#WB25 – the documentary videos

Our project celebrating 25 years of Wonderbrass is finally at an end, but don’t despair! Watch the interviews and documentary films we’ve made with members past and present and re-live the WonderYears!

Claude Deppa

The South African trumpet legend talks about what Wonderbrass means to him.

First time I heard the band

Wonderbrass members past and present reminisce about their first encounter with the music of Wonderbrass and how that formed their first impression of the band.

Popping my solo cherry

The first solo in Wonderbrass is a memorable occasion whether it’s your first ever solo or you’re an old hand. Wonderbrass performers describe the experience of playing their first musical solo with the band.

Rob Smith and Jess Phillips

The founder members of Wonderbrass talk about how the band started how the places Wonderbrass has taken them over the years.

Finding my feet

Wonderbrass members past and present talk about their first rehearsals and experiences with the band.

My first Wonder gig

Taking the leap from rehearsal to public performance. Members describe the experience of taking to the stage with Wonderbrass for the very first time.

Joining the Wonderfamily

Wonderbrass is about more than music. It’s a community, a family. Band members discuss their welcome into the Wonderfamily.

Transcriptions and translations


First time I heard the band TRANSCRIPTION and TRANSLATION






Transcription and translation by Francesca Dimech




Wonderbrass25 – the story so far


The musical juggernaut that is Wonderbrass has been hard at work celebrating 25 years of making music. With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, this year has been chock-a-block already and there oh so much more to come! Here is a little snap shot of what we have been up to:

Santes Dynwen Shuffle video recording and release (February 2018)

On a sunny (but freezing) Sunday morning in February, Wonderbrass descended on Jacob’s Market in Cardiff to begin shooting the video for Santes Dywen Shuffle. It was great fun and a joy to work with Joe Marvelly and his brother David. The final scenes were shot with participation from a very enthusiastic audience at our Mardi Gras gig in Tiny Rebel.

Official video for Santes Dynwen Shuffle written by Wonderbrass musical director, Rob Smith.

Musical storytelling workshop weekend with special guest Claude Deppa (March 2018)

We met with the fabulous Claude Deppa who led a weekend workshop with members of the band past and present. This was a great opportunity for old and new members to get to know each other and to explore collaborative pieces created with Claude through musical storytelling – Commanders Call, D# Dilemma and JJ Jive. Claude also joined us on stage at our regular Brass Takeover event at GwdiHw.

Weekend workshop and recording (April 2018)

With the support of the University of South Wales, we then got the opportunity to record the new pieces that we worked on with Claude.

And the rest…

Let’s not forget all our other gigs! A list of past and present can be found on the ‘gigs’ page.

If you’ve ever been affected by the phenomenon that is Wonderbrass and would like to share your story, get in touch with us at WonderbrassWales@gmail.com

To keep up with the project’s latest developments and gigs you can follow the band on Twitter @Wonderbrass, via #WB25 or through the Wonderbrass Facebook page and website.

For more information contact Jenny Allan on 07557448342 or Jenny Bradley on 07825139242

Would you like to join Wonderbrass or would you like to book us? Just get in touch by contacting wonderbrasswales@gmail.com

For the latest Wonderbrass news and info follow us on Twitter @wonderbrass or Facebook @WonderbrassWales


 This year we, Cardiff’s biggest, boldest, brassiest band, celebrate 25 years of making music in South Wales and beyond. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Wonderbrass25!

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, we will pull out all the stops with a collaborative, multimedia performance project.



We’ll be making films, writing and performing new compositions, developing a digital archive, running collaborative musical storytelling workshops with musicians Claude Deppa, Nick Briggs, Dr Rob Smith and Mark O’Connor and sharing the eclectic mix of  Wonderbrass experiences accumulated over the past quarter century.

Trumpeter, African Jazz


Since 1992 we’ve welcomed hundreds of musicians, playing myriad instruments from harps to sousaphones – we’re inviting ALL previous members of the band to join us on stage for a spectacular, roof-raising, ear-splitting, rip-roaring celebratory performance of brand new material in 2018.


“Wonderbrass25 is a great project as it shows clearly how local heritage can be a catalyst for lots of different activities and bring people together behind a common purpose. Thanks to National Lottery players, it has been possible for local people to identify what stories are important to them and how they want to spread the word throughout their community”.
Richard Bellamy, Head of HLF in Wales


So, if you’ve ever been affected by the phenomenon that is Wonderbrass and would like to share your story, get in touch with us at WonderbrassWales@gmail.com

To keep up with the project’s latest developments and gigs you can follow the band on Twitter @Wonderbrass, via #WB25 or through the Wonderbrass Facebook page and website.

For more information contact Jenny Allan on 07557448342 or Jenny Bradley on 07825139242

Would you like to join Wonderbrass or would you like to book us? Just get in touch by contacting wonderbrasswales@gmail.com

For the latest Wonderbrass news and info follow us on Twitter @wonderbrass or Facebook @WonderbrassWales

Wonderbrass in Budapest!

Wonderbrass is 25 this year, and to celebrate we took ourselves off on tour to Budapest.

For three whole days in September we lit up the Hungarian capital with our hurricane of horns, toe-tapping beats and an infectious energy that inevitably got everyone dancing!

First stop was a performance at the Hangszerplaza music shop where where Katie our keyboard player had the chance to funk up Wonderbrass tunes on an original Rhodes piano.

Later that evening we wowed the crowds at Szimpla Kert one of Budapest’s famous Ruin Bars, took over their open mic night and kicked ass on stage! You can watch our performance on Szimpla’s Facebook page.

Making the most of the Budapest sunshine, Wonderbrass busked at the metro station Deák ferenc tér, where passers by stopped to listen or get up and dance, whilst generously showering us with Forints!

Our weekend culminated on a high,  playing along the route of Budapest’s international half marathon.  Just as the runners were flagging towards the end, our horns, drums and dancing gave them a burst of Wonderfuel to get them across that finish line! Egészségedre!

We’ve got loads more exciting gigs and events coming up a lot closer to home so keep an eye out on our listings.

Would you like to join Wonderbrass or would you like to book us? Just get in touch by contacting wonderbrasswales@gmail.com
For the latest Wonderbrass news and info follow us on Twitter @wonderbrass or Facebook @WonderbrassWales

A Wonder-full year

We’ve been here there and everywhere this year, dancing our socks off at HUB fest, Brecon Jazz and cheering on runners at Cardiff Half Marathon and the World Half Marathon too.

We’ve been getting loud and proud with Cardiff’s own Carnival drummers Barracwda – an intensely exuberant musical experience for everyone involved and we’re really excited to do more work with them soon, so watch this space.

We exploded in a burst of colour, sparkle, noise and celebration at Festival No. 6 again this year, defying the rain and the mud and getting our Carnival on with Barracwda and the other revellers at the festival.

We also witnessed a giant peach land in the city centre and joined in parading its way to Cardiff Castle, where its weird and wonderful inhabitants came out to greet us as part of Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected festivities. We played for Fantastic Mr Fox as he trampolined his way to freedom away from the angry farmers!

We’re really excited to be co-programming a monthly brass take over at Cardiff’s Gwdihw venue with the fantastic Bass 12. You can look out for gigs from Wonderbrass and friends of the band on the second Friday of every other month, with Bass 12 alternating with us. Check out the Gwdihw website to find out more…

Most ambitious project yet!

Wonderbrass - Penarth Christmas event

We are thrilled to announce our newest and most ambitious project yet!

With funding from the BBC Performing Arts Fund we will be working with three artists of international acclaim to produce three unique and contrasting pieces to be added to the band’s repertoire.

Our composers for the project will be jazz supremo Paula GardinerSouth African born trumpet legend Claude Deppa and Wonderbrass’ own musical director and multi-instrumentalist Rob Smith.

Each commissioned composer has been selected to contrast and complement each others’ styles of music making and to enable Wonderbrass to further develop its existing and extensive back catalogue of tunes. We’re aiming to explore new musical avenues; developing our playing styles as individual musicians and as a collective.


Paula GardinerPaula Gardiner

Flautist, guitarist and double bassist Paula is RWCMD’s Head of Jazz Studies as well as a renowned performer and composer. Paula places a great deal of emphasis on live performances and frequently plays festivals and jazz nights across the country. She is Honorary President of Women in Jazz and a founder member of Wales Jazz Composer.




Claude DeppaTrumpeter, African Jazz

South African born trumpet player Claude Deppa is at the forefront of the African Jazz scene Claude has developed his own three special projects and these are African Jazz Explosion, Horns Unlimited and Five Funky Fellas. He has worked with Wonderbrass previously is well remembered by some of the long-standing members of the band. We’re excited to see what he has in store for us this time!

Saxophonist, composer, lecturer, musical director of WonderbrassRob Smith

Founder and musical director of Wonderbrass Rob Smith specialises in community music tutoring as well as composing and performing across a broad range of musical styles. Writing music for dance, film, television, radio, theatre and musical groups spanning many genres, Rob has worked alongside some of the most prolific names in music. He is the Senior Lecturer in Popular Music at Cardiff’s Atrium.


“This is such a fantastic opportunity for people from different musical and social backgrounds to learn, to develop and to diversify their own musicality, as well as a chance to spread our music into the wider community through our performances and recordings.”

Rob Smith, Musical Director

Where will Wonderbrass showcase the new pieces?

The pieces will be showcased at Wonderbrass’ Summer Party this year, so make sure you keep an eye on our website, Facebook and Twitter for more info when the venues and dates are confirmed. In the mean time the band will be working hard to create, learn and play the new music.

RWCMD takes on Wonderbrass http://blog.rwcmd.ac.uk/2013/06/18/rwcmd-takes-on-wonderbrass/

Visit the Projects page to find out more about this programme and our involvement in it

BBC Performing Arts FundPerforming Arts Fund

The BBC Performing Arts Fund is a charity committed to developing new performing arts talent from across the UK. Since it’s inception in 2003 the Fund has awarded over £4m to aspiring musicians and talented performing arts individuals and community groups. To learn more about what the Fund does and how to apply please visit the website www.bbc.co.uk/performingartsfund

If you need any help or have any questions about any of the above then please contact the BBC Performing Arts Fund team on 0161 836 0303 or e-mail performingartsfund@bbc.co.uk


BBC Performing Arts Fund Award a £10,000 Grant to Wonderbrass

Wonderbrass have been awarded a grant of £10,000 from the BBC’s Performing Arts Fund.The BBC Performing Arts Fund (PAF) has awarded over £250,000 to community groups across the UK through its Community Music scheme.

Wonderbrass at Wrexham Carnival

Grants of up to £10,000 have been awarded to 47 not-for-profit groups in order to develop the talent within the group, encourage new members, produce workshops and projects that bring them closer with their communities and raise their profile. The scheme has encouraged groups to take on more challenging projects through commissions and working collaboratively with other local organisations as well as professional artists.

For Wonderbrass the money will be spent in developing the band’s repertoire, giving its members from across the community a chance to participate in varied methods of composition, playing and performance.

Working with three radically different musicians, Wonderbrass members will learn different musical styles and techniques and will incorporate the new pieces into their existing and already highly eclectic repertoire.

BBC Performing Arts FundMiriam O’Keeffe, Director of the Performing Arts Fund, said: “We are delighted to be providing an avenue for these projects to flourish. The passion these groups have for music is inspiring.  The range, not only in the types of groups but also in the spread of ages, shows us that music really is for everybody.”

The composers working with the band will be RWCMD’s jazz aficionado Paula Gardiner, trumpet legend Claude Deppa and composer and Wonderbrass’ own Musical Director Rob Smith

“This is such a fantastic opportunity for people from different musical and social backgrounds to learn, to develop and to diversify their own musicality, as well as a chance to spread this music out into the wider community through our performances and recordings” says Rob Smith, Wonderbrass Musical Director and commissioned composer for the scheme.

Work started on the project early in the year, so watch this space for updates on what’s going on.

RWCMD takes on Wonderbrass http://blog.rwcmd.ac.uk/2013/06/18/rwcmd-takes-on-wonderbrass/

Rob Smith

Video features Wonderbrass at Wrexham Carnival – Musical Director, Rob Smith

Rob Smith is a composer and improviser who has performed with, amongst others, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, John Stevens and Keith Tippett. His portfolio includes numerous compositions for radio, television and film including the score for “Minim” directed by Chris Forster in 1999 – this film won both the D M. Davies Award at the International Film Festival of Wales and 3rd jury prize at the International Short Film Festival at Uppsala, Sweden. He is an experienced  community musician and a long-standing tutor on the Community Music Wales Tutor Training Programme. His research interests include improvisation and community music and he is actively involved with Ben Challis on projects that address the design of new technologies for performance through improvisation. He is Senior Lecturer and Joint Award Leader in Popular Music. 1992 – present Musical Director of Wonderbrass Big Band. Wonderbrass have been commissioned to perform a brand new composition by Jason Yarde in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the only group from Wales to achieve this and one of very few community-based (as opposed to professional) organisations.

Claude Deppa

Video features a short clip of Claude Deppa/Omar Puente@Seven Jazz Leeds 025.MOV

South African born trumpeter and composer Claude Deppa can turn his hand to Afro-jazz, soul, funk, Afro-Cuban and even chamber music as well as many sub-genres. Claude has worked with many bands and been on stage with top stars like Miriam Makeba, Manu Dibango, Tony Allen and Andy Sheppard in Britain (where he is presently based), Europe and also more widely internationally. He has a very hectic schedule. Claude has also developed his own three special projects and these are African Jazz Explosion, Horns Unlimited and Five Funky Fellas. Each of these bands are often on stage at top venues including London’s South Bank. Five Funky Fellas were on the Africa stage at the BBC Music Live festival over the Golden Jubilee Celebrations at London’s Hyde Park in summer 2002. Claude’s story of his experiences growing up in South Africa and then coming to Britain in 1974 is printed in the book ‘Celebrating Sanctuary’, published in 2002. He says his family were all very musical and at first he learnt to play drums. At secondary school in London he decided the trumpet would be his main instrument, with its loud punchy sound. From his South African background he has the vocals and harmonies while he has got the jazz improvising skills from his time in Europe. Another very vibrant project that Claude is a part of is the Grand Union Orchestra. Look out for Claude’s CD, Toi-Toi (2003): it’s a fantastic blend of funky and more mellow tracks, with some interesting printed notes by Claude himself. He particiapted in London’s big African Music Festival in May 2004. Claude’s energy for his music certainly seems to know no bounds!

Paula Gardiner

Video featuring Paula Gardiner on Double Bass with the Dave Stapleton Quartet, live from Zagreb

Paula Gardiner’s presence on the Welsh Jazz scene has been an inspiring one for a long time. As well as heading up the Jazz course at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Paula is the Honorary President of the Swansea-based organisation, Women in Jazz. In fact, Paula has been so active around the region that it is surprising that she has yet to achieve the wider recognition in Britain and Europe that she so richly deserves. She is also an experienced and accomplished composer for community, concert and media settings. One of Britain’s most lyrical and melodic bass players, Paula Gardiner is also an accomplished classical guitarist and flautist. Guitar was her first instrument and through her classical studies, she grew to love the music of Bach and also that of Brazilian and Argentinean composers, like Leo Brouwer, Manuel Ponce, Egberto Gismonte and Hermeto Pascoal. Her first influences from the Jazz world came from European players like Eberhard Weber, highly melodic musicians and composers, who draw on a European heritage, as well as on Jazz.

The BBC Performing Arts Fund is a registered charity, number 1101276. The charity (formerly Fame Academy Bursary Trust) was set up in 2003 within the BBC. The fund receives revenue from the voting lines of BBC One entertainment programmes that seek to find new performing talent (including The Voice, How Do you Solve A Problem Like Maria? and Over the Rainbow). To date the fund has allocated more than £4 million to talented performing arts individuals and community groups, as well as offering mentoring and advice to help them achieve their goals. The Fund’s mission is to seek out and support aspiring performing arts individuals and community groups who, for reasons of lack of existing support, personal background or circumstance, would not have been able to achieve their most ambitious goals or greatest potential without the Fund’s support or intervention.

For more information about this project, please contact jennywonderbrass@hotmail.co.uk and to learn more about Wonderbrass themselves and upcoming performances, check out their website www.wonderbrass.org.uk

New Music 20×12

PRS Foundation New Music 20x12

New Music 20x12

New Music 20×12 is a UK wide programme which consists of twenty outstanding new works, each lasting 12 minutes, commissioned to feature centre stage of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. New Music 20×12 commissions will be broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and tour the UK, enabling as many people as possible to enjoy excellent new music as part of our celebrations of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. These commissions are full of the energy, hope and excitement that will emanate from across the Cultural Olympiad and the Games themselves. They are inspired by the dynamism of Olympic and Paralympic sports, the passion of human endeavour so central to the Games, and the once in a lifetime opportunity of creating a musical work contributing to a global celebration. PRS for Music Foundation

OUR PROJECT : Jason Yarde and Wonderbrass: ‘Skip, Dash. Flow’

Wales 20x12

Wales 20x12

Jazz composer and hip-hop impressario Jason Yarde has created an exciting, dynamic composition that takes audiences and players alike on a cultural voyage, following the Olympics from its previous venue in Beijing, through London in 2012 and on to the next port of call, Rio de Janeiro. The piece trades a multitude of musical moods, styles and themes. Performed by WONDERBRASS, Cardiff’s own community jazz big band, Skip Dash Flow has a huge and breathtaking impact. Using flutes, trumpets, trombones, keyboards and every size of sax imaginable, as well as three drummers, the band lives up to its name and produces a multi-cultural ‘explosion of sound’. Guaranteed to blow you away, Skip Dash Flow is a fantastic blend of world rhythms, stylish melodies, exuberant soloing and one enormous load of fun!. Learn more about the composition in Jason’s interview with the PRS Foundation. Wonderbrass enjoyed an extraordinary musical collaboration with Jason in 2002 which inspired the band no end. This project represents a unique opportunity to renew and extend this inspirational musical partnership. You may remember that Jason feature alongside Claude Deppa on our 2002 album “Special Brew”. Read all about our weekend away at the Druidstone.

SWICA Dragon Carnival Theatre Project 2010

Hugely impressive in its use of spectacular Carnival costumes, stilts performers and high energy Carnival dance…a breath of fresh air, “DRAGON” deserves to become an ambassador for Wales. Combined Arts Services Director Pax Nindi

In the summer of 2010 Cardiff’s kaleidoscopic cacophony of colour, dance, circus and music, SWICA brought us the spectacular DRAGON Carnival Show. Featuring Wonderbrass and Samba sensations Batatan the troupe of dancers, actors and musicians re-told the magical story of Wales’ iconic dragon emblem. Hosted by Merlin himself the show was a flamboyant array of funky beats, crazy costumes and dizzying dancing.

A vibrant, spectacular and inclusive piece of street entertainment. Featuring a cast of over 50, DRAGON tapped into a rich seam of Welsh folklore and incorporated a heady mix of world-wide carnival influences, including West African and Caribbean drumming, Brazilian Capoeira and acrobatic stilt-jumping action