 we see the advertisement in the Chronicle for the very first concert by Abergavenny Orchestral Society, to be held on 4 November and conducted by Mr C C Caird.
This is followed by the very first concert review, printed the day after the concert in the Chronicle.
As was common with orchestras of the time, the programme consisted of quite a number of shorter pieces and single movements from longer works. The last review we have from these early years comes from the Monmouthshire Beacon on 12 May 1888. Two and a half years on the orchestra has hired a new conductor from Cardiff, Mr Arthur Angle.