Huge success and critical acclaim as well as great personal tragedy marked the life of the charismatic tenor from Flintshire, David Lloyd (1912-1969), who is the subject of a new documentary film, Melys Lais (Sweet Voice).
After first making a name for himself at local eisteddfodau he was later catapulted into the hurly burly of student life, far from home in the English capital. But he still succeeded in winning every college prize available, including The Gold Medal in 1937.
Experts believe that David’s feelings of loss and sadness had an effect on his singing. He certainly mesmerised audiences and became famous for his lyrical singing of favourites such as Lausanne, Elen Fwyn, Arafa Don, and the song which is still associated with him, Bugail Aberdyfi.
Musician Rhys Jones recalls someone telling him that David Lloyd “had a tear in his voice,” while tenor Rhys Meirion, who presents the programme says, “There’s something in his voice which touches the heart. It’s difficult to put into words.”
Rhys Meirion also sees the irony in the fact that this nervous, shy man was an international public performer; a man who thought the world of his home and roots was elevated to a national icon.
As Rhys Meirion did many years later, David Lloyd made his operatic début at Glyndebourne International Opera Festival in 1938, before moving on to Saddlers Wells where he sang the principal roles in Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. He delighted audiences across Europe, and was known as the Welsh Caruso.
David won a contract to sing at the Met Opera House in New York, but the advent of the Second World War stalled his career. He was forced to join the Welsh Guards, and was once again faced with feelings of loss and disappointment. He didn’t return to the opera stage at the end of the war, but concentrated on concerts and recitals. While recording a programme for the BBC he fell and broke his back, and as a result, didn’t sing for six years.
He was overcome with depression and feelings of loneliness, but after having surgery and spending long periods in hospital, he fought his way back to the public stage. An audience of 12,000 awaited him as he walked on stage at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 1960 to sing in public once more.
He died in 1969, aged 56, having fallen down the stairs at his home, hitting his head. Hundreds came to his funeral to pay their last respects to this special singer who had touched the public’s hearts with his singing.
© 2012 S4C
O Gymru / Made in Wales