Death of a grassroots opera composer

Mervyn Burtch, composer of six operas for a mix of young performers and professional musicians, died on Tuesday at the age of 86. He lived his whole life in the Rhymney Valley, Wales, but developed a close relationship with Canada’s Banff Centre. His most successful work, The Raven King (1999), was staged in Canada (Banff), South Africa, Wales, Germany, Ireland and Mexico.


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  • Sad to hear. I remember Mervyn fondly from when I was in the Glamorgan Youth Theatre, when he wrote memorable and effective incidental music for Toad of Toad Hall & The Insect Play. Probably late 60s.

  • Very sad to hear of Mervyn’s passing. I was a student at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, where he lectured and performed in those school operas mentioned, giving great pleasure to hundreds of young people, who were being introduced to this genre for the very first time in their lives. I also gave the world premiere of his work “Contours for brass band”, performed by the National Youth Brass Band of Wales in 1982.

    Mervyn’s music was accessible and enjoyable for both performer and listener alike, but at the same time challenging and highlighted the character and personality of the man wonderfully. His quiet, modest manner and his quick wit and humour are what I will remember him for and of the many tributes that I have read so far, the constant description that appears, is that he was a real “gentleman”.

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