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Arwel Hughes (1909 - 1988)

Arwel Hughes was born in Rhosllanerchrugog on the 25th of August 1909. He was educated at Ruabon Grammar School near Wrexham and at the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Vaughan Williams and C. H. Kitson.

Upon completing his studies at the RCM, he became organist at the church of St Philip and St James, Oxford, and in 1935 returned to Wales to join the staff of the music department at the BBC. His duties included a great deal of conducting, and he directed the first performances of many works by Welsh composers, including Grace Williams, David Wynne and Alun Hoddinott. He was also called upon to compose, arrange and orchestrate music for live radio broadcasts.

He was appointed as Head of Music of BBC Wales in 1965, a post he held with great esteem until his retirement in 1971. He was made an OBE in 1969 for his services to Welsh music and for organising the music for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in the same year. From 1978 until 1986 he was Honorary Music Director of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

For many years Arwel Hughes conducted performances by the Welsh National Opera, and his own two operas, Menna, a tragedy based on a Welsh folk legend, and Serch yw'r Doctor, ‘Love's the Doctor', a comedy adapted from Molière, were produced by the company in 1954 and 1960. These works played an important role in the development of opera in Wales, works which demonstrate his attractive lyricism and melodic originality.

He is most revered for his music for chorus and orchestra, a genre in which he excelled. The large-scale oratorios of Dewi Sant (Saint David) and Pantycelyn exemplify his imagination and technical competence and combine the early twentieth century British tradition with his original harmonic language. Gweddi (A Prayer) is a shorter work containing haunting melodies which encapsulate the spirit of the composer. From within there is a personality that is recognisably Celtic.

The composer's orchestral writing includes a skilfully written Fantasia for Strings which has received many performances. From the 1940's there followed a stream of works for orchestra including Suite for Orchestra, Prelude for Orchestra, dedicated to the Youth of Wales, Anatiomaros and a Symphony. There are a quantity of songs and chamber music.


Principal works



  • Menna (3, W Griffith), 1950 -51, perf 1954

  • Serch yw'r doctor (Love's the doctor) (3, S. Lewis, after Molière: L'amour médecin), perf. 1960


  • Fantasia , strings, 1936

  • Anatiomaros , 1943

  • Prelude for Orchestra , 1945

  • Suite , 1947

  • Saint Francis (masque, G. James), S, T, narrator, chorus, orch 1965

  • Symphony , 1971

  • Legend: Owain Glyndwr , 1979


  • Tydi a Roddaist ( text: T. Rowland Hughes ), chorus, piano, also arranged for S.S.A, T.T.B.B., also with orchestra, 1938

  • Gweddi (A Prayer) (liturgical text), S, chorus, str (full orch version also), 1944

  • Dewi Sant (Saint David) (text: A.T.Davies), S, T, B, chorus, orch, 1950

  • Pantycelyn (text arr. A. T. Davies), S, T, B, chorus, orch, 1963

  • Mab y Dyn (Son of Man) (cantata, biblical text), S, chorus, org, 1967

  • The Beatitudes (biblical text) S, (T) TTBB, organ

  • In memoriam (Psalm cxxi), chorus, org, 1969

  • Psalm 148 , male chorus, 1970

  • Mass for Celebration , S, A, male chorus, orch without ww, 1977

  • Gloria Patri , SATB orch, 1986


  • 3 string quartets, 1948, 1976, 1983;

  • Unfinished quartet 1932;

  • Various choral, orchestral and vocal pieces;

There are also many arrangements of folk songs and incidental music for radio and television.

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