Minuet from Berenice

Handel’s opera ‘Berenice’ was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre in London on 18th May 1837.  Set in Egypt in 81 BC, it was based on a fanciful libretto written in 1709 by Antonio Salvi, and traces the life of Cleopatra (Berenice III of Egypt and daughter of Ptolemy IX, the main character in another Handel opera, ‘Tolomeo’).

It was not a success (it lasted a mere three performances) and was not performed again in Handel’s lifetime, although following a revival in historically informed musical performance since the 1960s, it has gained renewed interest and acclaim. 

The original score is restrained - written for strings, oboes, and basso continuo, with its most popular excerpts coming from the 'Aria' in Act 2 and this exquisite ‘Minuet’. 

There have been a number of different brass band arrangements made of the music over the years; notably by George Hawkins, a highly skilled band trainer who led Harton Colliery Band to the British Open title in 1919.

This one appears to be a spirited arrangement by someone (the identity is not revealed) from Tredegar Band from around 1935 (the incomplete set is stuck to old commercial packaging card), as there are a number of small, melodic and compositional errors that had to be rectified before it could be recorded by the current band under MD, Ian Porthouse. 

The piece was certainly played by Tredegar Band many times - with one performance (although misspelled as ‘Beronice’) taking place in a Bedwellty Park Bandstand concert programme in the town on 1st June, 1947, conducted by Cornelius Buckley.

It was sandwiched between a selection from ‘Pirates of Penzance’ by Arthur Sullivan and ‘Sweethearts of Yesterday’ by the popular band leader Henry Hall.