1841 - 1903 Composer of "ABERYSTWYTH" in Presbyterian Hymnal Joseph Parry (21 May 1841 – 17 February 1903), was a Welsh composer and musician. Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, he is best known as the composer of MYFANWY and ABERYSTWYTH (a hymn tune) used in Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika the National anthem of South Africa.
The cottage at 4 Chapel Row, Merthyr Tydfil, where Parry was born, is now open to the public as a museum. Parry's family emigrated to the United States in 1854, when he was 13, and he became an ironworker in Danville, Pennsylvania. There was a large Welsh community there and he became involved in strengthening Welsh culture locally. When, in 1865, he was admitted to the Gorsedd at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, he took the bardic name, "Pencerdd America".
He became a Freemason in 1867, while in Pennsylvania. His 1875 song, "Ysgytwad y Llaw" (The Handshake) appears to acknowledge his connection with the movement. He returned to Great Britain and studied music in London under William Sterndale Bennett and at the University of Cambridge. In 1873 he became Professor of Music at the University of Wales.
In 1876, he joined the masonic lodge at Aberystwyth, and became their organist. His opera, Blodwen, was first performed in the town's Temperance Hall on 21 May 1878, and was an enormous success, racking up a further 500 performances worldwide by 1896. His oratorio, Saul of Tarsus, was commissioned for the National Eisteddfod at Rhyl in 1892, and was also a major success. In about 1881, the Parry family left Aberystwyth for Swansea.
A resident of Penarth in his later years, Parry died there and is buried in St. Augustine's Churchyard, Penarth.
He was the subject of a BBC dramatisation in 1978 entitled "Off to Philadelphia in the Morning" based on the book by Jack Jones, another of Merthyr Tydfil's famous sons.
In 2011 conductor Edward-Rhys Harry oversaw the total reconstruction of Parry's oratorio Emmanuel, which was performed by Cor Bro Ogwr and The British Sinfonietta, conducted by Harry, in December of that year.
Edward-Rhys Harry also reconstructed Parry's setting of the Te Deum [text from The Book of Common Prayer] the manuscript of which was discovered in the National Library of Wales archives. The London Welsh Chorale and The British Sinfonietta gave the work its world premiere performance (it never went further than a notebook during Parry's lifetime) under Harry at St Giles Cripplegate, Barbican, London on July 14th 2012.