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W.S. Gwynn Williams
Mansel Thomas (1909-1986) was one of the most important and influential musicians of his generation in Wales. Born in Pontygwaith in the Rhondda Fach, he displayed his natural talents as a composer and pianist from childhood, and at the age of 15 he won the Rhondda Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, under the wing of composer Benjamin Dale, graduating in 1930. He joined the BBC in Cardiff in 1936 as a music producer and assistant conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra, and in 1950 was appointed Head of Music, BBC Wales.
In 1965 he decided to take early retirement to devote himself to composition where he entered the most prolific phase of his career, forming two thirds of his entire solo vocal output. Early in his career he showed a remarkable ability for song-writing, which was to remain one of his most cherished art-forms and which resulted in over 150 song compositions and arrangements. Amongst the most renowned is Y Bardd (The Bard), which reflects the solemn atmosphere of R. Williams Parry’s well-known englynion Hedd Wyn. This song inspired in the composer an intensity of poignancy and pathos that were rare in his entire output. As William Mathias once remarked “…if there is another haunting setting of Welsh words I do not know it.” Mansel Thomas’ stature as a Welsh composer remains undiminished, and for his services to British music he was awarded the OBE and the PRAM.
He left an enormous and invaluable legacy of compositions, the extent of which was not known even to his own family until after his death.
Alun Hoddinott was born in Bargoed, Glamorganshire, in 1929. He won a scholarship to study at University College Cardiff, and later went on to study with the Australian composer and pianist, Arthur Benjamin. He was awarded the Walford Davies prize for composition when he was twenty-four, and was appointed lecturer in music at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in 1951. He later became lecturer at University College, Cardiff and was made Professor and Head of Department there in 1967.
He is regarded as one of the most successful composers to emerge from Wales, embracing almost every musical medium. Essentially chromatic, his music often shows a dark Celtic intensity, manifested in his nocturnal slow movements.
Grace Williams (1906-1977) was born in Barry and educated at Barry Grammar School before graduating with a B.Mus at the University College Cardiff in 1926. She continued her studies with Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob at the Royal College of Music, London, together with Egon Wellesz in Vienna. After a period of teaching at the Camden School for Girls in London and later at Southlands College of Education, in 1946 she returned to Wales to work on various educational programmes for the BBC and as a freelance composer.
Early in her career she established herself as one of Wales’ leading composers of her generation, working mainly to commissions by the BBC and various festivals. Her output of songs and choral pieces contributed a great deal to the Welsh vocal repertoire, with numerous settings of Welsh folk songs (See My Love in the Orchard Yonder, and Hunting the Fox), together with part-songs such as The Nightingale and The Flower of Bethlehem. Numerous recordings of her works are featured on Chandos and Lyrita labels.
Meirion Williams (1901-1976) was born in Dyffryn Ardudwy, and was introduced to music at an early age by his mother (Mary Elizabeth Williams, 1875-1947). After two years of musical studies with Walford Davies at the University of Aberystwyth he went on to study at the Royal Academy in London, where he won various prizes for playing the piano. He is regarded mainly as a song composer. In 1928 he settled in London as a freelance composer publishing a number of songs before his career was interrupted by the war in 1939.
Later, his reputation as an outstanding song composer was enhanced with three commissions given by the BBC, notably Adlewych in 1968. He extensively studied the works of such composers as Schubert, Richard Strauss, Wolf and Rachmaninov, and he wasn’t afraid of using some of their influences within his most successful songs. In addition, he was still attracted to the simple things of rural life. He was intrigued with flowers and also with the beauty and splendour of some of Gwynedd’s scenery, and after settling down in London it wasn’t a surprise that these images inspired The Blossoms by my Door, Rhosyn yr Haf, Y Llyn, Cwm Pennant and Aros Mae'r Mynyddau Mawr.
|Pwyll Ap Sion
Pwyll ap Siôn was born in Pembrokeshire in 1968. He studied privately with Welsh composer Gareth Glyn before reading music at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating there in 1990. He was awarded a Vaughan-Williams scholarship to pursue his studies at the University of Wales, Bangor, where he studied with John Pickard, David Gottlieb and Martin Butler and received a doctorate in composition in 1998. He won the Composers’ Medal prize in the National Eisteddfod in 1991.
He has composed music for some of Wales’ foremost performers, including Bryn Terfel, Iwan Llewelyn-Jones, Jeremy Huw Williams, and Llŷr Williams, and also musicians from outside Wales, such as the Japanese group, Ensemble Tozai.
His music has been featured on CDs made by the WNO Brass Consort, Jeremy Huw Williams (Baritone), Iwan Llewelyn-Jones (Piano), the soprano Buddug Verona James, and the Davies Piano Duo.
Eclectic elements feature strongly in his music, ranging from American minimalism and roc and pop music to post-serial techniques, appropriations of traditional Welsh elements, and the use of quotation.
Rhys Jones was born in 1927 and was a school teacher for nearly forty years. Since 1958 he has been the Musical Director of Cantorion Gwalia, and has been an accompanist and Eisteddfod adjudicator for many years. He presents a weekly programme on BBC Radio Cymru and has also presented TV programmes such as the Welsh 'Songs of Praise' Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol.
His compositions include many musicals, including Ciliwch Rhag Olwen (Haverfordwest National Eisteddfod) and Ffantasmagoria (Wrexham 1975), and numerous songs for children - many becoming popular as set pieces in the Urdd Eisteddfodau, for example Maximum Break! for SA. In recent years Gwynn has published two collections of his songs: Digon i Mi and Razzamatazz .
John Hywel was born in Cemaes Bay, Anglesey in 1941, and began writing music at the age of twelve. He was educated at the Sir Thomas Jones School, Amlwch, and read music at the University College Bangor, graduating in 1962 followed by an M.Mus two years later. After studying composition with Reginald Smith Brindle and William Mathias he went on to study conducting with Maurice Miles at the Royal Academy of Music and was awarded the Ernest Read Prize for conducting in 1965.
He was appointed as lecturer in the Department of Music at University College Bangor in 1966, and became Head of Department from 1987 to 1991. His specialist area lay in the field of orchestral and choral conducting, which includes the University Choir, Symphony Orchestra and Opera Society, together with the Seiriol Singers, the Pwllheli and District Choral Association, Cantorion Menai, Côr Meibion Caernarfon, and Côr Meibion y Traeth. Amongst professional orchestras he has conducted are the Northern Sinfonia and the BBC Welsh.
He served as Music Editor and Director for Gwynn Publishing Company from 1984 until 2002. His output of choral arrangements are numerous, which including the set of folk songs My Love is a Venus, Along the Shore, and One Goat Missing? for SATB, in addition to his arrangements of well-known Welsh songs, Famous Songs of Wales.
|Dilys Elwyn Edwards
Dilys Elwyn-Edwards was born in Dolgellau, Merionethshire. She attended the Dr Williams School in her home town, and after graduating at University College of Cardiff, she went on to the Royal College of Music in London where she studied with Herbert Howells. She has established a reputation as one of Wales' leading composers, especially in the field of vocal music.
Most of her works have been written to commission and have been performed extensively and broadcast on radio and television in Britain and abroad. One of her commissions recently received its premiere at the North Western University, Chicago, and her songs are becoming increasingly popular in the USA. The song cycle Caneuon y Tri Aderyn (Songs of the Three Birds) was commissioned by the BBC in 1961.
Over the years the cycle has been performed and recorded by foremost singers from the country, including the young coloratura soprano Charlotte Church, and Mae Hiraeth yn y Môr has become a firm favourite with audiences both here and abroad. It is now generally acknowledged as one of the finest art songs written by a Welsh composer.
Gareth Glyn was born in Machynlleth, mid-Wales, in 1951 and he is a music graduate of Merton College Oxford and a Composer Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. He began composing while still at school in Ysgol Maes Garmon, Mold, and his works were first broadcast while he was still at University.
He turned to composition as a career after winning numerous composition competitions in the 1970s, and has never been without a pending commission since. His works are performed worldwide, and widely recorded by various labels. He received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Wales, Bangor, and the rank of Druid in the National Eisteddfod's Gorsedd of Bards, for his services to music in Wales.
His compositional style is light and energetic which appeals to a wide range of choirs and soloists. One of his most popular pieces is Cadwyn / Cycle, a set of five SATB arrangements of folk songs (including Suo Gân). The nativity musical A New Star (for soli and choir) has become a firm favourite, in addition to Got-ta Grey Horse for TTBB. In 2009 Gwynn published 15 of Gareth's compositions for SATB and TTBB choirs.