The Importance of Harpist John Thomas as a Welsh Nationalistic Composer and His Impact on the Development of VIrtuosic Harp Repertoire
Committee ChairMcLaughlin, Carrol
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractWelsh-born harpist and composer John Thomas performed for audiences throughout Europe serving as the harpist to Queen Victoria of England. He was trained in London at the Royal Academy of Music, yet remained loyal to his Welsh heritage throughout his life. He began composing at the age of 16 while still a student at the Academy and continued arranging and composing repertoire for harp well into the Twentieth Century.This document will show that John Thomas was instrumental in the development of virtuosic harp literature and the recognition of the double-action pedal harp as a concert instrument while maintaining a strong sense of Welsh Nationalism as demonstrated in his original compositions. Like the Welsh harpists and composers before him, Thomas collected and preserved Welsh Airs. In addition, Thomas participated at numerous Eisteddfoddau, lectured on the history of the Welsh Harp, and wrote the "Welsh Music History" article in the first edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. However, unlike his predecessors, Thomas composed for the modern pedal harp and employed virtuosic techniques heretofore unexplored in Welsh harp music.Though this harpist, composer, and music historian produced a prolific output of virtuosic works and historical writings, very little has been documented on his life and career. There are no complete works lists in print. Many of Thomas' manuscripts and published works remain out of print in the National Library of Wales. The Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians contains only a brief article on this composer's life and career.Thomas is internationally recognized as a leading composer and performer among harpists of the Nineteenth Century. His works are still performed by harpists in recitals at international conferences and competitions including the World Harp Congresses. Further, Thomas' students became touring performers and made a significant mark on the performing arena throughout much of the Twentieth Century.