Gwyn Williams was a much-loved member of the Wilmcote and wider Stratford community. When he passed away in June 2015 St Andrew’s Church in the village was packed to overflowing for his funeral, with the service relayed to those outside in the churchyard.

Since then a variety of events has raised several thousand pounds for the Gwyn Williams Bursary fund, dedicated to the memory of Gwyn, Simon Rattle’s principal viola in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Students at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire have benefitted from the legacy, and an ongoing benefice is the endowment of a viola chair for youngsters in the CBSO Youth Orchestra.
Gwyn’s widow, Stephannie, tells me more about the history of the Bursary.
“After Gwyn died our daughters and I thought it would be good to have a legacy for him. We originally thought of starting a Trust Fund, but there were so many complications with the charities commission, we then decided to create a Gwyn Williams Bursary. 
“As Gwyn was very passionate about helping young musicians we decided the Bursary should help young string players, but primarily young viola players needing help to progress their careers.

“The inaugural Bursary concert  was held in May 2017 at Birmingham Town Hall, where Gwyn had played hundreds of times with the CBSO.. Many friends of Gwyn gave their services for this concert ,which was conducted by his CBSO colleague Michael Seal and Julian Lloyd Webber, Principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where Gwyn had taught viola.
“The RBC string orchestra was involved, plus a full orchestra made up of CBSO players and soloist friends of Gwyn . An outstanding programme was produced and the concert raised over £4,000 to be shared between the Conservatoire, and the McMillan Nurses and the Shakespeare Hospice, who had cared so lovingly for Gwyn during his final days.
“Christopher Morley, chief music critic of the Birmingham Post, had been a close colleague of mine for nearly 30 years, covering the festivals of which I had been artistic advisor (Stratford, Bromsgrove, Sounds of Sweden, Discovering Denmark), and he kindly agreed to write the programme-notes, as he did for a further concert,, given in the RBC Bradshaw Hall , once again with students from the RBC and with  professional soloist friends of Gwyn.
“My autobiography, Beyond the Notes, was published during lockdown, published by Brewin Books of Redditch. It would never have come to fruition without Chris’s expertise , who also introduced me to those wonderful publishers.
“Book sales and royalties have produced  £2,000 so far towards the Bursary, and Chris and I have just co-produced  a CD  of Folk Songs of the British Isles, recorded by SOMM-Recordings at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey. The singers on the recording were once again personal friends of Gwyn and they all gave their services so that royalties can go to the Bursary. 
“It’s quite a line-up! We have Wynne Evans, the ‘Go Compare’ tenor and his baritone brother Mark singing Welsh folksongs (Gwyn was very proud of his Welsh roots) accompanied by Cardiff accompanist Michael Pollock, soprano Janis Kelly and tenor Nicky Spence singing Scottish folksongs, soprano Caroline McCausland and the flute and harp duo Fiona and Jean Kelly make the Irish contribution, and the English contributions come from the mezzo-soprano Yvonne Howard, jazz singer Elaine Delmar singing Spike Milligan’s beautiful Folk Song, and Kevin Whately (Inspector Lewis) performing wonderful Northumbrian folksongs.
“We also have a very dear friend, Maria Jagusz, singing the very special “Song for Gwyn”, composed by our main accompanist John Wilson, to beautiful words by Chris which tell of the love between Gwyn and myself.”
The CD is due for release next Spring, and the royalties will continue to support the education of young string players. Steve recalls how the money has been spent so far, beginning with paying for several students at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire to attend music courses, which they would otherwise have found impossible.
“The Bursary has also donated prizes for two of the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competitions .held at the RBC,” she continues, “and a talented 13-year-old South African viola player was brought from Soweto to Birmingham for two weeks to attend one of the above competitions and also to participate  in a concert at the competition. This was an amazing  experience for this young girl.
“There have been other donations to students and various enterprises at the RBC, but we are moving more to endowing chairs for deserving young viola players on the CBSO Youth Orchestra course. This involves a week-long residency three times a year, culminating in a big concert at Symphony Hall or Birmingham Town Hall, and we plan to expand this support in the future, the CBSO having been such a major part of Gwyn’s life.”
Meanwhile the next fundraising event for the Bursary is rapidly approaching, when the highly-respected Sinfonia of Birmingham perform on Sunday 2 October in the CBSO Centre, Berkley Street, just off Birmingham’s Broad Street. Michael Seal conducts,. and Chris Yates, viola section leader of the CBSO and front-desk partner and friend of Gwyn will give his services to perform Britten’s Lachrymae for viola and strings as well as a new work for Viola and String Orchestra, dedicated to Gwyn. 
Robert Matthew- Walker, editor of Musical Opinion magazine and Organ magazine is the composer of this piece subtitled  ‘Christ on the Road to Emmaus’, inspired by paintings he saw in the Hermitage at St Petersburg many years ago.
“This will be the world premiere of the very special work,” says Steve., “and Mendelssohn and Brahms will also feature in the programme.”
*The Sinfonia of Birmingham concert begins at 7.30 on October 2 at the CBSO Centre, preceded at 7pm by a pre-concert conversation between Christopher Morley and Robert Matthew-Walker. Admission is £30.00, to include programme and a complimentary drink. Return coach transport, with pick-ups in Stratford and Wilmcote has also been arranged., at an additional cost of £19.00 All details on 01789 294200.

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