He rose to prominence as a composer at the National Eisteddfod at Machynlleth in 1937 when his Fantasia for Strings on an Old Ecclesiastical Welsh Melody was conducted by Adrian Boult. This work was dedicated to J. Lloyd Williams (1854-1945), who had given him the melody. It was published in 1949 as Fantasia for Strings and became a popular orchestral piece. He composed two notable choral works to libretti by his BBC colleague Aneirin Talfan Davies (1909-1980), namely Dewi Sant for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and Pantycelyn, which was performed at the National Eisteddfod in Swansea in 1964. He also composed two operas which were performed by the Welsh National Opera: Menna (1954), to a libretto by Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, which was performed at Sadler's Wells, and Serch yw'r Doctor (1960), to a libretto by Saunders Lewis based on Molière's play, L'amour médecin. Of his smaller scale works Gweddi (1944), for soprano, chorus and strings, became popular, as well as his setting of words by T. Rowland Hughes, ‘Tydi a roddaist’. This setting was broadcast at the end of a feature programme about Wales in 1938, and was subsequently arranged by the composer for male voices.
He married in 1940 Enid P. Thomas, and they had two sons, Ieuan and Owain, and a daughter, Delun. Owain came to prominence as a professional conductor, and the composer's grandson, Meuryn Hughes, established the imprint Aureus to publish his grandfather's works.
He died in Cardiff on 23 September 1988 and his remains were cremated at Thornhill Crematorium. In a tribute Alun Guy said of him that he was ‘one of the small company of composers who gave Welsh music self-respect.’
Dr Rhidian Griffiths, Aberystwyth
Published date: 2014