Thomas, John



Called by the Welch, Pencerdd Gwalia, or chief of Welch minstrels; was born at Bridgend, Glamorganshire. He could play the piccolo when only four, and when eleven won a harp at an Eisteddfod. In 1840 Byron s daughter, Countess of Lovelace, became his patroness, sending him to the Royal Academy, where he remained almost eight years studying harp' under J. B. Chatterton, composition under Cipriani Potter and Charles Lucas, and piano under C. J. Read. In 1851 he became harpist at the Royal Italian Opera, and during the winters made Continental tours, playing at a Gewandhaus concert at Leipsic, at Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Moscow, in France and in Italy. He was professor of harp at the Royal Academy of Music, and in 1871 became conductor of the Welch Choral Union, and on Chatterton's death succeeded him as harpist to the Queen. He has always been greatly interested in the national music of Wales and during his six years' conductorship of the Welsh Choral Union gave six concerts each year. For over twenty years he took an active part in Eisteddfodan, and in 1883 collected funds to endow a Welch Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. He is a member of the Royal Society of Music, the Philharmonic Society, the Academy of St. Cecilia and the Philharmonic Society of Rome, and the Royal Academy and Philharmonic Society of Florence. He wrote Llewellyn, a cantata, for the Swansea Eisteddfod in 1863 and The Bride of Neath Valley for the Chester Eisteddfod in 1860, and in 1862 he published a fine collection of Welch melodies. He has written concertos for harp and transcriptions for that instrument of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words; also many Welch patriotic songs. His cantata, Llewellyn, was given at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. In 1896 and 1897 he gave lectures on the Music of Wales at the Cardiff Conference. His compositions for the harp are concerto in B flat; two sets of six studies; many pieces for harp solo; concerto in E flat; duets for two harps, etc.