Elisabeth Parry – in memoriam

by Carl Llewellyn

On Thursday 27 July 2017, Elisabeth Parry passed away peacefully at her home in Wanborough, Surrey. She was 96 years old.

Elisabeth Parry

Mhari Elisabeth Forbes Parry was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on 9 September 1921, the great-granddaughter of Dr Joseph Parry. Educated privately at Eversley School, she passed the Oxford Board School Certificate with six credits in 1937, as well as the Associated Board Advanced Grade Piano and Intermediate Grade Singing. Elisabeth was offered a place at Oxford to study French and German in 1939, but refused this on the outbreak of war to join the Red Cross as an Ambulance driver.

She continued to study singing privately in London with Mark Raphael and the World famous tenor Dino Borgioli. She became a soloist with the Red Cross Staff Band and the Royal Army Medical Corps between 1940-1945, and toured extensively with them in Britain and the Middle East. Broadcasting frequently at home and abroad, she became a ‘Forces Sweetheart’ in 1944. She also gave many recitals for the Council for Encouragement of Music and the Arts, later the Arts Council, and sang in many concerts and oratorios.

Following the end of the war, she set up and ran the Wigmore Hall Lunch Hour Concerts in London from 1947-1949, and in 1947 joined the English Opera Group, making her operatic debut at Glyndebourne as Lucia in Benjamin Britten’s ‘Rape of Lucretia’. Awarded an Italian Government Scholarship to study at the Accadamia Chigiana in Siena with Giorgio Favaretto in 1951, she continued to study there and in Rome. She gave two recitals in Genoa and broadcast from France, Switzerland, and Belgium.

She went on to start the Opera Players, together with Phyllis Thorold, in 1950, and sang in hundreds of performances with them, and was Managing Director of the Company (now the London Opera Players) until 2001.

Elisabeth Parry, being one of the principal trustees of Parry Trust Fund, presented the residue of the Parry Trust capital into the capable hands of the Welsh National Opera Company. In February 2009 the WNO’s new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was funded partially by money from the Parry Trust, and enabled a rising baritone, David Soar, to make his debut as a principal in the role of Figaro. An annual bursary in the name of the Parry family was finally set up in 2010 to help gifted young singers.

As well as her musical activities Elisabeth took up climbing and colour photography in 1960, and gave illustrated travel talks all over the British Isles. Elisabeth was a Member of the Alpine Club, Association of British Members of the Swiss Alpine Club and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She has translated a Rossini Opera, which has been broadcast and televised, and contributed articles to ‘She’, ‘Sphere’ and ‘Tatler’ magazines, as well as a number of mountaineering publications.

In 2011 she published her memoirs in a book entitled ‘Thirty Men and a Girl’.

Elisabeth’s association with Merthyr Tydfil began after Cyfarthfa High School won the Prince of Wales Trust Award in 1977.  Preparations were made between the Merthyr Tydfil Council and the Prince of Wales Trust to mark the occasion by officially opening No 4 Chapel Row, Georgetown as the Dr Joseph Parry Cottage museum. The event took place on Friday 22 September 1978 when the Cottage was opened in the presence of the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil, Mrs Mary John, and special guest Elisabeth Parry. Dr Joseph Parry’s grand-daughter Barbara Parry was originally invited to open the cottage but was unable to attend, so Elisabeth was invited in her place. The Dowlais Male choir was in attendance and sang Joseph Parry’s most famous composition, “Myfanwy”.

On 28 July 2002, to mark the centenary of the death of Dr Joseph Parry, an open air concert was arranged at Cyfarthfa Park. The guest soloists were Timothy Richards (Tenor), Rebecca Evans (Soprano), and Jason Howard (Baritone); accompanied by two male voice choirs, Dowlais and Pendyrus, and the National Chamber Orchestra of Wales, under the baton of Alwyn Humphreys MBE, conductor of Morriston Orpheus Choir. Again Elisabeth Parry, accompanied by her niece Rosemary Skipper, was invited to be a special guest at her great grandfather’s commemorative concert, and was later invited to the Mayor’s parlour by the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil, Alan Davies.

Dr Joseph Parry

Elisabeth Parry is last family link with Dr Joseph Parry, and it’s good to know she was proud of her family’s association with Merthyr’s musical heritage. Elisabeth kept up her ties with Merthyr to the end of her life, through the friendship that was forged between her and Mansell & Dwynwen Richards, and Carl Llewellyn.

If you would like to read more, Merthyr Historian Volume 16 is dedicated to articles about Joseph Parry and his family.

Elisabeth Parry     1921-2017

A Tribute to Glynne Jones part 2

Carl Llewellyn continues his tribute to Glynne Jones with an account of the concert held his memory:

On the 11 May 2002, at Beulah English Baptist Chapel, Dowlais, the Dowlais Male Choir organized a memorial concert to Glynne Jones, with sponsorship by the Arts, Culture and Tourism section of the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, with all concert proceeds going to the Pendyrus Trust Fund.

The concert began with an introduction by the Dowlais Choir’s chairman Grahame Clarke, who then introduced the evening’s compère –  the late Janice Rowlands, wife of Ted Rowlands, MP; a lady with great talent and charisma, who enlightened the audience with her charm and repartee. She gave a descriptive account of the artists and their musical items. The Dowlais Male Choir sang a number of items including the Easter Hymn from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana with Zoe Perman singing the solo part.

There were two groups of children taking part; first the Gwenllwyn School Choir followed by Ysgol Santes Tudful Recitation Party. Both groups entertained the audience with their songs and recitations. It was interesting hearing Ysgol Santes Tudful perform the story of Branwen taken from the Mabinogion.  The violinist Paul Horner and the cellist Ciaran Jenkins also performed – they were associated with Glynne, who’d recognized their musical talent.

Janice Rowlands made reference to the children’s message sent on 18 May, known as Good Will Day, when BBC Wales transmitted a message of peace and hope to children of all countries around the world in 12 languages. It was a joy to hear the 2002 message spoken in Welsh and English.

The chairman of Pendyrus Male Choir, Creighton Lewis gave a tribute to Glynne on behalf of Pendyrus Male Choir, and he explained how the Pendyrus Trust Fund would help young musicians – it was decided set up a conductor scholarship, for musicians who wanted to pursue a musical career in conducting and it was an interesting sight seeing a model of Glynne Jones with his baton fabricated out of music paper, the paper image being made by the children of Ysgol Santes Tudful.

It gave Janice Rowlands great pleasure to introduce Dr Terry James, for Dr James comes from Kidwelly – the Janice’s hometown, who reminded the audience that the mother of Wales’ greatest composer Dr Joseph Parry also came from Kidwelly. Dr James is a wonderful raconteur, and with his manner and humorous antidotes he began relating about his personal connection with Glynne Jones.

Dr James began by reflecting that in his memories of Glynne Jones the letter “C” kept coming to mind, mentioning the character, the charisma, and the caring nature of Glynne, giving an account of his reasons for using the letter “C”. Glynne could be flamboyant and an entertaining character, he was man of presence someone who could not be missed, with a passion for projecting the musical talent of young prodigies.

When Dr James returned after living in the USA for 15 years, he met Glynne who commented, “What has happened to your ginger hair locks? With your white beard and thin white hair you look like a prophet after he’d been in the wilderness”.

At one Eisteddfod where Pendyrus Male Choir competed, Dr Terry James was the adjudicator. He was so impressed with the performance he gave Pendyrus the first prize and made some glowing comments about the performance. The following week Dr James received a card through the post card that read “I totally agree with all your comments, Glynne”. Lastly, he related a story about when Pendyrus organized an Australian tour. There are about 100 to sheep to each person in Australia, and when Glynne addressed one of the concert audiences, he referred to the sheep saying that they reminded him that you can beat bit of Welsh Lamb.

It was an added bonus for the choir and congregation when Dr James conducted one of the communal hymns, and accompanied the last hymn on the organ. The Musical Director of Dowlais Choir, Gareth Ellis was not able to be present at the concert, but the baton was in the capable hand of the deputy conductor, Stewart Roberts, who was ably assisted by David Last. The honoured guests were Mrs. Margaret Evans and Mrs. Margaret (Peg) Maliphant sister and cousin of Glynne Jones; Ted Rowlands and Dr Terry James. The present conductor of Pendyrus, John Samuel and his wife Olive were also present – ‘John Sam’ having the benefit of conducting both choirs.

The concert was a fitting tribute to a local musician who had become a notable figure in the Welsh musical world.


A Tribute to Glynne Jones

Following on from his post on D T Davies, Carl Llewellyn has posted a tribute to another of Merthyr’s musical legends – Glynne Jones

Gofio un o Feibion Enwog Dowlais
by Carl Llewellyn

I would like to pay a small tribute to Glynne Jones a local character and a well-known musician through out the principality and beyond.

Glynne Jones was born on 7 November 1927 at No 3, Glendower Street, Dowlais, the home of his grandparents David & Margaret Jones, who originally kept a small shop on Pant Road near to the La Bodega restaurant, but known to locals as the Slipper. Glynne was the eldest son of David and Annie May Jones, and was brought up with his younger brother Degwel, and sister Margaret.

The Jones family were staunch members of Moriah Welsh Baptist Chapel, that once stood in Mount Pleasant Street, Dowlais. Sadly like most chapels the building is no more. Glynne’s religious background was nurtured at home with his father and an uncle, both deacons in Moriah Chapel. With Glynne’s musical talent it was no surprise when he became the chapel organist, a post he held from 1940 until 1963.

Educated at Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School later becoming a graduate of the University College Cardiff, after his national service days, he became music master at the Old County Grammar School, where he formed a children’s choir to sing Handel’s Messiah. Glynne conducted the Merthyr Philharmonic Choir 1955-1961. Following early success with the Merthyr Philharmonic Choir and the Silurian Singers he became the Musical Director of Pendyrus Male Choir in 1962.

He was appointed Musical Adviser for Monmouthshire in 1965 and became Senior Music Adviser for Gwent from 1973 to 1990. Among his many achievements can be listed: prestigious conducting engagements on three continents; numerous radio and television broadcasts in Welsh and English; the musical direction of the BBC film “Off to Philadelphia in the Morning” in 1978, and the establishment of the Newport International Piano Competition.

In 1980 Merthyr Tydfil celebrated the 1500th anniversary of the death of its patron, Saint Tydfil the Martyr. A combined concert with Dowlais, Cefn-Coed, Treharris and Ynysowen Choirs was arranged at the Rhydycar Leisure Center on 5 October. with Glynne Jones being invited as the guest conductor. The guest artists at the concert were Stuart Burrows, tenor; Beti Jones, soprano and Huw Tregelles Williams at the organ.

Glynne’s lifelong commitment to Welsh music in education and the community was recognized by a Fellowship of the Welsh College of Music and Drama in 1994, and the award of the MBE in 1996.

Sadly Glynne died unexpectedly on Christmas Day 2000. In Glynne’s lifetime S4C produced a documentary on his musical background, as a mark of respect it was shown again after his death.


Please check back soon for Carl Llewellyn’s account of Glynne Jones’ memorial service

Merthyr’s Modest Maestro

Many thanks to Carl Llewellyn for the following article:

This a tribute to the first musical director of the Dowlais Male Choir – Mr D.T. Davies L.R.A.M., F.R.C.O. M.B.E.


Born on 28 June 1900 in Dowlais, where he lived all his life, David Thomas Davies, affectionately known to all as “D.T.”, devoted a lifetime to music, rendering a priceless and distinguished contribution to the cultural life not only in the local community but in Wales as a whole.

To give D.T. the credit he deserved he began as a gifted amateur — his musical qualifications were obtained by part time study. He began his working life in 1914 as a clerk in the Local Iron Works, then in 1925 became a local Government employee. It was only in his later years that he taught music as a subject in school from 1953 until his retirement in 1965.

By nature a retiring, and reserved personality who shunned, indeed detested the limelight, when he stood before his Choirs or sat at the keyboard, this quiet unassuming man was transformed into a colossus before whom one sat in awe and admiration. Had he been born later, in the Television and Record era, he would have received star billing, and his massive talent would have reached and impressed a wider audience than those of us who were privileged to sing for him or listen to him play. His record of achievements in the musical world speaks volumes for his versatility as well for his brilliant musicianship.


D.T. attained his L.R.A.M. (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music) in 1926 and his F.R.C.O. (Fellow of the Royal College of Organists) in 1934

Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales

Dowlais Ladies Choir –  First Prize Treorchy 1928; First Prize Neath 1934 & First Prize Caernarfon 1935

Dowlais United Choir           First Prize Fishguard 1936

Dowlais Male Choir              First Prize Ruthin 1973

This achievement of three firsts in the three major choral competitions at the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales is considered rare, probably unique in the history of the National Eisteddfod.

As well as conducting choirs at the National Eisteddfod, D.T. also adjudicated in the classes for mixed choirs, male choirs, and organ competitions and on one occasion was the official accompanist for the Eisteddfod.

Cymanfaoedd Ganu

Since 1924 D.T. had conducted over 150 singing festivals in all parts of Wales as well as in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.


D.T. was one of the old Penywern (Dowlais) Male Choir accompanists during its existence.


D.T. was the organist and precentor at Soar-Ynysgau Welsh Congregational Chapel Merthyr Tydfil from 1928 until his death in 1983.


1968 D.T. Davies was awarded the M.B.E. for services to music in Wales

1974 D.T. became an honorary Freeman of the County Borough of Merthyr Tydfil in recognition of a lifetime virtually dedicated to music.

D.T. is remembered for his humility in his genius, kindly gentleness and quiet humour, acclaim was thrust upon him – never sought.

What is certain is that the choristers of the Cor Meibion Dowlais, who knew D.T., would echo the words of Mr. John Haydn Davies (Treorci) Doyen of Welsh Male Choir conductors, in speaking of D.T. after Dowlais’ win at the 1973 National Eisteddfod— “Y Twysog Ei Hunain” – “The Prince Himself”.

D.T. Davies with the Dowlais United Choir in Bryn Sion Chapel, Dowlais

To read more about Dowlais Male Voice Choir, follow the link below: