Stephen, Edward (DNB00)
|←Stephen, Alfred||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
STEPHEN, EDWARD (1822–1885), Welsh musician, generally known as ‘Tanymarian,’ was the son of Robert and Jane Stephen of Rhydysarn, near Llan Ffestiniog, Merionethshire, where he was born in November 1822. After a few years' attendance at the local national school, he was apprenticed to a tailor, but about 1841 he commenced to preach, and some three years later entered the Independent College at Bala, where he remained three years. In 1847 he was ordained pastor of Horeb (independent) church at Dwygyfylchi, near Penmaenmawr; but in November 1856 he removed to take charge of another pastorate at Llanllechid, Bangor, where he lived at a house called ‘Tanymarian,’ by which name he was thereafter chiefly known. He died on 10 May 1885, leaving behind him a widow and several children.
In music, Stephen was entirely self-taught. A series of articles on music which he contributed to ‘Y Cronicl’ in 1848–9 raised him into sudden popularity, which he further increased by delivering lectures on the subject, interspersed with vocal illustrations of his own rendering. In 1851–2 he composed his first important work, which was also the masterpiece of his life, namely, an oratorio entitled ‘Ystorm Tiberias’ (‘The Storm of Tiberias’), which was published at Bethesda in seven parts, the last appearing in 1855. This was the first work of the kind by a Welsh composer, whence Stephen has been styled ‘the father of the oratorio in Wales,’ but it has no distinctively Welsh charac- teristic, and chiefly bears the impress of Handel's influence. Its strength lies in its choruses, some of which, especially ‘Dyma'r gwyntoedd yn ymosod’ (‘How the giant winds do wrestle’), are deservedly popular with Welsh choirs. The airs had numerous defects, which Stephen more or less remedied in a revised score; this was published posthumously under the editorship of Mr. D. Emlyn Evans, with improved English words by the Rev. J. H. Johnes (Dolgelly, 1887).
Apart from his oratorio, Stephen's fame chiefly rests on the services he rendered to congregational singing among the independents of Wales, as John Roberts (1822–1877) [q. v.] did among the methodists. He edited, with the exception of the first two or three metres, the musical portion of a Welsh hymnal entitled ‘Cerddor y Cyssegr’ (Bethesda, 1860, 8vo), which contains several melodies harmonised by himself, but no tunes of his own composition. This was superseded by the publication in 1868 of a new hymnal, ‘Llyfr Tonau ac Emynau’ (Wrexham, 4to), under the joint editorship of Stephen and Joseph David Jones [q. v.] of Ruthin, the chief burden of the work falling on the latter. This was followed in 1879 by a supplement (‘Attodiad’), edited by Stephen alone, containing six tunes of his own, the best known of which bears the title of ‘Tanymarian.’ The completed hymnal contains over three hundred tunes and nine hundred hymns, and until recently was in universal use among Welsh congregationalists.
He also composed a number of fugitive pieces, none of them being of the first importance, except perhaps a requiem (Bethesda, 1858), on the death of John Jones (1796–1857) [q. v.] of Talsarn. Stephen, who was a fair geologist, wrote several papers in Welsh on geology, and his collection of specimens was presented to the university college of North Wales, Bangor.
The Welsh memoir of Stephen, edited by Mr. W. J. Parry (1886), contains two portraits of Stephen. There is appended a selection of his prose and poetical compositions, together with several anthems and part-songs, the greater number published for the first time.[A Welsh biography of Stephen, Cofiant Tanymarian (Dolgelly, 1886, 8vo), under the editorship of Mr. W. J. Parry of Bethesda, with an account and criticism of Stephen's musical work by Mr. Emlyn Evans; Jones's Cerddorion Cymreig, pp. 123–7, 135, 160; Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol Cymru, by Rees and Thomas, v. 304–7; Y Geninen, July 1885; Byegones, 1889, p. 102.]