Morfydd Llwyn Owen
Born in Treforest, Glamorgan, on 1 October 1891, Morfydd was considered a prodigy when she went to the piano of her own accord at the age of four and started composing at six. She followed the traditional Welsh apprenticeship of chapel and eisteddfod performances before entering University College, Cardiff, to study with David Evans as first holder of the Caradog Scholarship,1909-12. Morfydd played Grieg’s Piano Concerto in 1911 as well as hearing 20 of her own compositions performed in Departmental concerts. These scores were already unusual for a Welsh composer. All Morfydd's Cardiff songs set English words, for example, rather than Welsh; Mirage dabbles in whole tones; The Nightingale has a waywardly experimental vocal line, and Sea Drift, a scene for voice and orchestra, was written 16 years before the Welsh National Orchestra (now the BBC National Orchestra of Wales) came into being. To Our Lady of Sorrows, Morfydd’s finest song, also dates from this period, its craftsmanship and emotional intensity marking it out as a particularly remarkable achievement for a 20-year-old undergraduate in early 20th-century Wales.
Morfydd’s songs are her most striking and original compositions: minimal settings like A Song of Sorrow and The Weeping Babe; deft patter songs tailored to the commercial market like Patrick’s Your Boy and For Jeannie’s Sake; ballads in the polished Edwardian style of Frank Bridge and Roger Quilter such as God made a lovely garden and In Cradle Land; the swooping melodic lines of Slumber-Song of the Madonna and Suo-Gân, and the dramatic, almost violent vocal outbursts of To Our Lady of Sorrows, La Tristesse and Gweddi y Pechadur. All are true singers’ songs, requiring technique, intellect and artistry to bring them off in performance.
-Rhian Davies, Morfydd Owen Biographer, "An Incalculable loss" - www.illuminatewomensmusic.co.uk
William Robert Williams was born on 19 July 1901 in Glanywern, Dyffryn Ardudwy. He began to use the name ‘Meirion’ when a student and adopted it officially during the Second World War. He was the son of Robert Parry Williams and Mary Elizabeth (née Roberts), the father a shopkeeper and sub-postmaster. His dark colouring was attributed by some to Italian ancestry on his mother's side. Meirion inherited musical gifts from his mother, who was an enthusiastic member of the local church choir. He had piano lessons from a blind teacher, J. L. Owen of Blaenau Ffestiniog, and when still a boy would play the organ at Llanddwywe and Llanenddwyn churches. At the age of eleven he went to Barmouth Secondary School, but left in 1914 to work in the family shop. In 1919 he acted as an accompanist at the Harlech festival, where he came to the attention of Walford Davies, who admitted him to the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, but as he had not obtained his School Certificate he could not pursue a degree course. While at Aberystwyth he took piano lessons from G. Stephen Evans, the organist of St Michael's church. In 1922 he went to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied piano with Carlo Albanesi and Edgar Carr. He won several prizes and medals there, including the Academy's chief prize for solo piano; he took the LRAM diploma in 1927 and later the ARAM. He performed as a piano soloist in the Wigmore Hall and elsewhere in London, establishing himself as a freelance musician in London. He was organist and choirmaster of Eglwys Dewi Sant in London from 1931 to 1937, and organist of the Church of the Ascension in Wembley from 1937 to 1948. From 1930 to 1932 and again in 1934 he was the principal accompanist of the Harlech Festival. He married on 25 August 1932 in London Gwendolen Margaret Roberts, and they had one daughter.
Wherever Welsh song is performed, it is likely that the songs of Dilys Elwyn-Edwards will be amongst them. When she died in January 2012, she had become one of the best-known and most highly regarded of all living Welsh song composers. Much of her life was spent in Caernarfon, overlooking the Menai Straits, where she produced a small yet elegant output almost entirely in the field of song, many of which have become classics of the Welsh song repertoire.
As a girl she studied at Dr Williams’s School for Girls in Dolgellau before taking a music degree at University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (later Cardiff University). Here she encountered many of the composers whose music would form a bedrock for her own individual style: Vaughan Williams, Delius, Warlock, Moeran and, crucially, Herbert Howells, with whom she went on to study at the Royal College of Music after the Second World War.
Apart from a brief spell in Oxford, where her husband, Elwyn Edwards, was a Presbyterian ordinand at Mansfield College, the rest of her life was spent in Caernarfon where she worked as a piano tutor at Bangor University.
Much of her output dates from the 1950s onwards where she found her natural voice as a miniaturist in the form of the art song. Her later songs tended to concentrate on Welsh poetry, leading to some of the classics of that genre in songs such as the 1962 Caneuon y Tri Aderyn (Songs of Three Birds). In later years she also wrote choral music and found her songs being taken up by a new generation of Welsh singers such as Bryn Terfel, Rebecca Evans, Jeremy Huw Williams, Helen Field and Shân Cothi. The death of her husband in 2005 brought her creativity to a natural close, but the songs themselves, if anything, seem to grow in popularity amongst singers every year.
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Mansel Thomas was a distinguished Welsh musician – composer, pianist, conductor, adjudicator, examiner, Festival Director and BBC Wales Head of Music. His was a very busy and wide-ranging life in music, but his great love was composing, and his enormous corpus of compositions is testimony to this – over 400 titles now in print.
A native of the Rhondda Fach in South Wales, he won the Rhondda Scholarship and at the age of 16 went to the Royal Academy of Music, London to study composition and piano. There he enjoyed a brilliant studentship, winning prestigious awards and graduating in 1930 with an external Durham B.Mus degree. He then spent five more years in London as a composer, conductor and repetiteur, and in 1936 joined the BBC in Cardiff as music assistant and deputy conductor of the newly-formed BBC Welsh Orchestra.
Following war service, he returned to the BBC and became Principal Conductor of the orchestra, and in 1950 was appointed Head of Music, BBC Wales. These were formative years and broadcasts of Welsh music and Welsh artists increased in frequency and quality under his professional scrutiny. However, in 1965 he retired from the BBC in order to devote himself to composition, and thereafter produced what is probably his most important corpus of compositions, especially in vocal and choral spheres, including works for the Royal Investiture of 1969. There are over 150 original solo songs and arrangements – such as Y Bardd, A Hymn to God the Father, and the sets of twelve songs including Caneuon Grace a Siân. The choral music involves various groups – male, female, mixed and children’s choirs – and includes motets, anthems, partsongs, arrangements, and larger choral works, such as Psalm 135, the cantata In Praise of Wisdom, and the Three Songs of Enchantment. His many instrumental works explore varied ensembles and are crowned by his Piano Quintet, Mini Variations (Brass Band), and Theme and Variations (orchestra).
The Mansel Thomas Trust, set up in his memory, ensures that his vast compositional legacy is published and promoted. For performers there is much to discover in the high craftsmanship and attractive style of this composer’s music.
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Gareth Glyn was born in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, in 1951; he is a music graduate of Merton College Oxford and a Composer Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music.
His output over 30 years is enormous, and encompasses all kinds of music, from a huge symphony to simple songs for children, from classical to pop, from the concert hall to the television screen. Among the numerous celebrities who have premièred his works are the world-renowned baritone Bryn Terfel, the international superstar Charlotte Church, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the organist Jane Watts and many others - including Jonathan Pryce, the villain in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, who performed a work for narrator and orchestra before a live audience of thousands and a worldwide television viewership. Even Rhys Ifans, now a Hollywood icon, starred in the premières of two Gareth Glyn musicals! In the world of television, Gareth Glyn was chosen to compose the music for the flagship BBC news programme Wales Today, which was played by a full symphony orchestra conducted by Tadaaki Otaaka, and a great deal of his work for film and television productions has been recorded at the prestigious Abbey Road studios in London with world-class performers.
Much of Gareth Glyn's recent work for the media has been performed, recorded and produced by the composer himself in his own studio; recent technological advances have meant that the sound of the orchestra - indeed of any combination of instruments - can be vividly recreated.
Gareth Glyn lives in Bodffordd, Anglesey.
Born and brought up in Pontarddulais, Eric Jones was educated at Gowerton Boys’ Grammar School before graduating in Music from the University of Wales Cardiff. He started his teaching career in Llanelli, and subsequently became Head of Music and Creative Arts at Mynyddbach School, Swansea. After a period as Deputy Headmaster at Ysgol Gyfun Gŵyr, he became in 1997 Headmaster of Ysgol Bro Myrddin, the Welsh medium comprehensive school at Carmarthen, retiring in 2006. He is a Fellow of the Trinity College of Music, London, and he was admitted as an honorary member to the Ovate Order of the Gorsedd of Bards in 1996 for his services to music in Wales, and elevated to the Druid Order in 2010 for long and distinguished service to the Eisteddfod and the Gorsedd. In January 2018 he was awarded an honoray Doctorate (DLitt) by Swansea University.
He was the accompanist of the Pontarddulais Male Choir between 1973 and 1991, and since 2004 is the President of the Choir.
As a composer he has published seven volumes of songs, a large number of choral works as well as music for the theatre. He has received commissions from a wide range of choirs and other bodies within Wales and beyond, and his music is frequently chosen as test pieces in national competitive festivals, recorded on disc and broadcast on radio and television.
Morfydd Owen -
Meirion Williams -
Dilys Elwin Edwards -
Mansel Thomas -
Gareth Glyn -
Eric Jones -