Lost folk music by one of Wales’ greatest female composers to be performed for the first time
A collection of arrangements of folk music by one of Wales’ most famous twentieth-century composers, Grace Williams, will be published and performed for the first time next week.
The lost music has been unearthed by Elain Rhys, a student at Bangor University’s Department of Music, Drama and Performance, during research into Grace Williams’ contribution to Welsh music as part of her master’s degree course.
Grace Williams (1906-1977) is mainly associated with orchestral music but she composed a number of arrangements of Welsh folk music for BBC radio programmes during the 1950s but very few examples were published, recorded or broadcast.
The lost music, as well as some of Grace Williams’ well-known classics, will be performed at a special concert at Neuadd Powis, Bangor University at 7:30 on Friday 3 November by a host of artists including Elain Rhys, Angharad Wyn Jones, Cai Fôn Davies, Glesni Rhys Jones, Steffan Dafydd and members of the Anglesey Youth Senior Choir.
Elain and her tutor and project supervisor, Professor Pwyll ap Siôn, will share the research when introducing the performances on the evening.
Elain, who is now compiling a study of ‘The Parlour’, Grace Williams’ only opera, for a doctorate degree at Bangor University, said: “It is a great privilege to perform and publish these works. I am delighted that some of Grace Williams’ beautiful arrangements, which contributed greatly to the growth and development of music in Wales in the twentieth century, will be coming to the attention of the nation for the first time.”
“It is my hope that my research will bring deserved recognition to a composer who did not receive meritorious recognition in Wales or the British Isles in her lifetime.
“The lack of publications and coverage of these works creates the illusion that Grace Williams had little time for her country’s traditional music. I really wanted to delve into this further with hope to make new groundbreaking discoveries.
“Important sources such as correspondence between Grace Williams and her friend, the musician Enid Parry (1911-1998), strongly suggest the opposite – that traditional music was very close to her heart. Reading through the correspondence and scrutinising the music more closely reveals a new ‘Welshness’ related to Grace Williams, that has been largely ignored by past researchers.
“I would like to thank Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol for funding the publishing project, and I would also like to sincerely thank the James Pantyfedwen Fund for funding the masters course at Bangor University and Professor Pwyll ap Siôn for his support and guidance on the project.”
Dr Dylan Phillips, Senior Academic Manager and Secretary of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, added: “The Coleg’s small grant project funds and supports a number of interesting and creative projects, and the Coleg was delighted to fund this innovative scheme to publish the lost works of Grace Williams. Elain has worked hard to gather together these unique arrangements, and we look forward to celebrating her research and hearing the special music in concert.”
For an admission ticket to the ‘Celebrating Grace Williams’ concert on 3 November at Neuadd Powis, Bangor University, contact Elain Rhys on [email protected], or visit the Coleg Cymraeg website for further information. The arrangements can be purchased on the publishing company website, Curiad.
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