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John Thomas (1826 - 1913)

John Thomas, harpist and composer, was born on 1 March, 1826, to a large respected family in the Welsh town of Bridgend. Although his first instruments were the piccolo and the violin, which were introduced by his musically-inclined father who performed locally as a clarinettist, the young John Thomas was attracted to the harp and it instantly became his lifetime passion. Interestingly, the first harp presented to John Thomas was a triple harp, which was so in vogue at the time in Wales that it was also known as the Welsh harp. He played it in the Welsh fashion, placing the harp on his left shoulder, and playing the treble with his left hand and the bass with his right hand – the opposite of today’s concert harp technique.

Besides his teaching at the Royal Academy of Music, where he himself had completed his study with the sponsorship of Lady Augusta Ada Lovelace, a harpist and daughter of Lord Byron, John Thomas presented Welsh music in London as well as across the continent, in Germany, Italy, Russia, Austria, and in France, where Hector Berlioz enthusiastically commented, “Voilà comment on joue de la harpe… Il m’a charmé, fasciné, magnetisé”. He was also harpist to the Royal Italian Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and as a result was inspired to compose numerous vocal works.




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