When the topic of Welsh composers is under discussion, the name of Mai Jones does not spring to mind. But her composition of ‘We’ll Keep a Welcome,’ will forever keep her name in the annals of Welsh folk lore.
Mai Jones Child Prodigy
Mai Jones (6 February 1899 – 7 May 1960) was born in Newport, Monmouthshire. The daughter of a railway stationmaster. She established herself as a child musical prodigy.
At the tender age of only 10 she became organist of Mynydd Seion Church in Newport. A post which she held for over 30 years.
Then Mai Jones won a scholarship to study music at Cardiff University. In addition, she went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music.
She also became an official accompanist at the National Eistedfod at Pontypool in 1924.
Mai’s career blossomed further when she became an established singer and entertainer in London.
Mai Jones’ Big ‘Welsh Rarebit’ Break
Moreover, the defining big break for Mai Jones finally came in 1941. She joined the BBC in Cardiff as a radio producer of light entertainment programmes. Her notable successes were ‘Welsh Rarebit’ and ‘Saturday Starlight.’
‘Welsh Rarebit’ featured a host of Welsh entertainers. They were to become household names in the entertainment industry. (Click on the highlighted name to hear an audio clip of the Lyrian Singers, the irrepressible Gladys Morgan and Dorothy Squires.)
The programme’s intention was to do no more than ‘to keep the Welsh troops happy.’
Regulars included Wyn Calvin, Eynon Evans, Gladys Morgan, Harry Secombe, Stan Stennett, and Albert and Les Ward.
In addition, at the height of its popularity the programme attracted 12 million listeners. It remains one of the most popular entertainment shows produced in Wales.
Mai Jones – We’ll Keep a Welcome
‘We’ll keep a Welcome’ became Welsh Rarebit’s rousing finale. This will remain one of Mai Jones’s most endearing and emotional music compositions.
The Lyrian Singers, performed “We’ll Keep a Welcome” for the first time on 29 February 1940.
With lyrics by Lyn Joshua and James Harper, it became an overnight, runaway success.
It has remained one of the all time Welsh favourites. Regarded as Wales’s second national anthem.
‘Nos Da’ (Good Night) is another Mai Jones composition. It has become a recent addition to the choir repertoire. It highlights her musical diversity and versatility.
Mai Jones House Plaque
Furthermore, in 2010 a commemorative plaque in St Marks Crescent, Newport, indicates the home of Mai Jones.
The ceremony carried out on the 50th anniversary of her death. Attended by ‘Welsh Rarebit’ stalwarts, Wyn Calvin and Stan Stennett.
Also present the Newport Male Voice Choir.
Take it away boys – ‘Far away a voice is calling…….’
Editorial Footnote: This is part of the ‘Music from Wales’ series. It follows up the published blogs on Joseph Parry and Ryan Davies.
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