Parry's grave at St Augustine's
Parry's home at Aberystwyth from
18791881 when he also ran his
College of Music following his
dismissal from the university
Parry's home on Heol Llanbadarn,
where he lived from 1874-1878
He set up his own Music Institute at
Danville, just over the road from the opera
house on Railroad Street, but left in 1874
to reside permanently, apart from his many
visits to the US, in Wales. |
To the ordinary music-loving individual
he was `y doctor mawr' (the great doctor).
However, he was not an easy man to deal
with. He was not afraid of anybody. He
had no tact. He tended to be naïve and
had more than a good measure of his own
self-importance in the world.
Like Richard Wagner, he believed that
the main purpose of musical societies and
foundations in Wales was to bring his
musical ideas into fruition and to perform
his works. Consequently he was not that
popular with his fellow musicians, though
the ordinary people worshipped him.
Myfanwy was first published in 1875.
The name was in use years before then
and the publication of Joseph Parry's famous
part song did not lead to popularising the
name despite the success of the song.
Blodwen, on the other hand, took the
country by storm. A new Christian name
for girls was invented! Before 1878 it appears
that no girl had been so christened. John
Parry was a bootmaker living in Gogerddan
Cottages, Aberystwyth. A little girl was born
to him and his wife a few days after the first
performance and she was christened Blodwen
Meddanen. Another interesting feature in
the use of the name is that it was far more
popular in south Wales than in the north.
A not so marked increase can also be detected
in the use of the name Howell, the home
of the chief male character in the opera.
Parry visited the US in the summer of
1898 for the penultimate time. Whilst he
was at Danville, the Edison Bell Company
made a phonographic recording at a
Gymanfa Ganu held at the East Mahoning
Presbyterian Church, which included a
speech by Joseph Parry. Does the sound
of his voice still exist somewhere?
Parry is still remembered in Danville, Pa.
There is a plaque outside one of his homes
there in his memory and the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania has been petitioned to set
an official `historical marker' in his name.
Furthermore, a heritage concert in tribute to
him was held as part of the Danville Festival
to mark the centenary of his death. He would
have been most pleased that the programme
was comprised of his music alone.
In Merthyr, his birthplace at 4 Chapel
Row is open to the public.
He died on 17 March 1903, at his home,
`Cartref', 23 Plymouth Road, Penarth.
Tribute concerts of his works were given
at Merthyr Tydfil and Penarth. Services of
Remembrance were also held and lectures
delivered in his honour.
Over 7,000 mourners turned up at his
funeral service at Bethel, Plassey Street.
He was buried by St Augustine's Church
on Penarth Head where his striking marble
memorial still stands.
Within less than 20 years of his death the
pendulum of Parry's `greatness' had swung
to the opposite side. Pre-eminence was
given to his failings, lack of originality,
alleged plagiarism and lack of taste and
judgment. However, during the last decade
a breath of objectiveness has set in, showing
and placing Joseph Parry in his true context.
For a boy who started working down
the Roblins Pit at Merthyr Tydfil from the
age of nine for the equivalent of twelve
and a half pence for a 56-hour week, his
achievements were incredible.
I would like to thank Diane Clements,
Director of the Library and Museum of
Freemasonry, London and W. Bro. John C.
Davies for their invaluable assistance
in preparing this article.