Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Three Doctors of Music

Resolfen was notable during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as having produced three doctors of music. Here follows a synopsis of the story of the three doctors gleaned from the minutes of Resolfen History Society, December 1989.

The cultural background of the three men was very similar. Resolfen was a hotbed of musical activity, especially in choral singing. This was reinforced by three other factors, the congregational singing of the chapels, the rise of the Temperance Movement and probably most importantly the use of Tonic Sol-fa. By representing music in letters rather than musical score, it was possible to teach music to people who could not necessarily “read” music. John Curwen a Congregational minister introduced the system into Wales and Ieuan Gwyllt (Eleazar Roberts) set up classes to teach the system. Morgan de Lloyd and Tom Williams of Glynneath introduced the new system to Resolfen resulting in the formation of many choirs both mixed and male voice.

William Rhys Herbert was born in October 1868 at Ffwrnas (near the present Waterfall Terrace) the son of Rhys Herbert and Ann Rees. Having learned music he bought a harmonium – the first to come to the village. The instrument was brought to the village by train and was carted in style through the streets followed by hordes of children. Later he became the first organist at Jerusalem Chapel.

It was obvious from an early age that he had great talent musically and a concert was held at Jerusalem to raise funds so that he could receive professional lessons. He learned old notation while still working at Blaencwm Colliery , and T.J.Davies Mus Bacc., of Swansea recognising his promise took him for private tuition. William Rhys Herbert published his first tune at the age of 19 and at the age of 22 copied his mentor by leaving for the USA. Despite never becoming an American citizen the bulk of his work was composed there. He became a renowned organist and conductor in one of the largest churches in the U.S. at Minneapolis . He wrote over one thousand pieces , many of them for children .
He died at the age of 54 and is buried in the U.S. , however there is an inscription in his memory on the grave of his parents at Capel Melin-y-Cwrt cemetery.

David Evans was born in what is now known as 2 , Davies Terrace on February 6th 1874 , the son of Morgan Evans ( Ton mân ) and Sarah Davies. His musical background was based firmly on sol-fa and when young his alto voice was used as a model of how easy it was to learn to learn music by that method. He was also a very successful competetitor at local eisteddfodau , formed his first singing group at the age of 9 and conducted his first choir at the age of only 12. He began working with his father at Tyrrau Colliery at the age of 13.

In 1891 he conducted his first Cymanfa Ganu , in those days these festivals were well rehearsed events aimed at improving the quality of congregational singing . By 1895 , David Evans had gained a Mus Bacc. ( Oxon ),the youngest to achieve this in Wales at the time. Following a period in London ,in 1903 he succeeded Joseph Parry by joining the Music Department at University College, Cardiff. In 1908 he also became Professor of Music at Cardiff. He died in 1948 and is buried there.

Dr. Tom Hopcyn Evans was born in Cory St., Resolfen in June 1879 the son of Dafydd Evans ( Tonman) and Ann Hopkins of Glynneath. His working background is similar to the others and he became organist in Seion Chapel and later the first organist at the new Tabernacl Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. In 1905 he won first prize in the mixed choir competition at the National Eisteddfod in Mountain Ash.

In 1909, he became organist and choirmaster at Neath’s London Road Presbyterian Chapel , and later formed Neath Choral Society.. In 1914 he became a Mus.Bacc. ( Oxon) followed by his doctorate in 1924. In 1991 he moved to Liverpool and succeeded Harry Evans ( Merthyr) as conductor of Liverpool Welsh Choral Society.

He was best known as a conductor and noted for his interpretation of Delius . In fact , at the 1933 National Eisteddfod at Wrexham he was highly commended by the composer himself and Hopcyn Evans later became vice- president of the Delius Society.

He fulfilled engagements as a conductor all over the country. However, during Easter 1940 he felt unwell and decided to return to Neath. He died there at the age of 61 and is buried at Capel Melin -y – Cwrt.


Anonymous owenrhys said...

I have seen ref. to Doctor William Rhys-Herbert not becoming an American Citizen a number of times. I would like to take this opportunity to correct that error. Despite never losing his love for the country of his birth and returning home a number of times, he did become an American and his American Passport is testimony to that fact.(In fact the 1920 Federal Census of the USA indicates naturalisation during 1913.)

All this aside, congratulations on establishing this site. I'm sure that it will become a very useful source of local knowledge.

Good luck,


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