David Harries 1933-2002

David Harries, although born in England in 1933, described himself essentially as a Welsh composer.  He insisted, however, that he is a composer who happened to be Welsh, rather than a Welshman who happened to be a composer!

 

Educated at Pembroke Grammar School and University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, he graduated in 1954 and obtained the higher doctorate (D.Mus.) in 1964.  After some years of school teaching in Staffordshire and Pembrokeshire, Harries returned to Aberystwyth  in 1963, first as a lecturer and then senior lecturer in Music.  In 1975 he moved to Penarth and had been at the Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff, for the first ten years as Head of Performers’ Course and then as Composer-in-Residence and Head of Composition until he retired in 1993.

 

In addition to this, he was Chief Examiner in Music at Advanced Level for the Welsh Joint Education Committee for a number of years, and also an External Examiner in Music at Bangor Normal College.

 

Harries was known mainly as a composer, and his major works include an opera, a symphony, concertos for piano, violin and clarinet, as well as much chamber, choral and solo vocal music.  His works were frequently broadcast and had appeared in most major festivals, including the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts.  He was also a pianist and conductor.

 

As an adjudicator, Harries served many times at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the Newport Piano Competition, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Competition for Welsh Youth, the Amoco-Dyfed Instrumental Festival and numerous competitions for composers.  He was also a member of the Welsh Arts Council’s panel for Awards to Young Artist and on the selection panel of the European Community Youth Orchestra.  Before Harries retired he was an adjudicator for many years for the Texaco Young Musician of Wales.

 

Some works which received wide acclaim include:

  • The Sleeping Lord for tenor & piano quintet (Swansea Festival, 1983);

  • Myfyrdod for orchestra (based on the Stuttgart stained glass at St David’s Hall, Cardiff);

  • Carillons for harp (for Caryl Thomas and the North Wales Music Festival);

  • Piano Sonata No.2 (Fishguard Festival, 1986, also played by Cardiff pianist Simon Shewring which was aired on Radio 3)

 

A concert in St David's Hall, Cardiff on 13 December, 1985 included the first performance of his Hymn to the Virgin for female voices (the Grace Williams Singers) and harp (Elinor Bennett) - a setting of the oldest extant poem in English by a Welshman, dating from 1470.

 

Prolegomena, as the opus number suggests, is a very early piece, dating from 1959, when the composer was a mere 26 years of age and had just completed the then compulsory national service!  At that stage of his life he was very convinced of the relevance of serialism in music (but had since, he insisted, mellowed considerably).  The title itself derived from the composer’s deep interest at that time in philosophy (one of his subjects while at university), and was used in its sense of ‘introductory studies’.  Thus, the work was intended as a set of introductory studies for the players in both string technique and in contemporary idioms.  It was first performed by the strings of the Hallé Orchestra under Maurice Handford in 1961.

 

Described in Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians as one of the most talented composers of his generation in Wales, he took early retirement to concentrate on composition.

 

David Harries lived in Penarth with his wife, Alwena, and three sons Deiniol, Dewi and Dylan.  He also had two children from his first marriage, Catrin and Ceri.  His interests outside of music were predominantly literary, including the writing of poetry and prose, and especially Anglo-Welsh literature.  He always found time, however, to pursue long-standing interests in calligraphy, cookery, real ale and fine wine.

 

David Harries died at his home in Penarth, 25th December, 2002.

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David Harries.jpg
 

Er mai yn Lloegr ym 1933 y ganed David Harries, disgrifiai ei hun fel cyfansoddwr Cymraeg.  Mynnai mai cyfansoddwr ydoedd, a ddigwyddai fod yn Gymro, yn hytrach na Chymro a ddigwyddai fod yn gyfansoddwr!

 

Derbyniodd ei addysg yn Ysgol Ramadeg Penfro a Phrifysgol Cymru Aberystwyth gan raddio yno ym 1954.  Derbyniodd ei radd uwch (D.Mus.) ym 1964.  Treuliodd rai blynyddoedd fel athro ysgol yn Swydd Stafford a Sir Benfro cyn dychwelyd i Aberystwyth ym 1963, yn gyntaf fel darlithydd ac yna uwch-ddarlithydd yn yr Adran Gerdd.  Symudodd i Benarth ym 1975 gan dreulio gweddill ei yrfa dysgu yng Ngholeg Brenhinol Cerdd a Drama Caerdydd, yn gyntaf fel Pennaeth y cwrs Perfformio am ddeg mlynedd ac yna fel Cyfansoddwr Preswyl a Phennaeth Cyfansoddi nes ei ymddeoliad ym 1993.

 

Yn ogystal, bu’n Brif Arholwr Cerddoriaeth lefel-A i Gydbwyllgor Addysg Cymru (WJEC) am nifer o flynyddoedd ac Arholwr Allannol mewn Cerddoriaeth yng Ngholeg y Normal, Bangor.

 

Adnabyddir Harries yn bennaf fel cyfansoddwr a chynnwys ei brif weithiau opera, simffoni, consiertos ar gyfer piano, ffidil a chlarinet yn ogystal a chorff o waith siambr, corawl a cherddoriaeth ar gyfer llais unigol.  Darlledid ei weithiau yn aml gan gynnwys Cyngherddau Promenâd Syr Henry Wood a phrif Ŵyliau Cerdd.  Roedd Harries hefyd yn bianydd ac arweinydd.

 

Gweithiodd Harries sawl tro fel beirniad Tlws y Cerddor yn yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, Cystadleuaeth Piano Casnewydd, Cystadleuaeth Jiwbili arian y Frenhines ar gyfer Ieuenctid Cymru, Gŵyl Offerynnol Amoco-Dyfed a nifer o gystadlaethau ar gyfer cyfansoddwyr.  Roedd hefyd yn aelod o banel Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru a ddyfarnai wobrau i artistiaid ifanc a phanel Cerddorfa Ieuenctid Gymunedol Ewropeaidd.  Roedd gan Harries ddiddordeb dwfn yn natblygiad cerddorion ifanc a chyn ei ymddeoliad, bu’n feirniad am nifer o flynyddoedd i gystadleuaeth Texaco Cerddor Ifanc Cymru.

 

Gweler isod restr o weithiau dderbyniodd ganmoliaeth eang:

  • The Sleeping Lord i denor a phumawd piano (Gŵyl Gerdd Abertawe,1983)

  • Myfyrdod i gerddorfa (wedi ei seilio ar ffenestr liw Stuttgart Neuadd Dewi Sant, Caerdydd, 1985)

  • Carillons i delyn (ar gyfer Caryl Thomas a Gŵyl Gerdd Gogledd Cymru, 1985)

  • Piano Sonata No.2 (Gŵyl Gerdd Abergwaun, 1986, perfformiwyd gan Simon Shewring gyda darllediad ar Radio 3)

 

Mewn cyngerdd yn Neuadd Dewi Sant, Caerdydd ar Ragfyr 13eg 1985, un o’r gweithiau ar  y rhaglen oedd perfformiad cyntaf Harries o’i waith ar gyfer Cantorion Grace Williams, sef Hymn to the Virgin, gwaith ar gyfer lleisiau merched i gyfeiliant telyn (Elinor Bennet).  Gosodiad ydy hwn o’r farddoniaeth hynaf sy’n bodoli yn Saesneg gan Gymro ac yn dyddio o 1470.

 

Un o weithiau cynnar Harries ydy ‘Prolegomena’ opus 11, 1959 pan oedd y cyfansoddwr yn 26ain mlwydd oed.  Roedd newydd orffen cyfnod o Wasanaeth Cenedlaethol Gorfodol ac ar y pryd, yn sicr o berthnasedd Cyfresoli mewn cerddoriaeth ond ymhellach yn ei yrfa, dywed ei fod “wedi aeddfedu cryn dipyn”.  Deillia’r teitl o ddiddordeb dwfn Harries ar y pryd, mewn Athroniaeth (pwnc a astudiodd yn y brifysgol) ac a ddefnyddir yn ei ystyr o ‘astudiaethau rhagarweiniol’.  Felly, cyfansoddwyd y gwaith fel cyfres o astudiaethau i’r perfformwyr o ran techneg llinynnol ac idiomau cyfoes.  Derbyniodd y gwaith ei berfformiad cyntaf gan Gerddorfa’r Hallé dan arweinyddiaeth Maurice Handford ym 1961.

 

Disgrifir Harries yng ngeiriadur cerddoriaeth Grove fel ‘un o gyfansoddwyr mwyaf talentog ei genhedlaeth yng Nghymru’.  Ymddeolodd yn gynnar i ganolbwyntio ar gyfansoddi.

 

Roedd David Harries yn byw ym Mhenarth gyda’i wraig, Alwena a’i dri mab, Deiniol, Dewi a Dylan.  Roedd ganddo ddau o blant, Catrin a Ceri o’i briodas gyntaf.  Roedd ei ddiddordebau tu allan i gerddoriaeth yn bennaf mewn llenyddiaeth, gan gynnwys ysgrifennu barddoniaeth a llenyddiaeth, ac yn enwedig diddordeb mewn barddoniaeth Eingl-Gymraeg.  Er hynny, roedd ganddo’r amser i ddilyn ei ddiddordebau hirsefydlog mewn caligraffi, coginio, cwrw ‘go iawn’ a gwinoedd da.

 

Bu farw David Harries yn ei gartref ym Mhenarth ar ddiwrnod Nadolig, 2002.