News Column

Maestro's Memory of a Musical Life

August 7, 2013


LLANELLI'S magical maestro, John Hywel Williams MBE takes time out with the Llanelli Star to talk about his music, performances and future concerts.

The acclaimed conductor and founder of the Hywel Girls' Choir & Hywel Boy Singers and Llanelli Choral Society, has formed and led some of Llanelli's oldest choirs, conducted choirs and orchestras around the world.

Q What inspired you to a life of music, conducting and choirs? A I wasn't born into a musical family, quite the opposite. As a child, I was crippled by polio and ill with meningitis. My polio meant I was house bound with little entertainment. I did have an old record player through which I found escape by listening to great classical works. This fuelled my love of music. Fortunately, I overcame my illnesses and the music bug stayed with me.

Q Your musical activities started at a young age. Do you have any key memories? A Yes, my music started young. I was the organist at my chapel, Soar Fach by the age of 11, and in my latter teens started the Hywel Girls' Choir. In those days it consisted of young ladies, mostly older than me. For the early international tours, my parents even came with me!

My college days at Trinity College were musical fun. I became a lifelong friend with opera singer Stuart Burrows and also started the Trinity Male Voice Choir. All this, together with the Hywel Girls' Choir allowed a lot of fun combinations for concerts and broadcasts and set in place my pathway to music.

Q With more than 800 performances, are there any favourites? A All performances are special, from the greatest of concert halls to the warmth of small community events.

Some stick in my mind -- the radio broadcast from Prague where I proposed to my wife Jean, seeing my young choristers perform on some of the world's great concert halls such as the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, singing for the Pope at the Vatican or the Eurovision broadcast from Belgrade, and closer to home the thrill and giggle I get at the annual Llanelli Proms in watching friends in the audience go mad with song and flags.

Q You've had a busy year so far -- do you enjoy that? A I love being busy! In the first half of the year, we've enjoyed eight performances both home and away, four television appearances, various TV interviews, workshops and master classes and some fun events like the popular Super Sing for BBC Children in Need.

Q With your choirs enjoying a summer break, are you relaxing too? A Yes and no. In the absence of rehearsals, this is a great time to reflect and plan for the concert season ahead. There are repertoires to build, programmes to plan, orchestrations to arrange.

As my mantra goes, we are only as good as our next performance. Later this month, we'll be filming and interviewing for an ITV programme on Eurovision Song Contest winners, the Brotherhood of Man.

? For more with John Hywel Williams, see next week's Star.

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