Five of the best…Welsh composers!


Grace Williams (1906-77)

Williams was born in Barry, near Cardiff, to a musical family. Her father ran the local choir, and she often acted as the choir’s accompanist. In 1923 she won a scholarship to study Music at Cardiff University, and in 1926 she moved to London to study at the Royal College of Music under Ralph Vaughan Williams.

She was a prolific composer, best-known today for her lushly orchestrated symphonic poem Penillion, written for the National Orchestra of Wales in 1955. 



Mansel Thomas (1909-86)

At the age of just 16, Thomas won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, and moved from his home in South Wales to live and work in London. After serving in the Second World War he returned to Wales as principal conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra (now the BBC National Orchestra of Wales), and worked in Wales for the rest of his life.

He wrote for professional ensembles, including his own Welsh Orchestra, but it is in his repertoire for male-voice choirs that Thomas is best remembered today. His lovely ‘Cennin Aur’ (‘Daffodils’) is still a core part of any self-respecting Welsh choir’s repertoire.



William Mathias (1934-92)

A child prodigy who produced his first composition aged five, Mathias, who hailed from Carmarthenshire, wrote splendidly original and accessible music that is still very popular – his carols A Babe is Born and Wassail are perennial favourites.

He came to international attention in 1981 when he was commissioned to write an anthem for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Let the people praise Thee, O God reached an estimated worldwide audience of a billion.



Karl Jenkins (born 1944)

Jenkins, from the Gower, began his musical career as a jazz and rock oboist (luckily he also played saxophone and keyboards – he can be heard on the latter in the original cast recording of Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ, Superstar) but turned to composing after his rock band, Soft Machine, split in the late 1970s.

His breakthrough work was Adiemus, a cross-over choral work which topped the classical charts in the 1995. Other major successes followed and today he is one of the best-selling and most regularly performed composers in the world.



Paul Mealor (born 1975)

Like his teacher William Mathias, Mealor shot to fame after a commission from the Royal family. His Ubi Caritas was the anthem at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 – the work was specially chosen for the occasion by the couple themselves. Mealor also composed the song Wherever you are for Gareth Malone’s Military Wives choir, which topped the pop charts.