Daniel Griffiths 1828 – 1903

The Father of “Y Gymanfa Ganu”
Daniel Griffiths
Mr Daniel Griffiths, who may most appropriately be selected as the representative of congregational singing in the Aberdare Valley, was born in 1828, He was the son of Evan Griffiths, who kept a grocery, drapery, ironmongery, and general stores at Ty-Mawr, in the High Street, (the house was later owned by Dr Evan Jones, J.P.). He took over the business from his father as an ironmonger, and for many years was one of the leading tradesmen in Aberdare. From his early years he took a keen interest in music, and being connected to Carmel Methodist Chapel, Trecynon.

From his childhood he was deeply interested in singing, he learnt the rudiments of music at the singing school conducted by the then leader of Carmel, Mr Abraham James (father of Mr Benjamin James, of London, who was the conductor of the Singing Festival at Hirwaun District of the Calvinistic Methodists, which was held in 1853). He very soon came to be looked upon as the recognised assistant of Mr James, often accompanying him to the various towns and villages in the North Glamorgan, where he trained choirs and &c.

Young Griffiths was soon recognised as his assistant, and it may be said his subsequent lifetime was devoted to improving the music of the sanctuary. He was an ardent Eisteddfodwr, and his name frequently appears in the records of local and semi-national eisteddfodau of the fifties and sixties as a prize winner. In 1855, on the formation of the Bethania Church, Aberdare, Mr Griffiths was one of those who left Carmel to join the new cause, and he was appointed choirmaster, bringing the singing at Bethania up to a high standard. He gathered around him & band of musicians, whose names became known throughout the length and breadth of the land, among them being Silas Evans, Joseph Hughes, Alaw Ddu, David Rosser, and others, while the minister, the late Dr Saunders, was himself a musician of no mean status.

Three years later the church at Bethania received a notable addition to its musical talent in the late leuan Gwyllt, who came to Aberdare to undertake the editorship of the “Gwladgarwr.” A little earlier “Cymanfa Gerddorol Gwent a Morganwg” (The Monmouthshire and South Wales Temperance Singing Association) having ceased to exist, the question of holding annual congregational singing- festivals was mooted, and Mr Griffiths, who had been prominently connected, with the temperance festivals, took up the matter in earnest. The idea of holding a Singing Festival, or Cymanfa Ganu, had already been mooted by the late John L. Thomas “Ieuan Ddu”, the editor of the “Cambrian Minstrel”; but to Mr Daniel Griffiths, above everyone else, is due the credit for having brought the idea to a practical and satisfactory outcome.

Ieuan Gwyllt at that time was engaged in preparing his tune book for the press, and he was urged by Mr Griffiths to publish a selection of his tunes, and have them rehearsed for a cymanfa ganu. This Ieuan Gwyllt ultimately” agreed to, and the first Gymanfa ganu, at least in its present form, was held at the Temperance Hall, Aberdare, on January 10th, 1859. Ieuan Gwyllt himself conducted, but the whole preparation and training of the choirs was under-taken by Mr Griffiths. In the meantime an excellent united choir for eisteddfod contests, of which Mr Griffiths was a member, was formed by the late Caradog at Trecynon in the early part of 1853. Under the renowned Caradog this choir became the finest in the Principality, and at eisteddfod after eisteddfod proved successful. Their continued success led to the proposal to form a South Wales choir to compete for the 1,000 guinea challenge cup offered for competition at the Crystal Palace contest in 1872. Of this choir Mr Griffiths became a member, and proved a valuable assistant to Caradog, who ever acknowledged the indebtedness of Y Cor Mawr to him.

When the contest was over Mr Griffiths was one of the strongest advocates of a new departure by the Aberdare section of the choir, urging them to give up eisteddfod contests and devote themselves to the performance of complete works. This was the origin of the Christmas oratorio concerts of the Aberdare Choral Society, the conductor being Mr Rees Evans, of Aberdare, and subsequently his son, Mr W. J. Evans. In other directions Mr Griffiths rendered valuable services to musical culture in Wales, especially in the assistance he gave to the Rev. William James, Bethania, in the preparation of the new Calvinistic Methodist hymn and tune book. One, of his peculiar gifts was that of uniting appropriate hymns and tunes. Last year he retired from business, and advantage was taken of the opportunity by his friends in the town and music lovers throughout the Principality to present him with a testimonial. This reached a handsome sum, and included subscriptions from England and Wales, and even from the United States of America.

Several Festivals were afterwards held at irregular intervals; but the first held as an annual institution was in the summer of 1872. Since that date, they became a recognised event; and each recurring May brings an immense audience together to listen to the various anthems and tunes in which the choirs have perfected themselves during the years. Mr Griffith’s labours in rehearsing the various choirs during the years were very heavy; but the song of union between the singers and their conductor was so perfect that the difficulties were surmounted in a marvellous fashion.

This introduction of Singing Festivals in 1859, proved to be of immense importance to the Welsh musical world, and possibly there is no other medium which has contributed so much to the cultivation of music throughout the length and breadth of Wales. In those days, in nearly every district of the Principality, these Festivals were being held; and their adoption by every denomination was a proof of the benefit rendered by them to the worship of the Sanctuary.

Mr Griffiths held a unique position in connection with the history of the music of Aberdare, for during his fifty years in Aberdare, there was hardly been any form of music taken up in the district in which he had not taken part. During the earlier part of this period, he attained considerable distinction at Eisteddfodau and Concerts as a Soloist. He was however, of so retiring a nature that he never took a leading position when it had been possible to induce someone else to occupy that position; but in an unofficial way he did more for the music in the district than any other man.

The training which he has bestowed on the various choirs, parties, etc., has been most valuable. One noted local singer remarked that the most valuable part of his musical education, when a youngster, was gained by attending Mr Daniel Griffith’s rehearsals, and treasuring the ideas and remarks given therein.

One of Mr Griffith’s gifts was a marvellous faculty for uniting together the most appropriate hymn and tune. Those who knew him remembered the keen critical and artistic judgement brought to bear upon every bar of the music, and very word of the hymn, and the untiring search maintained until the choice has been made. He was one of the finest musical critics in South Wakes; and was unequalled for extreme musical taste and appreciation of everything which is most beautiful in art.

He was much such an enthusiastic music-lover that he never missed an opportunity of hearing the chief vocalists and instrumentalists in the kingdom, and he had the most vivid re-collections of almost every artiste of fame in England, including the noted tenor Braham, Miss Jenny Lind, Sims Reeves, Santley, Mario, &c. He never married.

A presentation was held at a public meeting at Bethania Chapel, presided over by his Honour Judge Gwilym Williams, the address being read by Dyfed, and the presentation made by Mr T. Marchant Williams, the Merthyr stipendiary magistrate. It was then hoped that he would be spared many years to enjoy well-earned repose from business, but an internal disease made itself manifest, and on Thursday last it became necessary for him to undergo an operation. It was thought for some time that he was in no danger, but about 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon his temperature rapidly increased, and before midnight he had passed away.

The last of the week, we made mention of the death of our respected friend Mr. Daniel Griffiths. We pay him the respect due to his memory, as we believe that no one more than by congregational during his lifetime. He was always ready to provide any assistance in the links above. It was also his suggestions are always acceptable. There is no dispute that was not the whole of Wales and loss after him as though he acknowledged it was not surprising that a wave-composing, he did much to marry the wave or the hymn and lyrics.

Funeral of Daniel Griffiths

A very large representation of the musicians of the Principality and others attended the funeral of the late Mr Daniel Griffiths, of Aberdare, on Wednesday evening, at the Aberdare Cemetery. A brief service was held at The Poplars the residence of the deceased. The Rev R.T. Williams, Argyll Street, Swansea, read and prayed, and the Rev. W. Jones, Bethania gave out the hymn “Mae’n Nghyfeillion Adre’n Mvned,” which was sung to the tune “Lausanne” by the choir, which were congregated on the lawn.

The procession, then made its way to Aberdare public cemetery, and among the crowd came from a colleagues, we saw the following persons Revs J. Morgan Jones, Cardiff, R.T. Williams, Dr T. Rees, Merthyr; R.S. Thomas, Abercynon, J. Morgan Bryn Seion, L Llewelyn, Glynneath. J. Harris Jones, Aberaman, R Williams, Nazareth W Margam Jones, Llwydcoed; W Harris, Aberdare; T. Jones, Carmel, J. Lent Jones, Ebenezer, J. Lewis, D. Evans Aberaman, Cwmbach H. Fisher Short, Aberdare; H.T. Stephens, Carmel, J. O’Reilly, J Mills, Abernant; W.J. Phillips, Nottage; H.A. Davies, Cwmaman; B Rees (Dyfed), Charles Wesley, J. Morgan Jones, B.A., Tabernacle, J Robertson, M.A., St David’s: Messrs T Marchant Williams, magistrate Walter William, sub-magistrate; D. P Davies, Y.H., Ynysllwyd; G George, Y.H., D.W. Jones, Dr Evan Jones, J.P., Rees Davies, E.T. Williams, Llanwynno School Board chairman, Colonel T Phillips, a lawyer, WD Phillips, lawyer, W. Thomas, solicitor, D Richards, a lawyer. Watkin Davies, W. Hughes, Abernant; W. Thomas, Cwnrig House; J.H. James, W. Mason, R. Rowlands, Howell Thomas, Merthyr; D Williams, Seymour street; W. Jones, D. Davies, J. Jones, D. Edwards, Cwmdare; Ben James, W.J. Evans, Harry Evans, F.R.C.O., Dowlais, John Morgan, Owen Williams, surveyor to the Aberdare Urban District Council, J. Griffiths, Park Schools; Evan Jones, Gas Offices, A Cameron, W Cole, Joseph Harrison, W Davies, Royal Hotel G Griffiths, E Price, T S Thomas, Caerdydd Tom Price, Merthyr; Professor David Evans, London, Dan Jones, W. Davies, Abernant; John Nicholas, Port Talbot; Tom Williams, Brynhyfryd; Professor A.N. James, J Arkite Phillips, Roger Rogers, Llwydcoed J Young, J Rapps, Ap Tudor, Edgar Morgan, T Roderick, architect; D Evans, Hirwaun; D W Price, J Morris, Tom Evans, W D Morris, Commercial St., F. Pardoe, G. Thomas, E.J. Clement, T. Williams, D. Richards, W. James, Cwmaman, E. Ogwen Williams, Eos Dar, Eos Morganwg, Tom Stephens, D. Davies, Mountain Ash, Edwin Williams, J. Davies, J. Evans, D. Walters, J. Thomas, M.T. Morgan, R.R. Price, .J. T. Jones. of the London County Council Office (representing the London Welsh party), John Evans, Phillip Green, Penrhiwceiber, David Jones, John Lake, Thomas Williams, Pontygwaith; Joseph Williams, Arthur Rosser, Thomas Williams, Danygraig, Ffynnon Taf; D.J. Maddox, Eben Powell, John Phillips, W James, Thomas Powell, Jabez Lloyd, Evan Davies, T Davies, John Powell, W Evans, David Edwin Davies, T. Davies, William Davies, H. Davies, Sam Rees, H. Howell, W. Davies, Cwmbach, Ivor Davies, Cardiff Street, David Rees, D.J. Morgan, J. Williams, G. Giles, Bwllfa, David Davies, George Jones, W. Richards, Morgan Garrett, T. Davies, Rees Price,  Harris Morgan Junior, Morgan, Morgan, J. Williams, D Davies, Llewelyn St. J. Williams, D. Davies, Penrhiwceiber, J. James, Griffith Morgan, Penrhiwceiber, D.T. Saunders, Penygraig, Robert Dodd, Enoch Davies, William Morgan, David D. Phillips, Evan Davies, Rees Davies, Robert Williams, Griffith Maddox, Samuel Thomas, D. Bevan, Penrhiwceiber, David Evans, Penrhiwceiber, Roger Powell, W. Thomas, D. Williams, J.S. Davies, London, W. John James, Richard. Morgan, Jonathan Griffiths, Alfred D. Hughes, John Goronwy, D. Evans, Thomas Pugh, T. Richards, T. Harries (Afanfryn), T. Bowen, S. Thomas, John Jones, Dan Thomas, John Thomas, Ferndale W. Powell, Panttywyll, Merthyr; Jno Lloyd, Walter Morgan, Abernant; M T John, Hirwaun William Davies, Hirwaun D.P. Jones, J. D. Morgan, Joseph Evans, Edwin Thomas, John Evans, Joseph Evans, D. Landeg, John Isaac, Thomas Jones,. George Brawery, A. Roberts, Park Lane G R Thomas, Edward Williams, D Evans, B Jones, Chief constable, Aberdare, W. Thomas, Rees Evans, D.S. Williams, T. Thomas, R. Rogers, Pontypridd, F. Hodges, G.G. Jones, R Howell, W. Miller, Edward Moses, D. Tudor Williams, A.S. Pleace, E. Emrys Evans, D. Davies, J. H. Powell, G. Thomas. (Gutyn Hydref), Charles Reed, Lewis N. Williams, D Jones, Abernant; D.M. Jones,, J Holding, W. Campbell, D. M. Richards, Wenallt, Aberdare (representing Mr D. A. Thomas, M.P who became Viscount Rhondda)

Then came the choir shall so include many of the oldest in congregational singing and pertain to most Cor Mawr.

The following were the bearers Messrs T. G. Davies, O. Roberts, John Christmas, D. Stephen Davies, D. Griffiths, Evan Davies, T. Thomas, and John Davies, the deacons of Bethania

First coach: Mr G. Griffiths, brother; Dr. P. R. Griffiths, Cardiff: Tom Griffitbs and William Griffiths, solicitor, Mountain Ash, nephews.

Second coach: Mr Rees Williams, Registrar of the Aberdare County Court, and Mrs Williams, the Misses Bessie and Jennie Griffiths, (nieces).

Third coach: Mrs Treharne, Mrs Saunders, Swansea, widow of the late Dr. Saunders Mrs Griffith Griffiths, and Mrs David Morgan.

Fourth coach: Rev. W. James, Bethania, Rev. R. J. Jones, M.A., Broniestyn.

Fifth coach: Mr Thomas, Mr Martell, Mr David Morgan, and Mr Williams, Llantrisant.

There were other numbers of vehicles shall so including Mrs Llewelyn, Daerwynno, Mrs Evan Davies, Mrs J Davies, and others

At the public cemetery, was the Revs W. James, (Dyfed), Thomas Rees, Merthyr; and a card was read from J.M. Jones at the graveside. Various floral wreaths sent and received, documents from Judge Gwilym Williams, Miskin, who is in Italy, and this failed owing to the distance and to be present.

Wreaths were sent by “the following the Misses Griffiths, Poplars Mr and Mrs Rees Williams, Brynhyfryd, Mr G. Griffiths, Miskin, and family Mr and Mrs G. R. Jones (Ap Caradog), Pontypridd Mr D. A. Thomas, M.P., Mr and Mrs D. M. Richards, Wenallt, Aberdare Mr Baker, Aberdare. Among others letters and telegrams of regret received was one from his Honour Judge Gwilym Williams, who is at Venice, and one from the Rev. R. K. Roberts, B.A., Cardiff.