Clara Novello Davies

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Clara Novello Davies
A woman with dark hair, wearing a dark gown, looking at the viewer over one shoulder.
Clara Novello Davies
Clara Novello Davies

7 April 1861
Died7 February 1943
Other namesPencerddes Morgannwg
ChildrenIvor Novello
Marie Novello

Clara Novello Davies (7 April 1861 – 7 February 1943) was a well-known Welsh singer, teacher and conductor. She used the pen name Pencerddes Morgannwg.

Early life[edit]

Clara Novello Davies was born in Cardiff to Jacob Davies, a miner, and Margaret (née Evans) Davies.[1] She was named after Clara Novello, a famous soprano (1818–1908). Her father, leader of the church choir, taught her to play the harmonium. She also studied music with Charles Williams of the Llandaff Cathedral.[2]


Davies was accompanist for the Cardiff United Choir and Cardiff Blue Ribbon Choir, as a young woman. In 1883, she founded and conducted the Royal Welsh Ladies' Choir,[3] which won prizes at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893) and the Paris Exposition (1900). She was still conducting into her seventies when her New York-based Novello Davies Artist Choir was invited to the 1937 Paris Exposition. The choir raised funds for charity during both World Wars.[2]

Clara Novello Davies published an instructional book, You Can Sing (1928), and a memoir, The Life I Have Loved (1940).[4] She also wrote songs, including "Friend!" (1905) and "Mother!" (1911). She was awarded the Médaille de Mérite by the French government, in 1937. Among her voice students were American actress Dorothy Dickson, baritone Louis Graveure, and opera singer Mary Ellis.[5]


Clara Novello Davies married David Davies, a solicitor's clerk with the same surname as her own, on 31 October 1883. Their son, David Ivor Davies, became better known as Ivor Novello, the actor, composer, dramatist and director.[6] Their adopted daughter, who was born Maria Williams but took the name Marie Novello, was a concert pianist who died from throat cancer on 21 June 1928, aged 44. Clara Novello Davies was widowed in 1931, and died in London in 1943, aged 81. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.[2]

The character "Madame Annie" in Rhys Davies' The Painted King (1954)[7] is based on Clara Novello Davies.[8]


  1. ^ "Music and Musicians". The San Francisco Call. 1897-01-07. p. 6. Retrieved 2020-05-26 – via
  2. ^ a b c Griffith, Robert David (2001). "DAVIES, CLARA NOVELLO ('Pencerddes Morgannwg'; 1861 - 1943) musician". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  3. ^ "The Welsh Ladies' Choir" Wilkes-Barre Times (October 17, 1895): 6. via Newspapers.comopen access
  4. ^ Novello-Davies, Clara (1940). The Life I Have Loved. W. Heinemann.
  5. ^ Snelson, John (2001). "Davies, Clara Novello". Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.51276. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  6. ^ Simon Callow (August 3, 2012). "Ivor Novello, master of the musical". The Guardian. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  7. ^ Davies, Rhys (1954). The Painted King. Doubleday.
  8. ^ Osborne, Huw (2016-06-20). Queer Wales: The History, Culture and Politics of Queer Life in Wales. University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-1-78316-865-1.

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