Joseph Parry biography

Joseph Parry


1841 – 1903


Who was Joseph Parry?

Joseph Parry was a Welsh composer and musician. Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, he is best known as the composer of Myfanwy and Aberystwyth used in Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika the National anthem of South Africa.

The cottage at 4 Chapel Row, Merthyr Tydfil, where Parry was born, is now open to the public as a museum. Parry's family emigrated to the United States in 1854, when he was 13, and he became an ironworker in Danville, Pennsylvania. There was a large Welsh community there and he became involved in strengthening Welsh culture locally. When, in 1865, he was admitted to the Gorsedd at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, he took the bardic name, "Pencerdd America".

He became a Freemason in 1867, while in Pennsylvania. His 1875 song, Ysgytwad y Llaw appears to acknowledge his connection with the movement. He returned to Great Britain and studied music in London under William Sterndale Bennett and at the University of Cambridge. In 1873 he became Professor of Music at the University of Wales.

In 1876, he joined the masonic lodge at Aberystwyth, and became their organist. His opera, Blodwen, was first performed in the town's Temperance Hall on 21 May 1878, and was an enormous success, racking up a further 500 performances worldwide by 1896. His oratorio, Saul of Tarsus, was commissioned for the National Eisteddfod at Rhyl in 1892, and was also a major success. In about 1881, the Parry family left Aberystwyth for Swansea.


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May 21, 1841
Merthyr Tydfil
Also known as
  • Parry, Joseph
  • Royal Academy of Music
Feb 17, 1903

on July 23, 2013

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