Thomas, John, 1826-1913

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Thomas, John, 1826-1913

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  • Pencerdd Gwalia, 1826-1913

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John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia, 1826-1913), harpist, was born on St David's Day 1826 in Bridgend, Glamorgan. At the age of twelve, he won the prize of a new triple-strung harp at the 1838 Abergavenny National Eisteddfod. From 1840 to 1846, sponsored by Ada, Lady Lovelace, Thomas studied at the Royal College of Music. During the 1850s he gave concerts throughout Europe. From 1850 to 1910 he published over two hundred works, including editions of harp works by Handel, Spohr and Mozart, and four volumes of his own Welsh Melodies for harp and voice (1857, 1862, 1870, 1874). From 1862 Thomas promoted some forty annual concerts of Welsh music, which included large choral sounds and multiple harps. At the National Eisteddfod of Aberdare in 1861 he was invested with the title 'Pencerdd Gwalia'. In 1871 Thomas succeeded to the post of professor at the Royal Academy of Music and the following year was appointed harpist-in-ordinary (and, in 1885, musician-in-ordinary) to the queen; following Victoria's death in 1901 he continued as harpist to Edward VII. Thomas married Alice Ann Keate (1855-1880) in 1878; he married his second wife, Joan Frances Denny (1849-1926) in 1885; both were his former pupils. He gave his last concert on 17 June 1905 and died 19 March 1913.


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