Death of Welsh choral star
Wayne Nowaczyk, Pontypridd Observer
INTERNATIONALLY renowned choral conductor Richard Williams has died at his Tonyrefail home, aged 83.
For well over 50 years the unique sounds that he produced from his choirs delighted, impressed and entertained audiences, not only in this country, but in concert venues all over the world.
Originally from Cilfynydd, Richard was awarded an MBE at Buckingham Palace in 1977 for his services to music, and in 1993 he received an Honorary Masters Degree from the Open University.
He was supported for the majority of his conducting career by his late wife Sylvia.
Mr Williams is survived by a son, Richard, three daughters, Margaret, Helen and Sian, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Richard displayed a range of musical gifts from his earliest years and shortly after World War II became a Principal Bass with the Welsh National Opera Company.
The choral maestro went on to form the Gentleman Songsters in 1951, followed by the Richard Williams Singers in 1965 and the Richard Williams Junior Singers in 1966.
Each achieved remarkable success, including a total of 24 concert tours of Europe and North America and performances in front of royalty.
His accompanist John Griffiths said: “The formation of those groups drew heavily on the talent and enthusiasm of Richard’s own family members, as well as on the desire of people from the local area to be involved in music-making of a high standard.
“Richard’s musical hallmarks were his uniformity of vocal sound, an unfailing attention to perfect intonation and a capacity to switch effortlessly from one musical style and its presentation to another.”
However, it was arguably some of Richard’s own vocal arrangements for the choirs that left the most lasting impression on listeners.
His versatility showed through when the Richard Williams Singers performed his beautiful arrangement of Joseph Parry’s Myfanwy and then later treated listeners to Freddie Mercury’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Richard’s style of conducting was no-nonsense but supremely effective – on one visit to Czechoslovakia, the Gentlemen Songsters were described as being “conducted by the man who wasn’t there”.
His performance was unnoticeable at times, but all the work happened in the rehearsal room where standards and expectations were always of the highest.
Mr Griffiths said: “Richard’s quest for those standards of excellence drew the very best out of his choristers over the past six decades.
“Certainly one of his greatest achievements was to give his choristers the sense of satisfaction and fulfilment gained through performing with musicality and panache to hugely appreciative audiences.”
Mr Griffiths said: “He will be remembered for his dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to excellence by all who knew him personally and more than that, he has left a treasury of musical memories for audiences in this country and abroad.”
His funeral service will take place at St David’s Church, Tonyrefail, on Thursday, December 20 at 1.30pm, before he is buried at St Dyfodwg’s Church, Glynogwr, at 2.30pm.