Uncovering works by Morfydd Owen

10 December 2018

Morfydd Owen
Morfydd Owen

On Friday 14 December at Eglwys Dewi Sant, Cardiff University Chamber Choir, under the direction of Peter Leech, will present rarely heard choral works by Welsh composer Morfydd Owen, marking the 100th anniversary of her death in 1918.

The programme will include the world premiere performance of two pieces, Fierce raged the tempest (1911) and a Jubilate Deo (1913). Three more, Sweet & low (1911), The Refugee (c.1911) and My luve is like a red, red rose (1912), will have their first modern concert performances since their creation and early performances by the Music Department Choir at the then University College Cardiff.

Until now, these five pieces have been held in their original manuscripts in Cardiff University’s Special Collections. This summer, Music student Megan Auld undertook a Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project (CUROP) to transcribe the pieces and enable them to be performed and brought to life once more.

Born in Treforest in 1891, Morfydd Owen was a child prodigy who won a scholarship to study at the School of Music, then University College, Cardiff. Graduating in 1912, she quickly established a reputation as a composer, pianist and singer.

In just a few short years, Morfydd was a prolific composer, producing over 180 pieces. Tragically, she died on 7 September 1918 aged just 26.

2018 has been a year of numerous performances of her work, most notably her orchestral works and songs – repertoire which has become increasingly popular with audiences. Much less well known, however, as the small number of choral works, some of which were left unfinished at her death.

Choir director and organiser of the CUROP Research project, Dr Peter Leech, said: “I am very proud that this exciting and intensely rewarding project will have fulfilled several key aims. It will have brought a neglected area of Morfydd Owen compositional output to greater prominence through public performances, as well as giving Megan valuable archival experience.

“This project demonstrates how a multi-faceted research project can enrich our lives through the rediscovery of a fascinating period in the history of Welsh music.”

The Chamber Choir will perform in Eglwys Dewi Sant on Friday 14 December at 7pm. Tickets £5