Born 18 February 1776 at Denbigh, the son of Thomas Parry, a stonemason from Aberchwiler. His first lessons in music were given him by a dancing master who taught him the clarinet. In 1793 he joined the Denbighshire volunteers' band of which, four years later, he became the conductor.
He settled in London in 1807, began to be in demand at concerts as a player on wind instruments, and started to compose pieces for such concerts. He published songs and other pieces in 1809 and was invited to write music for use in the Vauxhall Gardens; he was afterwards responsible for the music at that resort for many years. He had previously published (in 1804) The Ancient Britons' Martial Music and (in 1807) had produced a second series, arranged for piano or harp, flute, and 'cello. He contributed articles on Welsh airs to the Cambro-Briton, 1819-22.
In 1820 he was appointed to organize the music side of the 'eisteddfod Powys,' to be held at Welshpool; it was at this eisteddfod that he was given the name of Bardd Alaw. In 1821 he published a collection of Welsh airs with English words by Felicia Hemans. He published two operas also that year; one of these which ran for twenty-five nights, brought him into prominence as a composer. The Cymmrodorion gave him a 'benefit' eisteddfod (really a concert) 24 May 1826. He was musical adjudicator or conductor at various eisteddfodau - e.g. Brecon, 1822-6; Beaumaris, 1832; Cardiff, 1834; Abergavenny, 1836-48. In 1820 he founded 'Cymdeithas y Canorion' with the object of encouraging singing to the accompaniment of the harp. For many years he edited the hymn-tunes published in Seren Gomer.
He died 8 April 1851. He was a member (and president in 1819) of the Gwyneddigion society, and 'Registrar of Music' in the second Cymmrodorion society.
John Parry's son was born 3 January 1810 in London. He was taught the harp by Boscha, and when he was 15 appeared in public as a professional harpist. He was also a good pianist, and when he was twenty began to appear as a vocalist (baritone). He was also an artist of some repute. Afterwards he turned to light and entertaining songs. A duet composed by him called 'Flow gently, Deva' became very popular in Wales. In 1840 he composed a light opera called 'Wanted, a Governess'; he was also busy producing numerous songs. He had left the stage in 1842 for the concert-room, and in 1850 he came out as an entertainer. He gave this up in 1853 for health reasons, and became organist of S. Jude's church, Southsea. He joined Thomas German Reed, musician and entertainer, in 1860, but retired in 1869 owing to ill health.
He married, 30 June 1835, Anne, daughter of Henry Combe, surgeon (died 1883). He died 20 February 1879, at East Molesey, Surrey.
For numerous examples of the work of John Orlando Parry as musician, entertainer, and amateur artist, see the details given in N.L.W. Handlist of MSS., i, ii, iii, where N.L.W. MSS. 4925-31, 8286-93, and 10070 are described.
Published date: 1959
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