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Women's history: Music

Morfydd Owen's marriage certificate

Archives: Morfydd Llwyn Owen, 1909-1918

Morfydd Llwyn Owen (1891-1918) was a highly gifted Welsh composer, pianist and mezzo-soprano. She was not only immensely talented but prolific. Despite dying young, aged 26, she produced over 180 compositions in less than ten years. The collection constitutes the totality of her musical output. The collection comprises compositions including orchestral, choral, piano, and chamber works, songs, operas, and the four volume Memorial Edition of Morfydd Owen's posthumously published works. It also contains a collection of personal memorabilia – performance programmes, a large collection of press notices, and her marriage certificate to psychoanalyst and Freud biographer, Ernest Jones. On her marriage certificate, Morfydd lies about her age, and provides no profession, despite having forged a highly successful musical career by this point. Archives 430

 

Archives: Grace Williams, 1940-1969

The composer Grace Williams (1906-1977) was born in Barry, near Cardiff. In 1923 she won the Morfydd Owen scholarship to Cardiff University (University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire) where she studied under Professor David Evans. In 1926 she proceeded to the Royal College of Music, London, where she was taught by Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In 1930 she was awarded a travelling scholarship, and chose to study with Egon Wellesz in Vienna. From 1932 she taught in London.

During the Second World War, the students were evacuated to Grantham in Lincolnshire, where she composed some of her earliest works, including the Sinfonia Concertante and her first symphony, most of which she subsequently destroyed. One of her most popular works, Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes (1940) was written during this period. In 1945, she returned to her home town, remaining there for the rest of her life, dedicating herself more or less full-time to composition, and writing scripts for BBC Radio. The archive contains many of these scripts: most are for children's programmes, but some contain autobiographical material or are clearly for adult listeners or music specialists.

Her most enduringly popular work is Penillion, written for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales in 1955. In 1966, she turned down an offer of the OBE for her services to music. Archives 431

 

Archives: Nancy Storace papers, 1766-1817

The Nancy Storace (aka Anna Selina) collection includes plate-glass negatives, floor plans, and correspondence related to the woman who premiered the role of Susanna in Mozart's ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’. She was an operatic singer born of Italian descent. Archives 445