Gareth Olubunmi Hughes wins the Musicians' Medal

3 August 2016

Gareth Olubunmi Hughes is the winner of this year’s Musicians’ Medal, and he was honoured at a special ceremony on the Pavilion stage this evening.

Cardiff born Gareth is a pianist and a composer and completed a BMus degree in music at King’s College London in 2000, graduating with first class honours, before completing an MPhil in Electroacoustic Music at the University of Birmingham in 2003.

Over the last year, Gareth has completed the final steps and requirements of a doctorate in Contemporary Composition at Cardiff University under the supervision of American composer Dr Arlene Sierra. During the period of the doctorate his work has been performed by a variety of professional musicians and ensembles, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rarescale, Exaudi, the Carducci String Quartet, Lontano, harpist Catrin Finch and flautist Fiona Slominska.

This is the second time that Gareth has won the main musicians’ medal (‘Tlws y Cerddor’) following his success in the Vale of Glamorgan in 2012 with The Wind’s Lament (Cwyn y Gwynt), a sonata for flute and harp inspired by Sir John Morris-Jones’s well-known poem under the same name. In addition he won a prize for composing a new work for alto flute and piano in Montgomeryshire and the Marches last year, , second place in the piano solo competition in Ebbw Vale in 2010, a prize for composing a new orchestral work in Newport in 2004 and third place in the piano solo competition in Montgomeryshire in 2003.

He has a strong interest in Celtic mythology (in particular The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, Arthurian mythology and the works of Brythonic poet Taliesin), and with this a vision to create a new contemporary chamber opera, which combines instruments and voices, along with live electronic sounds and processing.

This year’s adjudicators were Jeffrey Howard and Osian Llŷr Rowlands and the task was to compose four songs for a deep voice with piano accompaniment, using Welsh words by a modern poet.  The prize is the Musicians’ Medal (Urdd Cerddoriaeth Cymru) and £750, donated by the local Welsh schools in memory of Ruth Salisbury, Cardiff who contributed much to the development of the Welsh language locally and a Scholarship worth £2,000 to promote the winning composer’s career.

Delivering the adjudication from the stage, Osian Llŷr Rowlands said, “The task facing the composers this year was to compose four songs for a deep voice with piano accompaniment.  We both felt comfortable with the genre.  Six entries were received in a wide range of styles and standard, with every composer managing to present interesting ideas and displaying creative talent.

The composers were able to choose their own words for the work, with a wide range of choices: some choosing work by a single poet and others combining the work of a number of writers, and one composer wrote the words as well as the music.

“Deryn y Felys Gainc, ‘Eos un noson’: Four poems by Llŷr Gwyn Lewis from the Storm ar Wyneb yr Haul collection were chosen as words for these songs for bass-baritone.  This work is of a professional standard, already ready for publication.  Cleverly, the four poems have been linked to create a chain of songs and this is a mature composer who knows exactly what the performer needs to present to the audience.

“There is a detailed description at the beginning of each movement, as well as a reference to the motif for the specific movement, for example, the nightingale’s strand in the first song, ‘Eos un noson’, a sea shanty in the second song, ‘Rhagolygon y llongau’, and the emulating of the nightingale’s strands in the final song, ‘Philomela’. These directions clearly show the mind at the root of this exciting composition.

“The accompaniment is very interesting and the detailed directions for the accompanist are very clear.  Each movement has a strong structure, and the accompanist and singer are required to work together closely to present a successful performance of this work.  It is obvious that this composer is not only a master on the piano but also understands how to compose for voices and has thought carefully about the whole work with effective use of strong themes and a firm structure.  These are four songs which create a composition which displays the musicality of the composer himself.

“It is very close between Sarian and Deryn y Felys Gainc, but we both agree that Deryn y Felys Gainc fully deserves this year’s Musicians’ Medal.”

The Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau includes the full adjudication for this competition and the winners of all the other composition winners at this year’s Eisteddfod.  The volume is published at the end of the Chairing Ceremony on Friday afternoon.