Williams, Grace (Mary)
- Malcolm Boyd
(b Barry, Feb 19, 1906; d Barry, Feb 10, 1977). Welsh composer. She was educated at Barry Grammar School and University College, Cardiff, where she took the degree of BMus in 1926 before continuing her studies with Vaughan Williams and Jacob at the RCM. Her fellow students there included Dorothy Gow, Imogen Holst and Maconchy, an unusually gifted group of women composers who maintained contact with each other in later years. In 1930 a travelling scholarship took Williams to Vienna, where she completed her studies with Egon Wellesz. On her return to London she taught for several years at Camden School for Girls and at Southlands College of Education. During the 1930s she enjoyed the friendship of Britten, but declined an invitation to act as his assistant (the position was later occupied by Imogen Holst).
In 1947 Williams returned to Wales, where she worked on educational programmes for the BBC and gradually made her name as a freelance composer. Most of her major works were written in response to commissions from the BBC, the Royal National Eisteddfod and festivals at Llandaff (Cardiff) and Swansea. Her output is mainly for orchestra and for voices with orchestra, and includes two symphonies (the first of which she withdrew), three concertos, a one-act opera and a mass. She also wrote several songs but showed little interest in instrumental chamber music, partly no doubt because of its relatively short tradition in Wales but also because her own musical temperament inclined more towards lyrical and declamatory forms than towards contrapuntal and dialectical ones (the direction ‘liricamente’ is one frequently encountered in her scores)....