Grace Williams

Grace Williams

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Williams was born in Barry, near Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales and the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for...

, Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...


She was educated at Barry County School, and won a scholarship to Cardiff University
Cardiff University
Cardiff University is a leading research university located in the Cathays Park area of Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom. It received its Royal charter in 1883 and is a member of the Russell Group of Universities. The university is consistently recognised as providing high quality research-based...

 ( University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire
Cardiff University
Cardiff University is a leading research university located in the Cathays Park area of Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom. It received its Royal charter in 1883 and is a member of the Russell Group of Universities. The university is consistently recognised as providing high quality research-based...

). She then went to the Royal College of Music
Royal College of Music
The Royal College of Music is a conservatoire founded by Royal Charter in 1882, located in South Kensington, London, England.-Background:The first director was Sir George Grove and he was followed by Sir Hubert Parry...

, London, where she was taught by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

. During the Second World War, the students were evacuated to Grantham
Grantham is a market town within the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It bestrides the East Coast Main Line railway , the historic A1 main north-south road, and the River Witham. Grantham is located approximately south of the city of Lincoln, and approximately east of Nottingham...

 in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

, where Grace composed some of her earliest works, including the Sinfonia Concertante and her first symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...


During and after the war, Williams suffered from depression and other stress-related health problems. Having taught in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, she returned to Wales, where she worked for the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

. One of her most popular works was her Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes (1940). In 1960-61 she wrote her only opera, The Parlour, which was not performed until 1966. In the same year, she turned down an offer of the OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 for her services to music.

BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 is a national radio station operated by the BBC within the United Kingdom. Its output centres on classical music and opera, but jazz, world music, drama, culture and the arts also feature. The station is the world’s most significant commissioner of new music, and its New Generation...

 devoted their Composer of the Week segment to her during the second week of August 2006. This resulted in several new performances of long-unperformed works, including her Violin Concerto.

Principal works

  • Elegy for String orchestra (1936)
  • Four Illustrations for the Legend of Rhiannon (1939)
  • Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes (1940)
  • Sinfonia Concertante for piano and orchestra (1941)
  • Symphony no. 1 (1943)
  • Sea Sketches, for String orchestra (1944)
  • Violin Concerto (c. 1945)
  • The Dancers (1951)
  • Penillion, for orchestra (1955)
  • Symphony no. 2 (1956)
  • All Seasons shall be Sweet (1959)
  • The Parlour, opera (1961)
  • Trumpet Concerto (1963)
  • Carillons, for oboe and orchestra (1965)
  • Ballads for Orchestra (1968)
  • Missa Cambrensis (1971)
  • Ave Maris Stella, for choir (1973)
  • Fairest of Stars, for soprano and orchestra (1973)


Only a handful of Williams' works have been recorded. Her Second Symphony, Penillion, Sea Sketches and Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes have been included in two Lyrita
Lyrita is a classical music record label, specializing in the works of British composers.Lyrita began releasing LPs in October 1959 as Lyrita Recorded Edition for sale by mail order subscription. The founder of the company, Richard Itter of Burnham, Buckinghamshire, was a businessman and record...

 compilations, and several choral works, including Ave Maris Stella, were recorded for a Chandos Records
Chandos Records
Chandos Records is an independent classical music recording company based in Colchester, Essex, in the United Kingdom, founded in 1979 by Brian Couzens.- Background :...

 collection. Ballads for Orchestra was recorded by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Baldur Brönnimann and was included in issue number 35 of BBC Music Magazine
BBC music magazine
BBC Music Magazine is a magazine published monthly in the United Kingdom by BBC Worldwide, the commercial subsidiary of the BBC. Reflecting the broadcast output of BBC Radio 3, the magazine is devoted primarily to classical music, though with sections on jazz and world music. Each edition comes...

External links