Novello-Davies, Clara (1861–1943)

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Novello-Davies, Clara (1861–1943)

Welsh choral conductor and singing teacher. Name variations: Clara Davies; Clara Novello Davies. Born Clara Novello Davies in Cardiff, Wales, in 1861; died in 1943; daughter of Jacob Davies (a choral conductor); married David Davies, in 1882; children: daughter Myfanwy (died in infancy); David Ivor Novello Davies (1893–1951, who composed musicals and popular songs under the name Ivor Novello).

Clara Novello-Davies was born in 1861 in Cardiff, of Welsh stock on both sides of the family. Her father Jacob Davies, a choral conductor, named her after Clara Novello , as a tribute to the singer. Taught music by her father, Clara appeared publicly as an accompanist at age 12. She married David Davies in 1882, and their home became a center of musical life in Cardiff.

Her first child, a daughter Myfanwy, died at 11 weeks in 1884. Her son David Ivor Novello Davies (1893–1951), whom she taught, would become a composer of enormously popular musicals and songs under the name Ivor Novello. He was also a playwright and composed the World War I song "Keep the Home Fires Burning."

Novello-Davies' enormous energy and flamboyant character enabled her to lead a musical life in Cardiff, London, and New York. In 1885, she assembled the first Ladies' Choir in Wales, with 100 voices, while continuing to run a music school in her home. In 1893, she founded and conducted a Welsh Ladies' Choir which she took to compete at the World's Fair in Chicago, returning home with the first prize, a gold medal. As a result, she was asked to train singers for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and also toured Britain, France, South Africa, and the United States with her choir. They sang to Queen Victoria at Osborne House in 1894, after which they enjoyed royal patronage and added the adjective "royal" to their title. The following year, they gave 70 concerts in the United States, wearing their national costume. They also visited the Paris Expositions of 1900 and 1937; on the latter occasion, the French government bestowed three decorations on Novello-Davies.

Clara Novello-Davies was a friend of David Lloyd George and visited the prime minister at No. 10 Downing Street. Her son dedicated one of his songs to Megan Lloyd George . Clara was also close to the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell , and regarded the singer Adelina Patti , who had come to live in South Wales, as her rival. To the Welsh public, she was affectionately known as "Mam" (the Welsh word for mother). Novello-Davies wrote an autobiography, The Life I Have Loved, in 1940, and died at her house on Park Lane, London, in 1943.


Glamorgan Record Office.

Harding, James. Ivor Novello. London: W.H. Allen, 1987.

Noble, Peter. Ivor Novello. London: Falcon Press, 1951.

Elizabeth Rokkan , translator, formerly Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Bergen, Norway