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This article originally appeared in the Welsh Music - Cerddoriaeth Cymru Journal, Winter 1977/8, Vol. 5, No. 7.

It appears here courtesy of the Welsh Music Guild who were the original publishers.

Articles can be accessed via their site as well as part of our Welsh Music Collection.

A. J. Heward Rees, writing in June 2019, introduces his 1977 interview with David Wynne:

"20th-century Wales witnessed an amazing emergence of several new and serious-minded composers. Sophisticated and well-trained, many of them turned their backs on the previous amateur traditions, aiming for a broader range of compositional styles, using the new instrumental and vocal skills which progress had made available. Broadcasting and other media ensured the public notice of these pioneers who nevertheless valued an element of national awareness and responsibility. Later generations have viewed with some nostalgia their lasting achievements.


Prominent and very influential among these gifted individuals was the figure of David Wynne [Thomas], a largely self-taught former miner who became a school teacher and eventually an university lecturer in composition, revered by many of his contemporaries and especially by his students, turning him into a kind of 'guru' of Welsh music. Without leaving his native patch, his powerful intellect and curiosity made him familiar with the changing styles and fashions which were in favour with composers in Europe and beyond. He won the Clements Memorial Prize (for a chamber work) while still a schoolmaster in 1945. This brought his name to the fore and also the admiration and friendship of the composer Michael Tippett."


The composer David Wynne in conversation with A. J. Heward Rees

AJHR: I feel it a marvellous experience and privilege to chat with you, not only because you are in such obvious respects Wales's senior composer (having been born in the first year of this century), but also in a more special sense because your own personal 'breakthrough ' as an artist seems to have coincided very largely with the mature flowering of twentieth century music m Wales itself. Let's go back to the beginning however. How did it all start for you?

DW: By accident, almost! Nowadays when I look back on my career it seems rather uncanny the way things have turned out. I have had some extraordinary pieces of good luck and at difficult moments there often seems to have been somebody or something around to give me a nudge in a positive direction. Well, anyway, it all began when I went to Tom Llewelyn Jenkins for a few piano lessons. You may remember him. He became a university piano tutor, years later, at Aberystwyth.

AJHR: Yes, I do, he was there when I arrived in the early fifties.

DW: Now that was my first piece of good luck (although I didn't realise it at the time. Tom Llewelyn was an exceptionally alert and enterprising musician, holding the diplomas of LRAM (piano) and FRCO (organ), which fifty years ago were considered very distinctive qualifications. He was organist at Moriah Chapel, Cilfynydd, where I was a member. One of his closest and most interesting friends was Cyril Jenkins, who by the standards of Welsh music in those days was a very modern composer indeed.

AJHR: He was well known for castigating Welsh musicians for being backward, wasn't he? He had an extraordinary career, too, it seems. You must tell me more about him later. What made you turn to music, and to Tom Llewelyn, as you call him?

DW: Quite simply this: my sister bought a piano. I was twenty years old at the time and, with typical youthful exhibitionism wanted to entertain my friends by being able to accompany them at the piano in the popular ballads of the time, such as Yes, we have 

David Wynne.jpg

no bananas, My little grey home in the West, and so on. I had no idea then that I would eventually become a professional musician. Although (like most people of my time) I was a member of the chapel choir and read sol-fa reasonably well, I can't recall that I was especially interested in music. At that time I was concerned about finding a way to get out of coal-mining, and with this purpose in view was studying electrical engineering at night-school and by correspondence. But there was one great difficulty: I had no practical experience of the mechanics of this subject. I managed the mathematical and theoretic problems without too much difficulty, but had I been faced with an electric motor of even the simplest design I should probably not have recognized one end from the other. From the first lesson with Tom Llewelyn, music absorbed my attention as nothing else had ever done. As a youngster I had played the mouth-organ a lot and was fond of making up tunes and playing variations on old tunes, without being conscious of any particular musical talent. I started my musical career shadowed by an incredible amount of musical naivety. When my teacher started me on my first 'Tutor' I remember thinking: "When I get through this I shall know all about music." Such was my ignorance. I was so carried away by enthusiasm for my newly found activity that I had got through my first 'Tutor' by the end of the first term. I was still unaware that there was any music other than the popular music of the time, and when my teacher told me that we would follow the tutor with a study of the Six Sonatinas by Clementi, I was both astonished and disappointed to find that the pieces were for piano solo. I diffidently asked when we were to start playing popular music. Tom Llewelyn's face clouded over and I immediately realised I had made a bloomer. "It's usual to do Clementi after the 'Tutor'," he said, and proceeded to play the first Sonatina in C. And as he played I realised why; for something extraordinary was happening to me, as though some chemical change was activating an aesthetic reorientation. From that moment I was hooked on classical music, and from then on couldn't get enough of it.

AJHR: How extraordinary! But surely you must have heard some music of this kind before, somewhere - on the chapel organ perhaps?

DW: I must have, of course. But I can't have been consciously or actively aware of it; certainly not at the level of comprehension which listening to the Clementi Sonatina communicated to me. At the age of 20 a new world of experience was opening up for me. From then on, apart from my piano studies, I went on to study the theory of harmony and strict counterpoint and progressed rapidly through classical