Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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PARRY , JOHN ( Bardd Alaw ; 1776 - 1851 ), musician ; b. 18 Feb. 1776 at Denbigh , the son of Thomas Parry , a stonemason from Aberchwiler . His first lessons in music were given him by a dancing master who taught him the clarinet. In 1793 he joined the Denbighshire volunteers’ band of which, four years later, he became the conductor . He settled in London in 1807 , began to be in demand at concerts as a player on wind instruments , and started to compose pieces for such concerts. He published songs and other pieces in 1809 and was invited to write music for use in the Vauxhall Gardens ; he was afterwards responsible for the music at that resort for many years. He had previously published (in 1804 ) The Ancient Britons’ Martial Music and (in 1807 ) had produced a second series, arranged for piano or harp, flute, and ‘cello. He contributed articles on Welsh airs to the Cambro-Briton , 1819-22 . In 1820 he was appointed to organize the music side of the ‘ eisteddfod Powys ,’ to be held at Welshpool ; it was at this eisteddfod that he was given the name of Bardd Alaw . In 1821 he published a collection of Welsh airs with English words by Felicia Hemans . He published two operas also that year; one of these which ran for twenty-five nights, brought him into prominence as a composer . [The Cymmrodorion gave him a ‘benefit’ eisteddfod (really a concert) 24 May 1826 ]. He was musical adjudicator or conductor at various eisteddfodau — e.g. Brecon , 1822-6 ; Beaumaris , 1832 ; Cardiff , 1834 ; Abergavenny , 1836-48 . In 1820 he founded ‘ Cymdeithas y Canorion ’ with the object of encouraging singing to the accompaniment of the harp . For many years he edited the hymn-tunes published in Seren Gomer . A duet composed by him called ‘ Flow Gently Deva ’ became very popular in Wales . He d. 8 April 1851 . [He was a member (and president in 1819 ) of the Gwyneddigion society , and ‘ Registrar of Music ’ in the second Cymmrodorion society .]

His son JOHN PARRY ( 1810 - 1879 ), musician , actor , and entertainer , was b. 3 Jan. 1810 in London . He was taught the harp by Boscha , and when he was 15 appeared in public as a professional harpist . He was also a good pianist , and when he was twenty began to appear as a vocalist ( baritone ). He was also an artist of some repute. Afterwards he turned to light and entertaining songs. In 1840 he composed a light opera called ‘ Wanted, a Governess ’; he was also busy producing numerous songs. He had left the stage in 1842 for the concert-room, and in 1850 he came out as an entertainer . He gave this up in 1853 for health reasons, and became organist of S. Jude's church , Southsea . He joined Thomas German Reed , musician and entertainer , in 1860 , but retired in 1869 owing to ill health. [He m., 30 June 1835 , Anne , daughter of Henry Combe , surgeon (d. 1883 )]. He d. 20 Feb. 1879 , at East Molesey , Surrey .

For numerous examples of the work of John Orlando Parry as musician , entertainer , and amateur artist , see the details given in N.L.W. Handlist of MSS. , i, ii, iii, where N.L.W. MSS. 4925-31, 8286-93, and 10070 are described.

Bibliography:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • Y Gwyddoniadur Cymreig , 1889-96 ;
  • M. O. Jones , Bywgraffiaeth Cerddorion Cymreig , National Eisteddfod Association publication, 1890 ;
  • Y Cerddor , Jan. 1890 ;
  • [ Y Cymmrodor , 1951 , 106, 153-9, 164;
  • information from Mr. F. Wynn Jones , London].

Author:

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

Corrections and additions:

PARRY , JOHN ( 1776 - 1851 ; DWB , 736). It was not he, but his son John Orlando Parry , who composed ‘ Flow gently, Deva ’.