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     Thomas, John (1st March 1826-19th March 1913)

    He was a Welsh harpist and composer born in Bridgend, Glamorgan, Wales, to a family where his father was a well respected tailor a local amateur clarinettist.  He began his studies in music by learning the piccolo when he was four, which led to him playing in a local brass band by the time he was just six. 

     

    Soon he began to take lessons in the violin but he soon gravitated towards the harp when he had been acquainted with the triple harp aka the Welsh harp when he heard someone playing it when they visited his home. His father bought him a triple harp, which he was taught how to play and several years later in 1838 he won the silver triple harp at the eisteddfod in Abergavenny when he was twelve years old.  After being sponsored by Lord Byron’s daughter, Lady August da Lovelace, he studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1840.  He would leave there in 1846 having been made a Fellow and from 1871 he held a teaching position there.  

     

    From the time he was fourteen he played a concert harp and from 1851 he performed nationally and internationally to bring Welsh music to a European audience at venues in Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia.  During a time he was playing in France he received warm praise from the composer Hector Berlioz.  He held the position of harpist with the Royal Italian Opera who were based at London’s Her Royal Majesty’s Theatre and in 1861 he was honoured with the bardic title of Pencerdd Gwalia, meaning Chief Musician of Wales, at the eisteddfod in Aberdare.  Five years later at the National Eisteddfod in 1866 he was presented with 500 guineas for his services to Welsh music. 

     

    In 1871 he took up his teaching post at the Royal Academy of Music, and sometime in the next year or so established the London Welsh Choral Union.  In 1872 he was called upon to join the royal court and became Queen Victoria’s official harpist, visiting the United States in 1893 as an adjudicator at the Chicago Festival’s eisteddfod.  From 1881 he also taught at the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal College of Music and was an examiner for the Royal Academy.  Following Queen Victoria’s death he remained in his royal harpist position serving King Edward VII. 

     

    A prolific composer for much of his life he took much of his musical influence from his national folk music and his works include symphonies, operas, harp concertos, cantatas and songs that include “The March of the Men of Harlech”, “David of the White Rock” “The Minstrel’s Adieu To His Native Land” and “The Rising of the Sun” as well as an arrangement of the popular “All Through the Night” and “The Ash Grove”.  He died in 1913 at the age of 87 in London.

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.bridgend.gov.uk/Web1/groups/public/documents/services/002225.hcsp#P301_28555
    2. http://www.naxos.com/composerinfo/John_Thomas/26330.htm
    3. http://www.archivesnetworkwales.info/cgi-bin/anw/fulldesc_nofr?inst_id=1&coll_id=437&expand=
    4. http://www.classical-composers.org/comp/thomas_john_1826
    5. http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.570171-72
    6. http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.570372
    7. http://www.adlaismusicpublishers.co.uk/index.html?pages/scores/S065.htm~mainFrame
    8. http://www.mwynion-mai.co.uk/index.html?Pages/sheetmusic/MS01.htm~mainFrame
    9. http://www32.ocn.ne.jp/~aoyamaharp_tokyo/cd/cd_ben.html

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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