Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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LEWIS , IDRIS ( 1889 - 1952 ), musician ;

b. 21 Nov. 1889 , at Birchgrove , Llansamlet, Glam. , son of a coalminer . He took an interest in music at an early age, gaining a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London when he was 16 years old, and he came into prominence as a pianist . After completing his musical education he toured India and the Far East , 1911-12 , giving a series of piano recitals in some of the major cities there. Later he settled in London , where he became assistant musical director at Daly's Theatre , and musical director at the Lyric and Gaiety theatres ( 1915-27 ). He also served as organist at the Welsh chapel (Presb.) in Charing Cross ( 1923-26 ), and as conductor of the London-Welsh Choral Society . In 1927 he joined British International Pictures at Elstree , and as musical director for that company ( 1931-35 ) he was responsible for arranging music for a number of well-known films , Blossom Time ’ being among them, with Richard Tauber as soloist .

One of those impressed by that film was Sam Jones , who was at the time producer of Welsh programmes with the B.B.C. , and after realising that Idris Lewis was a Welshman he succeeded in persuading him to join the B.B.C. in Cardiff , where he became musical director of the Welsh region ( 1936-52 ), the first to be appointed to that post. He d. at his home in Llandaff , 15 Apr. 1952 , and his remains were cremated in Glyntaff .

He is an important figure in the history of Welsh music, chiefly because of his pioneering work in broadcasting orchestral concerts from Cardiff . He was also responsible for arranging several series of popular vocal programmes on sound radio , including ‘ Melys Lais ’; and ‘ Cenwch im yr hen ganiadau ’. Although he was not a prolific composer , he arranged a number of works for male voice choirs , and some of the songs from his setting of ‘ Alun Mabon ’ ( Ceiriog ), which was first broadcast in 1935 , remain popular on eisteddfod and concert platforms. He was the author of a useful volume Cerddoriaeth yng Nghymru ( 1945 ) which was translated into Welsh by Enid Parry .

His brother was D.H. Lewis , Llanelli , author of Cofiant J.T. Rees , and also of a number of articles on Welsh musicians which were published in Y Genhinen and other periodicals.

Sources:

  • Complete Catalogue of Contemporary Welsh Music , 5, ( 1972 );
  • Who's who in Music , London, 1935 ;
  • Western Mail , 16 Apr. 1952 ;
  • information from Sam Jones in 1971.

Author:

Huw Williams, (1922-2002), Bangor / Prestatyn

Published date: 2001