Iwan was born at Llandyssul near Newcastle Emlyn, Cardiganshire, Wales. The birth date given above is correct; in the chapter devoted to him in Stephen Beet's book "The Better Land" (2005) the year is given erroneously as 1916. He trained at the London Choir School in Denmark Hill from September 1930, and became a chorister at the King's Chapel of the Savoy (a "royal peculiar" in the private possession of the monarch, located off the Strand in central London) and later at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. Iwan died in January 1996.
He made two sides for Decca aged 15 and recorded two items each for Decca & HMV just before and after his 17th birthday, which is why his voice has something of the power and quality of a counter-tenor. In October 1932, when nearly 18, he made a "party" record and sang two carols for Decca as an alto plus some Welsh songs unpublished on 78rpm.
British Pathe Films Video Footage of Iwan singing "Charming Cloe" from 1932. The soundtrack has been lost.
Master (Arthur) Iwan DaviesMaster Leslie Day Exact content not known. Artists are: Mary Hagan ("child comedienne"), Iwan Davies (boy soprano) (in Part 1), Wilfred Worden (piano), "Little Leslie Day" (boy soprano) (in Part 2), Louis Cabrelli (accordian) and the Terry Juveniles. Music composed or arranged by H. Hudson. (matrices GB5086-87) Both sides rec. 30 Oct. 1932.
Mary Hagan, 12 years old, was said in Decca publicity (June 1932) to support her unemployed ex-boxer father, invalid mother and little sister, with pennies earned by singing in the streets of Newcastle. She was discovered and brought to London by the boxing trainer Ted Broadribb and sang at boxing matches in the Albert Hall before being introduced to Horace Sheldon, musical director of the Victoria Palace, who secured her engagements to appear in the London music halls.
Master (Arthur) Iwan Davies A: Hark! The Herald-Angels Sing (please see under Charles Hawtrey for details of this carol) (matrix GB5090) B: O Come, All Ye Faithful (please see under Jimmy Phelan for details of this carol) (GB5093) Both rec. 31 Oct. 1932 with Claude Ivy, piano. Davies is catalogued as an alto for this disc.
Unpublished recordings made the same day: Can Yr Arad Goch (Song of the Plough) (Idris Lewis) (GB5088) Cymru Fach (My Own Little Country) (Lewis & Richards) (GB5089) Selection of Welsh Airs from Songs of Wales (Boosey songbook) (GB5091/92) (From Decca recording sheets - marked "alto" - on NSA microfilm.)
Master (Arthur) Iwan Davies A: The Holy City (song: wds F.E. Weatherly (1848-1929) - music Stephen Adams (pseud. of Michael Maybrick (1841(sic)-1913)), 1892) (matrix GA3672) B: Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets (soprano aria based on Matt. 23:37 from Part 1 of oratorio "St Paul" (1836) by Mendelsson (1809-47), Engl. version by William Ball (c.1784-1869)) (GA3673) This item erroneously shown on label as the Blake-Parry song "Jerusalem", but correctly identified in the catalogues of the day. Both rec. 27 Jan. 1932 with piano accomp. (Earlier takes on 3 Dec. 1931 [sic, the recording sheet is misdated] were not used.) The first piece is on Amphion CD "The Better Land" vol. 1.
"This record could not have come at a more opportune moment. Recently Iwan Davies, a seventeen-years-old Welsh boy from Llandyssul, Cardiganshire, spent an hour in the White Drawing-room at Buckingham Palace, singing to the King [George V] and Queen [Mary]. The boy is a pupil at the London Choir School, Denmark Hill, and a soloist at All Souls, Langham Place, and was discovered by Professor Edward Morgan, his instructor, some seven years ago, at a social party. Since then he has won 52 cups, a scholarship, and has toured Canada. The record is a magnificent example of his really lovely singing, and should, on no account, be missed." (Review in The Sound Wave [London], March 1932, p. 97.) The record retailed at 2/6.
A contrasting view comes from Hubert S. Ryan in The Talking Machine and Wireless Trade News (London, March 1932, p. 34): "Those who like boy sopranos - or rather, trebles - will find much to their taste in this disc. The youngster has some good notes, but has as yet indifferent command over them, and was probably overawed by the immensity of an appearance before the microphone."
Master (Arthur) Iwan Davies Two pieces by G.F. Handel (1685-1759): A: Oh, had I Jubal's lyre (from oratorio "Joshua", 1748) (matrix 0B1590-2) B: Come unto Him (soprano half of duet based on Matt. 11:28-29 from Part 1 of oratorio "Messiah", 1742) (0B1591-1) Both rec. 4 Mar. 1932 with Herbert Dawson, organ.
Master (Arthur) Iwan Davies A: I Know of Two Bright Eyes (Myrra) (incipit: I know of two bright eyes watching for me.) (song, 1901: wds after poem by Abd-Ul-Mejid (see note below)- music George Howard Clutsam (1866-1951) in "Songs of the Turkish Hills", Set 1, no. 4) (matrix MB1220) B: "Good Day!" said the Blackbird (incipit: "Good Day!" said the Blackbird, on the lilac tree.) (song, 1923: wds Edward Frederick Lockton (c.1876-1940) - music Henry Ernest Geehl (1881-1961)) (MB1221-1) Both rec. 14 Apl 1930 with Claude Ivy, piano.
Abd-Ul-Mejid (or 'Abdu-'l-Mejid, Abdülmecid I, etc.) (1823-61) succeeded in 1839 as 31st Sultan of the 'Osman dynasty, but left no poetry to posterity according to Elias Gibb's "Ottoman Poetry" (1882).
Individual CD's £10 each plus postage. The Better Land set of 6 CD's is available from StephenRBeet@gmail.com
Price £55 plus postage. Included in this offer is a FREE copy of "The Better Land - In search of the Lost Boy Sopranos" (retail value £10)
Paypal address: email@example.com
As well as chapters on Iwan Davies, Derek Barsham, and Denis Wright, amongst others there are also chapters under the following headings: The Temple Boys, The Manchester Boys, The Music Hall Boys, The Fleeting Boys, and The Broadcast Boys.
This book is available directly from the author: Contact StephenRBeet@gmail.com
Price £10 plus postage
This book is available for the cost of postage and packing only if the set of six The Better Land CD albums is ordered.