Following the release of the film Edge of Love, interest in the turbulent life of Dylan Thomas could not be greater. However, many people are unaware of his relationship with another great Welsh artistic success story of the twentieth century, the composer Daniel Jones.
They went to the same school, composed and wrote together, and were the best of friends until Thomas’s death in 1953. They played together, were mischievous together and Dan appears in a variety of guises in many of Thomas’s short stories (most famously in The Fight). Throughout the poet’s career all over the world he would turn to Dan for help, advice and (very occasionally) money.
For many years after the poet’s death, Dan was the first port of call for those seeking information and gossip about the infamous writer (the stories of Americans sent packing down New Well Lane with a flea in their ear are still told in Newton!), but Dan had a highly successful artistic and academic career in his own right, composing some of the most seminal music of the age. At the same time, he was asked to act as editor on many of Thomas’ works
During the research that we carried out for this piece, it became clear as we spoke to more and more people, that Dan loved Dylan in the way of a true friendship. Depending on to whom you spoke, Dan was captivated, infuriated, angered, delighted and entertained by Dylan in the way that only friends can be. But what became more and more apparent was that they had a lot of fun.
The extraordinary creative energy which was latent in Swansea in the mid-war years, is epitomised by the Kardomah Boys of whom Dan and Dylan were but two. Those years were formative in the works of Dylan; childhood and friendship were inevitably just as formative in the music and words of Dan.
This is a chamber piece, so Dan’s music is inherent to its performance. It is also a work in progress; we would welcome any comments about its success or otherwise.
Dan’s music has been described as difficult, educated, disdainful, complicated. It has also been called beautiful, poignant, playful, delightful. It was all of these things and more. But as Dan himself said: ‘Must we always have Brahms?’
Programme of Music
- Symphony No. 4 (in memoriam of Dylan Thomas) – excerpt
- The Moon
- Beethoven Sonata in C Major – excerpt
- Bagatelle Set 1 No V
- Bagatelle Set 2 No VI (The Fight) – excerpt followed by complete piece
- Bagatelle Set 3 No II
- Bagatelle Set 1 No VIII
- Bagatelle Set 3 No VII (The Pencilvania Express)
- Bagatelle 1 No III
What the Critics Think
The DT Centre’s summer season of lunchtime theatre offerings concludes with this delightful production directed by Sonia Beck which explores the friendship between Dylan Thomas and composer Daniel Jones.
The first meeting between Thomas and Jones was documented in the very amusing short story The Fight, in which the two youngsters forge a firm friendship just minutes after brawling with each other.
Their relationship was one which persisted into adulthood, but the pivotal stage was the period when the two launched their own spoof broadcasting company in the attic of Jones’ boyhhod home – Warmley – in Eversley Road, Sketty.
The role of Daniel Jones was played with real conviction and warmth by Adrian Metcalfe, with Rob Marshall providing piano interludes in the guise of Jones’ musical alter ego. It was an inventive touch, which added much to the persuasiveness of the piece.
Packed with eminently quotable lines (‘In a town where the inhabitants are odd, the artists have to be odder’) this was an absorbing work, which worked on every level.
(Review of Performance on the 23rd of August 2008 – South Wales Evening Post).
A welcome return for this splendid blend of drama and music revolving around the friendship between Dylan Thomas and composer Daniel Jones, staged as part of this year’s Dylan Thomas Festival.
The title is taken from the name of the house in Sketty’s Eversley Road where the two spent many happy hours concocting spoof radio programmes for what they called the Warmley Broadcasting Corporation – one example being a biography of the wholly fictional Reverend Alexander Percy, ‘the first man to walk from London to Brighton on all fours’.
The story is told entirely from the perspective of Daniel Jones, both in terms of words and music: the words are delivered by the ever-reliable Adrian Metcalfe, while the music is performed by pianist Rob Marshall.
As well as an account of the first meeting between Thomas and Jones – famously recounted in Dylan’s short story The Fight – there are also some evocative sequences in which Dan Jones reads a letter from his old friend expressing his sadness that the ‘Warmley days are over’, and in which he longs to set up a ‘permanent colony in the Uplands or Sketty’.
This is an absorbing piece of work that throws a fresh light upon Dylan Thomas, a figure about whom a great deal (possibly too much) has been written.
It is heartening to see a new work which explores less well known aspects of the writer’s life, demonstrating that there was far more to him than the familiar image of the hard-drinking ne’er-do-well.
Hopefully this piece will become a perennial favourite with the Dylan Thomas fraternity – it certainly deserves a wider audience, and will undoubtedly attract a loyal following in the years to come.
(Review of Performance on the 24thOctober – South Wales Evening Post).