Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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OWEN , JOHN ( Owain Alaw ; 1821 - 1883 ), musician ; b. 14 Nov. 1821 in Crane Street , Chester , the son of a captain Owen . After receiving a good education he was apprenticed to Messrs. Powell and Edwards , Cutlers , Chester . He was taught music first of all by Edward Peters of Chester , and later, by C. Lucas of London . When still quite young he became organist in the countess of Huntingdon chapel ; he also became conductor of the ‘ Octagon Orchestral Society .’ In 1842 he m. a Miss Williams of Chester , and two years later relinquished his business and decided to give his whole time to music. He was appointed organist of S. Paul's church , Broughton , and afterwards of S. Bride's church ; later he became organist and choirmaster of S. Mary's Welsh church , Chester . He was vocalist (baritone) , composer , organist , and accompanist . A hymntune by him called ‘ Calfari ’ appeared in Haleliwia , 1849 ; in the Rhuddlan eisteddfod of 1851 , where he was given the name of Owain Alaw , he took the prize for an anthem, ‘ Deborah a Barac .’ In the same year he tied with John Ambrose Lloyd (q.v.) at the Tremadoc eisteddfod for a cantata, ‘ Gweddi Habacuc .’ Other eisteddfodic successes were — London , 1855 , ‘ Can Mair ’; Merthyr Tydfil , ‘ Y ddaeargryn ’; ‘ Cymanfa Gwent a Morgannwg ,’ anthem ‘ Och, Annuwiol ; Llanrwst 1859 anthem ‘ Arnat Ti y llefais .’

In 1860 John Owen published Gems of Welsh Melodies , a collection which proved very useful, and was widely used. He won the prize at a Caernarfon eisteddfod for his cantata, ‘ Tywysog Cymru ,’ whilst for the Chester national eisteddfod of 1866 he composed ‘Gŵyl Gwalia .’ He published Tonau yr Ysgol Sabothol; Welsh Harp , airs arranged for four voices; Ceinion Alawon Seisnig . His greatest work, the oratorio ‘ Jeremiah ,’ was published in 1878 . Among his most popular anthems were ‘ Pa fodd y glanha ’ and ‘ Gwyn fyd a ystyria wrth y tlawd .’ Anthems, part-songs, and songs, by him appeared in the series called Y Gyfres Gerddorol (of which he was editor ), and in Y Drysorfa Gorawl , Ceinion Cerddoriaeth , Miwsig y Miloedd , y Cerddor Cymreig , Greal y Corau , Y Cerddor , and Cronicl y Cerddor . He was much in demand throughout Wales as accompanist and adjudicator . He d. 29 Jan. 1883 , and was buried in the old cemetery, Chester .

Bibliography:

  • Y Cerddor , July and Aug. 1892 ;
  • Cronicl y Cerddor , Treherbert , May and June 1883 ;
  • Y Geninen 1883 ;
  • Bye–Gones, relating to Wales and the Border Counties , 1883 ;
  • M. O. Jones , Bywgraffiaeth Cerddorion Cymreig , National Eisteddfod Association publication, 1890 ;
  • Cymru (O.M.E.) , xxvii.

Author:

Robert David Griffith, M.A., (1877-1958), Old Colwyn

Corrections and additions:

OWEN , JOHN (‘ Owain Alaw ’; 1821 - 1883 ; DWB , 713-4). His son, W[illiam] H[enry] Owen , [studied at the Royal Academy , London , and] was the organist of St. Bartholomew's church , Dublin . He lost his life in a railway accident near Abergele , 20 Aug. 1868 , when he was only 23 years old. [ WWP ; Llan , 14 Apr. 1939 , 3.]