Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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REES , JOHN THOMAS ( 1857 - 1949 ), musician ;

b. 14 Nov. 1857 at Llwynbedw , near Cwmgïedd, Brecks. ; s. of Thomas and Hannah (née Morgan ) Rees . He had little schooling and began work as a pit-boy at the age of nine. Whilst working as a miner in Ystradgynlais , Rhondda Valley , and Aberdare , he acquired a sound musical discipline. He began to give music lessons when he was 17 ( Daniel Protheroe , DWB , 801-2 , was one of his pupils) and he mastered the sol-fa notation between 1876 and 1879 under the tuition of D. W. Lewis , Brynaman ( DWB , 550-1) . At twenty-one he gained some prominence as the composer of a cantata which he submitted for competition at a Treherbert eisteddfod . A modest fund raised by friends enabled him to study with Joseph Parry ( DWB , 738) at Aberystwyth in 1879 , but his financial resources were few and the outlook bleak until David Jenkins ( DWB , 431) opened the way for him to teach sol-fa classes in Pen-y-garn . He went to Emporium , Kansas , in 1882 and gained his Mus. Bac. (Toronto) in 1889 (he later held a teaching appointment there, during a short visit to America ). On his return to Wales in 1883 he settled at Pen-y-garn , near Aberystwyth , as tutor to an adult music class , conductor of rural choirs which performed oratorios and similar works, and subsequently as part-time lecturer at U.C.W. Aberystwyth and part-time music teacher at Tregaron county school . In 1895 he won the prize of £20 for the composition of a string quartet at the Aberdare national eisteddfod . He became known throughout the country as composer of a number of hymn-tunes and anthems , and as a conductor of cymanfaoedd canu and adjudicator at eisteddfodau . His predominant interest found expression in numerous compositions of a religious character which include: ‘ Duw sydd noddfa ’ ( Aberdare national eisteddfod prize composition, 1890 ); ‘ Y Teulu Dedwydd ’ (cantata); ‘ Crist yr Andes ’ (children's cantata); ‘ Hosannah ’ and ‘ Christos ’ (settings of services for children). Other published compositions include his ‘ String Quartet ’ ( 1895 ); ‘ Y Trwbadŵr ’ (based on words from the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym ) in association with S.M. Powell at Tregaron ; and ‘ Hillsides of Wales ’ for violin and piano. He also edited a collection of hymn-tunes by David Lewis , Llanrhystud ( DWB , 550) , Perorydd yr Ysgol Sul (a collection of children's hymn-tunes and anthems), and was joint-editor of Llyfr hymnau a thonau y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd ( 1897 ) and Emynau a thonau y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd a Wesleyaidd ( 1927 ). He m. Elizabeth Davies of Pen-y-garn in 1881 (she d. in 1939 ); there were 8 children, 5 of whom were alive in 1955 . He d. 14 Oct. 1949 and was b. at Y Garn cemetery .


  • Personal knowledge;
  • D. H. Lewis , John Thomas Rees cofiant , Llandysul, 1955 (1955) .


Professor David Ewart Parry Williams, D.Mus., (1900-96), Bangor

Evan David Jones, F.S.A., (1903-87), Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001