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John Thomas

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There are at least two artists called John Thomas.
1) 19th-century Welsh harpist and composer;
2) American keyboardist, associated with Captain Beefheart and Bruce Hornsby.

1) John Thomas (‘Pencerdd Gwalia’) (1826-1913), harpist and composer, was born in Bridgend, Glamorgan. In 1838, he won the triple harp at the Abergavenny eisteddfod. In 1840, he went to the Royal Academy of Music, and was made a Fellow on his departure in 1846. In 1851, he began a concert tour of Europe, and in 1862 gave his first London concert of Welsh music. He was appointed harpist to Queen Victoria in 1871 and continued as royal harpist under Edward VII. He became a teacher at the Royal Academy in 1871, and formed the London Welsh Choral Union. In 1882, Thomas became a Royal Academy examiner and teacher of the harp in the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music. He composed a harp concerto, symphonies, overtures, quartets, operas and songs. His best-known piece is A Minstrel’s Adieu To His Native Land (Ffarwel y Telynor). Yoonee van den Eynde and Judy Loman are among the many harpists who have since interpreted Thomas’ works for the instrument. Geneviève Chevallier and Christine Fleischmann presented his Grand Duet for Two Harps in E flat major on an early-’90s collection of tandem harp twanging. Early new age advocates have also brought Thomas’ music in line with the spacy genre’s Celtic harp connection.

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