James Ribbon married Jemima Robbins in 1803. James was born in Kent whilst Jemima was born in Henley on Thames. In all they had eleven children all of whom had a great musical talent, whether it was by singing or playing one of many musical instruments. James Ribbon senior was a particularly good friend of the internationally famous Carmarthen born pianist/musician Brinley Richards, who was himself an acquaintance of Chopin. Long before the Von Trapp family ever came to the big screen the Ribbons’ were already performing as a musical family a hundred years previously as the various newspapers reported their achievements. Wherever they went they attracted huge crowds eager to hear and see them perform. No memorial exists of the Ribbon family in St David’s cemetery and their graves are unmarked, but I am sure that their musical past will live on.
Below are newspaper articles relating to three concerts given by the Ribbon family in 1852 and 1853 which gives just a glimpse of their tremendous ability. What it must have looked like all those years ago to see them in their fine Victorian costumes and to hear their musical talent we can only imagine.
PROMENADE CONCERT.—On Tuesday last, a grand Promenade Concert was given in the New Market Place, Carmarthen, for the benefit of the widow of the late Mr. Henry Mason, the performers being the members of the Carmarthen Musical Society and the Choral Glee and Madrigal Society, to both of which Mr. Mason had contributed his aid until death removed him from his active sphere. This being the first Promenade Concert ever given in Carmarthen, extraordinary preparations were made to give it due effect, and a programme of unusual length and varied attraction was issued by Dr. Wastfield, who took up the matter with his usual alacrity and zeal. The orchestra was erected in a shed to the west of the Market Clock Tower, and although the construction of the roof prevented much of the sound being heard beyond the immediate vicinage of the performers, on the whole the arrangements were as perfect as circumstances would allow. The Carmarthen Musical Society performed six pieces, and the Choristers gave nine specimens of very excellent vocalization, in three instances being accompanied by the full band with” very decided and most gratifying effect”. The Bronwydd Band, which, by the kind permission of Mr. Lloyd, was in attendance, enlivened the promenade during the intervals of the performance by executing some fashionable music with much skill. They performed under the conductorship of Mr James Ribbon, to whose ability as a teacher they mainly owe their proficiency, and we cannot but add that it is rather a reflection that this town, so boastful of its musical skill, cannot display a Brass Band of equal pretensions. But this defect will, we hear, be soon remedied. The Concert was throughout most markedly successful, Dr. Wastfield s mode of conducting it rendering failure almost impossible, while his own vocal efforts in the popular song of Oh! Charming May!” drew down a hearty encore. Mr. Shackell joined Dr. Wastfield in a duet, and gave as a solo Mr. Brinley Richards’s “Englishman’s Song.” Mr. Trevor Alcock’s solo on the piccolo Sax-horn from Lucrezia Borgia, was much admired. The beauty of the evening added much to the gaiety of the affair, and the spacious Market was crowded by fashionable and well-dressed persons of both sexes, imparting to it a parterre like appearance. There has seldom been a more successful event in this town and it is gratifying to be enabled to add that the number of tickets sold at one shilling each was 663.
CONCERT AT NEWCASTLE EMLYN. (The Welshman June 1853)
Mr. F. Ribbon, the band master of the Pembroke Royal Dockyard Battalion, gave a grand concert on Thursday evening, the 9th inst., in the ball room of the Salutation Hotel, Newcastle Emlyn, under the distinguished patronage of Mrs Fitzwilliam’s. Numerous and fashionable auditory assembled to acknowledge the abilities of Mr. Ribbon, whose mastery of the violin merited the applause it received. His eldest daughter’s performance of that beautiful air “Ah! Perdona”, on the harp with Mazzinighi’s variations was admirable. “La Mandolina Valse,” in which Mr. Ribbon, Miss Ellen Ribbon, Miss Jessie Ribbon, Miss Rowena Ribbon, and Master Ribbon, took part, was quite inspiriting with its liveliness and the “pretty blue star” was sweetly sung by Miss Ellen Ribbon. The various overtures and other pieces during the evening were admirably played, and elicited great applause. The musical skill and science exhibited by this talented family have long been known to and appreciated by the public. The various members of it never distinguished themselves more than on the present occasion.
MILFORD HAVEN.—On Wednesday evening a concert was given in the British Schoolroom by Mr. F. Ribbon and family (son and grandchildren of Carmarthen’s famous and well known musician Professor James Ribbon), under the distinguished patronage of Major Leach and the officers of the Yeomanry Cavalry who attended with nearly all the elite of Milford. Throughout, the performance was well sustained. The Solos by Mr. Ribbon on the violin were excellent, and also the execution by Miss Ribbon on the Harp. Piano forte and Concertina most complete and the performance of Master Ribbon, on the French Flagiolet quite astonishing. The music was of a very superior order and well calculated to gratify the most refined taste for the fine art. Perhaps the most attractive part of the performance was the song by Miss Ellen Ribbon who made her debut, and although only about eleven years old sung with great taste and good time, promising to become an excellent vocalist. She was unanimously encored after singing “Pretty Blue star”; by Blackly, accompanied by her father and sister. Great praise is due to Mr James Ribbon for his care and attention in training his family to perform their parts so admirably and with such artistical skill.