Welsh Journals

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J. R. Heath (1887-1950): General Practitioner and Composer DAVID R. A. EVANS The mountains, valleys and coastline of Wales have inspired many English composers of the twentieth century: Elgar, Bantock, Holbrooke, Warlock, Holst and Britten all paid regular visits to Wales but none of them ever decided to make the country his permanent home. For the professional composer in the early years of this century Wales was an inconvenient place to live. It was far from the main centres of English musical life and the nature of its geography often made travel difficult and slow. Although the initiatives of Walford Davies and his disciples in the inter-war years produced a revolution in Welsh music-making, these efforts were of only marginal value to composers living in Wales.l The only way for younger Welsh composers to make real progress was to emigrate to major centres in England where they could seek further training and hope that once new contacts in the music business had been made, performances and publications would follow. John Rippiner Heath was not Welsh by birth but may be regarded as a 'Welsh' composer because of his long association with the country, in particular Barmouth, whose people he served in a number of capacities for over thirty years. The area in which he lived seemed to have been a lifelong inspiration to him, but its remoteness must have made it doubly difficult to maintain his links with English musical circles. John Heath was a composer of considerable talent who, like Borodin, chose to practise as a medical doctor while pursuing a second career in composition. There was a point in his life when the success of his music must have made him consider becoming a composer on a full-time basis, but he did not pursue this opportunity for reasons not known today. In his later years his compositional development seems to have slowed down and he slipped from a position where he was regarded as a forward- looking composer whose works were worthy of regular London