Owen, John (1821-1883) (DNB00)

OWEN, JOHN (1821–1883), Welsh musician, known in Wales by his pseudonym of ‘Owain Alaw,’ was born in Crane Street, Chester, on 14 Nov. 1821. His father was the captain of a small vessel; both parents were natives of Llanfachreth, Merionethshire, but had settled in Chester shortly before his birth. Owen began life as apprentice to a firm of cutlers, Messrs. Powell & Edwards; but in 1844, having shown a conspicuous aptitude for music, he gave up business and became a professional musician. He was organist in succession of Lady Huntingdon's chapel, St. Paul's, Boughton, St. Bridget's, St. Mary's, and the Welsh church (all in Chester), and at the same time gave tuition in music. It was, however, in connection with the Eisteddfod that he attracted the notice of his fellow-countrymen. His success in winning the prize for the best anthem at the Royal Eisteddfod of Rhuddlan (1850) was the first of a series of victories which gave ‘Owain Alaw’ a recognised place among Welsh musicians. He devoted himself energetically to composition, and during the next few years wrote a large number of glees, songs, and anthems, published in various Welsh musical magazines of the time. His only attempts at more ambitious work were the ‘Prince of Wales Cantata’ (1862) and the ‘Festival of Wales’ Cantata (1866). In 1860 appeared under his editorship the first number of ‘Gems of Welsh Melody,’ a collection of Welsh airs, published in four numbers at Ruthin (2nd edit. Wrexham, 1873). His fluent and melodious style of composition made him one of the most popular of Welsh musicians, and he was also much in request as conductor and adjudicator. He died at Chester on 29 Jan. 1883.

[Article by D. Emlyn Evans in Geninen, i. 124–30.]

J. E. L.