THOMAS was born in the parish
of Coity, Bridgend, on St David's Day, March 1st 1826, the eldest
son of John and Catherine Thomas. His music-loving father - a tailor
by trade - bought him a triple harp, which by the age of twelve
he had mastered so well that, in October 1838, he won the principal
competition at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod. With the artistic patronage
of Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of the poet Byron, he entered
London's Royal Academy of Music, where he studied the double-action
pedal harp with John Balsir Chatterton. This meant a complete change
of technique; whereas before John Thomas had placed the triple
harp on his left shoulder in the traditional manner, playing the
treble with the left hand and the bass with the right hand, now
he was obliged to rest the harp on his right shoulder, using the
right hand to play the treble and the left hand to play the bass.
In the course of time, a long and distinguished
professional career took John Thomas all over Europe, starting
in 1851. He also visited the United States, where his dramatic
cantata Llewelyn was performed at the Chicago World Fair. His teaching
career culminated in his being appointed professor at the Royal
Academy of Music, and in 1871 he was appointed Harpist to the Queen.
He took great pride in the bardic title Pencerdd Gwalia (Chief
Musician of Wales) bestowed upon him by the National Eisteddfod.
His compositions for the harp are very well-written, and to this
day, remain extremely popular with harpists and audiences alike.
The four studies selected for this volume include his unique Study
for the Left Hand, and are taken from the series of twelve which
he composed between 1863 and 1868, and which were originally published
by Hutchings and Romer.
1. Study - Allegro con brio.
- Allegro con moto.
3. Study for the left hand - Andante moderato
4. Study - Larghetto
In the previously unknown cover portrait
by Elliott and Fry, John Thomas plays a special Gothic model harp
made for him in London by the firm of Sebastian and Pierre Erard.
The copyright property of the National Portrait Gallery, the photograph
is reproduced by kind permission.