Mervyn Burtch and the Great Wine Gum Robbery

Collections / music - Posted 31-08-2021

Born in Ystrad Mynach in the Rhymney Valley, Mervyn Burtch (1929-2015) was a teacher and composer whose work embraced a wide range of genres including opera, concertos, string quartets, works for brass bands, and choral pieces. During a career spanning some sixty years he produced and arranged some 650 works, a significant proportion of which were written for community groups, children and friends. He was an early member of the Guild for Promotion of Welsh Music.

Mervyn Burtch attended the Lewis Grammar School at Pengam where he was taught music by David Wynne (1900-1983), one of Wales’s most significant composers. He studied at the University College Cardiff, and later secured the position of Head of Music at Lewis School for Girls. In 1979 he joining the staff at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff (now the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama). He was made a Fellow of the College following his retirement in 1989, and awarded the M.B.E in 2003 for his services to music and education in Wales and work as President of KidsOp.

As Director of the Welsh College of Music and Drama Schools’ Opera Programme, he produced such works as The Pied Piper and Alice in Wonderland, others had fantastic titles such as the The Dragon of Abercwmgoch; Percy the Martian; The Great Wine Gum Robbery; and Fred Fish and the Weather Bureau. Some of his most significant works were his Concertos and the cycle of seventeen string quartets which he composed during the period 1985 and 2013.

He married his wife Rita Jones when he was 74. Following a long illness, on 12 May 2015, Mervyn Burtch died aged of 85. His Funeral service was held at Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff on May 27. The Mervyn Burtch Trust was created with the sole purpose of Educating and promotion of the appreciation of the public in the music of Mervyn Burtch and the education of the public in the life of Mervyn Burtch.

His manuscript scores were transferred by his widow to the Welsh Music Archive at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth in 2019 and a catalogue of these 27 boxes can be found here: Mervyn Burtch Music Manuscripts. There are also papers relating to Mervyn Burtch in the archives of Daniel Jones, Alun Lewis, Peter Reynolds and Alun Hoddinott at the National Library.

Many of the instrumental parts scores (manuscript and copies) are held at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Follow this link for information on the Archives of Welsh composers held at the National Library of Wales.


Robert Evans
The Welsh Music Archive Project Officer


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