John B. Howells 1906-1953

Picture of John B. Howells

A notable musical career and a romantic success story have been cut short by the death at Hendon (London) District Hospital, at the early age of 47, after a long illness of Mr John Bucknell Howells, eldest son of the great musical figures of the Aberdare Valley, the late Mr R. S. Howells, conductor of the Aberaman Original Band Club and Mrs Howells, 38 Gladstone Street, and grandson of the eminent – Welsh tenor of earlier years “Gwynalaw.” He lived at 12 Graham Road, Hendon N.W. 4.

He began his musical career modestly with the Aberaman Band, under the tuition of his father, but quickly showed outstanding talent as a bass-trombonist. While still working as a miner, he was appointed principal bass-trombone player in the newly-formed National Orchestra of Wales, with which he played until the orchestra disbanded in 1930.

Later he joined the B.B.C. Theatre Orchestra in London, where he remained for about 15 years, before joining the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, newly-formed by Sir Thomas Beecham.

With this orchestra, he appeared in many films, notable “Red Shoes,” Tales of Hoffman,” and “Up for the Cup,” in which he was prominently seen in the minor role that greatly amused him and his family and his many friends and acquaintances. After playing under Sir Thomas for several years, he was offered a place in the Convent Garden Opera Orchestra, with which he remained until his illness earlier this year compelled him to resign on medical advice.

It was while touring the provinces with the Covent Garden Company on their recent visit to Cardiff that he was taken ill, and following the final performance he returned home, his orchestral career brought to an end where it commenced – in Cardiff.

His ill-health made it impossible for him to undertake the voyage to South Africa with the Company, and it is a rather tragic coincidence that he died on the day the Company arrived back home.

His varied and fruitful experience and skill brought him to the front rank of orchestral instrumentalists, and he was widely acknowledged to be the best players of his instrument in Britain.

Numerous messages of sympathy received, included those from organisations with which he was associated in his early days – Aberaman Original Band Institute and Aberaman Workmen’s Hall and Institute, for whose billiards team he had occasionally played.

Present at the cremation at Golders Green were many of his orchestral colleagues, in addition to the family mourners who included his wife, Mrs C.F. Howells, Mrs J. Price (Aberaman) sister; Messrs. F. J. Howells (B.B.C. Midland Orchestra ), R.A. Howells, B.A., brother-in-law.

Floral tributes: Chris; Jane Wyndham, Margaret and John; Fred, Nellie and Gwynfa; Arthur; Lily and Archie; Aunt and Uncle Bridges and family; Bill, Jess and Tom; Aberaman Original Silver Band; B.B.C. Welsh Orchestra; Covent Garden Orchestra; Covent Garden Opera General Administration and Staff; Mrs H. Roderick, Dora and Peggy; Figgis Ward Hendon District Hospital; Mr and Mrs R. Trotman (Cardiff0, Mrs Kempe, Mr and Mrs Kempe, Mr and Mrs Law; Bill Lover; Mr and Mrs Tipper; Mrs Jeffrey; Neighbours, Graham Road; Morag.

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