At last night’s gala celebrating the music of Ivor Novello (pictured) at the West End theatre recently relaunched in his name (See News, 23 May 2005), the Welsh composer was posthumously awarded one of this year’s Cymry for the World Honours. Other living recipients of the Wales Millennium Centre’s biennial accolade in 2006 include actor Jonathan Pryce, most recently on stage in the Broadway musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The Cymry for the World Honours were introduced in 2004, when the Millennium Centre first opened, to pay tribute to Welsh artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the world of music, theatre and film. The first year’s honourees included posthumous winner Richard Burton as well as Dame Shirley Bassey and actress Sian Phillips, who attended last night’s event along with other celebrity guests including Derek Jacobi and Julian Fellowes.

Born in Cardiff in 1893, Novello found early success as a matinee idol on stage and screen. He wrote his first play, The Rat, in 1924, which he followed in 1935 with his debut musical, Glamorous Night, the first of many hits at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Novello’s other musicals included Careless Rapture, King’s Rhapsody, Gay’s the Word, The Dancing Years, Crest of the Wave, Arc de Triomphe and Perchance to Dream, while his song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” was one of the most popular hits during the First World War. He died of a heart attack on 6 March 1951 after appearing in an evening performance of King’s Rhapsody at the Palace Theatre. He was 58.

For 38 years, Novello lived in a flat above the theatre in the Aldwych, penning many of his hits there. Last year, the theatre, formerly known as the Strand, was refurbished and renamed in Novello’s honour by impresario Cameron Mackintosh who, at the same time, renamed the Albery in honour of Novello’s contemporary, Noel Coward (See News, 20 Jun 2006).

Jonathan Pryce was born in Holywell in June 1947. He’s become best known internationally for his screen roles in the likes of Evita, Glengarry Glen Ross, Ronin, Stigmata, Jumping Jack Flash, The Age of Innocence, Carrington and, more recently, The Pirates of the Caribbean. In addition to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, his many stage credits include Miss Saigon, Oliver!, My Fair Lady, A Reckoning and Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.

Also singled out for the 2006 Cymry for the World Honours tenor Stuart Burrows, composer Dr Karl Jenkins and punk band the Manic Street Preachers. This year’s honours will be formally presented on Sunday 26 November 2006 at the Wales Millennium Centre, in a ceremony hosted by Sian Phillips. Last night’s Novello concert marked the Wales Millennium Centre’s West End debut. Welsh sopranos Marilyn Hill Smith and Shan Cothi and tenor Rhys Meirion were joined by West End stars Rosemary Ashe and Tom Solomon, compere Frank Lincoln and violinist Gillian Findlay, accompanied by the 36-strong Sinfonia Britannia, in performing the “glamorous night” of Novello’s music.

- by Terri Paddock