It’s very difficult to speak about Aberfan.
Mom wrote “In a Town Called Aberfan” when she heard and read about the landslide in the news. My father wrote down Mom’s lyrics on a sheet of his graph paper in November 1966. The small letters above the last chorus and verse are the chords. “Copy by EWS”
I share this because I want you to know, beyond anniversaries, beyond boundaries of country, there is a memorial here, too, in my composition, Aberfan, underway and surfacing over years.
In the midst of its deepest revision I realized this question, how do you have words for such tragedy? Should I use any lyrics at all? If I did (for there are memories, and attempts to tell the story), the words themselves must be like the event, scattered, broken phrases, yet of a whole.
Here are the words that I chose to use in my own piece, cut out from Mom’s lyric. The only word I changed is “town” to “village”.
In the small Welsh village of Aberfan
for days the rain did fall down on the heart–
Little children of Aberfan in their school that day
the big, coal mountain–
They worked with their picks all through the day
dug with their shovels and hands
kept on digging kept on digging kept on digging–
Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax deductible. Your contribution ensures we can continue to create this recording.
We began recording in the studio in September.