Born 13 November 1819 in Lower Market Street, Carmarthen, the son of Henry and Elizabeth Brinley Richards. The father was organist of S. Peter's church, Carmarthen; he also kept a music shop. His mother was the daughter of John Brinley, Swansea (see F. Jones, God Bless the Prince of Wales, Carmarthen, 1969).
Intended for the medical profession, the son showed that his inclination was towards music. In the Gwent and Morgannwg eisteddfod of 1834 he won a prize for variations on the Welsh air called ‘Llwyn Onn’ (‘The Ash Grove’). The duke of Newcastle became his patron, and he entered the Royal Academy of Music, London. In the following year (1835) he won the king's scholarship, repeating this success in 1837. He went to Paris for a further course of study and there came to know Chopin. On his return to London he was appointed an instructor in the Royal Academy; later he became director. He was the originator of the Academy's local examination system and became superintendent of the examinations held in Wales and Scotland. Regarded as the finest piano player in the country, he also won repute as a teacher of the piano.
He did not sever his connection with Wales — he served as adjudicator in eisteddfodau, took an interest in the triple harp (see N.L.W. MS. 1904), and delivered a course of lectures on the music of Wales. His compositions and arrangements were very numerous — there are over 250 items listed in the British Museum catalogue of printed music. Among them are several piano pieces, the three volumes entitled The Classical Pianist, Student Practice, and The Pianist Library; and ‘Overture in F minor’ (published at Paris in 1840 and performed at the Chester eisteddfod of 1860), a concerto for piano and orchestra, choral pieces (‘Cenwch udgorn yn Seion,’ ‘Let the hills resound,’ etc.). His best-remembered piece, as far as Welsh people are concerned, is ‘God bless the prince of Wales’ (1862). His Songs of Wales, first published in 1873, had a very wide circulation, in this respect proving a more popular work than his Welsh Choir.
He was a prominent member of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion from 1873 until his death on 2 May 1885; he was buried in the Brompton cemetery, London.
Published date: 1959
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