Music in Wales

Picture of Wyn ThomasThe Welsh musical reawakening at the commencement of the 19th century was characterised by the predominance of vocal performance, ‘eisteddfodic’ (festival) competition and significant developments in choral music. During the Victorian era, music in Wales was predominantly a peasant art, to which religious, social and national feelings contributed. However, the worst aspects of this art lay in its limitations.

Serious instrumental music, chamber music and symphonic output belonged to some other planet and had no place in the field of music in Wales until improvements in musical education and the support of patrons at the turn of the 20th century set Welsh musical history into vigorous motion, enlarging musical horizons, resulting in a transformed musical life for thousands of people throughout the Principality.

The creation of chamber ensembles at the Universities of Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Bangor in the 1920s, the establishing of the independent National Orchestra of Wales (1928), the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (1936) and BBC Music Department at Cardiff (late 1930s) with its active broadcasting schedule, gave rise to an unprecedented interest in instrumental music (chamber and orchestral) and an increasingly varied repertoire by composers such as Mansel Thomas (1909-86), Arwel Hughes (1909-91), Grace Williams (1906-77), Daniel Jones (1912-92), William Mathias (1934-92) & Alun Hoddinott (1929-2008), as well as a number of new generation musicians (indigenous and in-comers to Wales) who have explored the interaction of Welsh classical and popular/world cultures within the full range of international developments.

©Wyn Thomas Senior Lecturer, School of Music, Bangor University