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Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

Memories and Memorabilia

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John Canter, violinist

This newspaper cutting from 1968 sets out some of John Canter’s early musical achievements. John attended the Town Church School before coming to ABGS in 1964. Whilst at school he contributed much to its musical activities at Carol Services, Prize Days and in Speech Days. Subsequent to the newspaper story, John went on to gain a full place in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. After school he studied law at Birmingham, but after one year there he transferred to Trinity College of Music London to pursue his musical interests. He eventually became a member of the orchestra at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Prior to his death in June 2020, John had been living in the family home in Aberdare. John’s father Wilf, also an old boy of the school, was chief clerk at the Town Hall in Aberdare, and his mother Kathleen was a soprano soloist of some distinction.

Teenage violinist’s
‘National’ Prize

John Canter with violin, 1968

SECOND at the Urdd (Welsh League of Youth) National Eisteddfod at Holyhead two years ago, 15-year-old John Canter, Brynteg, Pendarren Street, Aberdare, went one better this year by capturing first prize at the Llanwrst Urdd National (writes PROPERT JENKINS).

He is the son of Mr. Wilfred canter, Assistant Clerk at the Town Hall, and Mrs. Kathleen Canter.


As it happened, at the moment John played, the marquee was full, with about 4,000 spectators present.

Mr. Arthur Hefin Jones (Dolgellau), adjudicating, said the work chosen — the first two movements of Handel’s Sonata in D Major — had been too difficult for the young competitors. Only the winner of the contest, John Canter, had come anywhere near playing the composition properly, he added.

“I seemed to manage O.K. though,” said John when interviewed. “I agree with the adjudicator that it was very hard for the age group, though on the technical side I personally thought it was not too bad,” he continued.

The first and second preliminary rounds were held at Rhydywaun and Rhydyfelin in March. In both, he had to gain first prize in order to go into the third round, which was held on the same day as the final.


Out of the six who entered the third round, three were chosen to play in the final, with John, the East Glamorgan representative, coming out the winner.

John, a reserve this year for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, is a pupil at Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School, and he hopes to go to university, but will not necessarily study music. “You see, I regard it as more of a hobby,” he says.

Only recently, he passed Grade 6 — all his passes have been with distinction — and now intends going on at least to Grade 8, which shows a very high degree of proficiency.

For the past year, John has been a member of the Glamorgan Youth Orchestra, graduating from the East Glamorgan Youth Orchestra, of which he has been a member for four years. He was promoted to the orchestra after an audition.

Although he started playing the piano at the age of seven, he only took up the violin four years ago on entering the Grammar School. “I just fancied another instrument, as at the time I thought of going to university to take a music degree, and then take it up professionally,” he added.


John practises with the East Glamorgan Youth Orchestra every Saturday morning, and with the full Glamorgan Orchestra for a nine-day period in the holidays, four times a year, one of the sessions being with the Glamorgan Youth Choir.

“I have played with the Glamorgan Youth Orchestra in the Rhondda, Bridgend and in fact just about all over South Wales,” he said. “I have also played solo at the Aberaman Hall, the Coliseum, Trecynon, and at Port Talbot on the same bill as the Rhosgwawr Choir,” he informed me.

Asked to comment on the violin, John said: “It is a very difficult instrument, but if you can really play it, it makes some delightful sounds. Musicianship is essential to play the fiddle.”

John’s mother, formerly Miss Kathleen Williams, was well known as a singer and member of the Cynon Valley Amateur Operatic Society, and his father, a member of the male chorus, played several minor roles.