William Idris Owen
1901 - 2004
Idris Owen, a pianist and singer, was a well-known figure in Seventh-day Adventist music education and evangelism in France, Great Britain, and New Zealand in the early and mid-20th century. He was a highly regarded teacher and many of his students were winners in music competitions.
Idris was born in Mountain Ash, a coal-mining town south of Aberdar in the Cynon Valley in South Wales. When he was seven, his family joined the Adventist church during an evangelistic campaign conducted by W.E. Read. Shortly after this, when he started music study, it quickly became evident that he possessed a significant talent.
His mother, determined that he should have an education and not be a miner, encouraged him to attend Stanborough College, later relocated and renamed Newbold College, an Adventist school in Watford, England. He was an exceptional student and, at age nineteen, following completion of a music diploma and the first of two diplomas from London's royal schools in music (L.R.A.M. and A.R.C.M.), was offered and accepted a music teaching position at the Adventist college and seminary in Collonges, France.
At age 38, Owen and his family had to leave the country when German aggression in Europe escalated and France responded with a declaration of war. In subsequent years, he often talked about the family's return to Britain in a car filled with all of the personal possessions they could carry.
He taught privately in Watford after he returned and then was hired by Stanborough School, now an Adventist secondary school, to teach music and French. After World War II ended in 1945, his music students entered and placed in local and regional music contests. In 1957, for example, they won four first places, a silver cup, and three second and two third places.
Owen emigrated to New Zealand in 1961, at age sixty, where he taught music and French at the Adventist school in Auckland for the next six years. At the time of his retirement in 1967, he and his wife visited the church's headquarters in Washington, D.C., and their homeland, England, where he enjoyed reunions with many of his former students.
Early in 1973, his wife, Lillian, died and near the end of that year he remarried. The following year, the Owens traveled to Collonges, France, where, as a "sustentation Overseas Worker*," he presided over the music program at the college and seminary for two years, before returning to New Zealand, at age 74.
Owen subsequently returned to Britain, where he lived in Barrowby, England. In 1990, at age 89, he returned to South Wales to live in Nantgaredig near Carmarthen. He was living there when he died at 102. His funeral service included music by Chopin and ended with a recording of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Handel's Messiah.
* At that time, retired Adventist workers were supported by income from a "Sustentation" fund. They could provide additional overseas service during those years, if they wished to do so.
Sources: Death notice, British Union Conference News #391, 30 April 2004, an email newsletter; Obituary, British Messenger, 14 June 1957 and obituary, 30 July 2004, 11; Review and Herald, 9 February 1967, 5 and 22 July 1976, 21.