Thomas, Mansel, 1909-1986.

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Thomas, Mansel, 1909-1986.

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Mansel Thomas was a composer, conductor and, for many years, the BBC's principal music representative for Wales.

He was born in Pontygwaith, in the Rhondda Fach, in 1909. At the age of 15 he won the Rhondda Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied composition and piano. During his studentship he won a number of prestigious awards and prizes, and graduated in 1930.

Having worked as a free-lance musician in London for a number of years, he joined the BBC in Cardiff in 1936 as a music producer and assistant conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra. In 1939 he married the cellist Megan Lloyd and they had two daughters, Grace and Siân. Following the evacuation of the BBC departments during the war years, he worked in Bristol (with the BBC Singers and Chorus) and Bangor (with the BBC Variety Department) prior to war service, mainly in Belgium.

In 1946 he returned to the BBC as principal conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra and in 1950 succeeded Idris Lewis as Head of Music, BBC Wales. He always supported contemporary Welsh composers and during this period encouraged the performance of their music. Taking early retirement in 1965 in order to devote his time entirely to composition, he and his wife moved to Treadam in Gwent. During this period he also gave lectures to students of the Music Department at U.C.W., Aberystwyth, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the University in 1972. He suffered a major stroke in 1979 and wrote little else of significance up to his death in 1986.

Mansel Thomas wrote or arranged a large and varied range of music - vocal, choral and instrumental, of both a sacred and secular nature. However, he is best remembered for his songs, part-songs and major choral works, both for mixed voices and male voices. Almost all his works have been published, the majority by the Mansel Thomas Trust. He was awarded the OBE and FRAM for his services to British music and the John Edwards Memorial Award for his outstanding service to music in Wales.

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