Coal mining disaster

Two Hymns: Aberfan Funeral 27th. October 1966.

“What hymns were played during the funeral services following the Aberfan disaster of October 21, 1966?”  I posted this question at Old Merthyr Tydfil Forum when first researching for my composition Aberfan, a work in progress.

Gratefully, here is one of the first responses that I received:

“My name is Jeff Adams. I used to live in Aberfan (left in 1966 to join the Royal Navy). I used to attend both Pantglas schools and used to, as a boy, play on those tips!  You are lucky. I have been reading as much as I can get my hands on over the past few months regarding the disaster.  Although the local mines had safety inspector engineers the tips did not…unbelievable.

The service itself lasted just 15 minutes (perhaps to spare more grief among the families?).  The first hymn on the sheet was:

‘Loving Shepherd of thy sheep,
Keep thy lambs in safety keep;
Nothing can thy power withstand,
None can pluck them from thy hand.’

The Salvation Army played the music.  It continued:
‘…Loving Saviour thou didst give,
Thine own life that we might live…’

The Bishop of Llandaff read from the Bible. (Among others) The Lord’s prayer was said.  Second hymn was, ‘Jesu Lover of My Soul,’ to the tune of ‘Aberystwyth,’ composed by Joseph Parry (19th. century Merthyr composer) :

…’That of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of thee;
Spring through up within my heart-
Rise to all eternity.’

5000 silent people on a Welsh hillside, the bitter cold unnoticed.  Fifteen mintues later it was all over.

Taken from the book Aberfan : The Story of a Disaster by Tony Austin Pages 143-144. I suggest you get it from your local library-you’ll be upset throughout it and angry at the National Coal Board for its outright arrogance.”

Of these two hymns, I chose to arrange “Loving Shepherd of Thy Sheep” for Aberfan, calling this section of the music “Final Hymn”.

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. Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.  I am currently seeking funds to complete the studio recording.

Photo courtesy of AP Archives Aberfan, October 1966

Aberfan and “The Crown”: All Things Bright and Beautiful

Yesterday, a friend mentioned she’d  been watching “The Crown” (Netflix) and its recent episode about the Aberfan Disaster.  I hadn’t seen it.

Upon reading one of the stories written about this particular episode (“The Crown” Recap:  All Things Bright and Beautiful), I felt I should share Ceri Jackson’s beautiful 50th anniversary story from a few years ago, which speaks to this hymn, addressing what may be a misconception :

“Their daily rendition [in morning assembly, 9am] of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ – a hymn written a few miles away in the bucolic tranquility of the Usk Valley – was postponed that day.  They would sing it before they went home when the head teacher planned to wish her pupils a safe and enjoyable holiday.” (Aberfan:  A Mistake that Cost a Village its Childrenby Ceri Jackson, BBC News, October 21, 2016)

Until seeing Ceri’s article I had the same misconception:  Several years ago, when I first began to reach out for specific information related to the Aberfan disaster for my own composition, I posted my question about hymns sung at the funeral service at Old Merthyr Tydfil Forum.  Several responses came in, one of which was:  Finally, you may wish to know that during morning assembly (9am.-9-15am) the children sang:  ‘All things bright and beautiful, the lord God loves them all.’

In composing Aberfan, it has been imperative that the facts of that day be honored, that in creating the sequence of musical events, I know what the actual events were. My arrangement of “All Things Bright and Beautiful” (called “First Hymn”) is placed in the music right after “Interlude” in which the children are walking to school, only to be interrupted by the catastrophic collapse, “Rock Sequence”.

Given that “All Things Bright and Beautiful” was typically sung during morning assembly, I felt it was fitting for it to remain in the composition.  Here is a demo sample:  Excerpt from Aberfan, “First Hymn”

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Photo courtesy of South Wales Police Museum.  Aberfan, 1966

 

MONDAY 21st.OCTOBER 2019.

 

As the day of the 53rd anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster nears, I am reposting this story by Ceri Jackson, BBC News, written for the 50th anniversary of the Disaster.

Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children

Photo from AP Archives , the graves of Aberfan, October 27, 1966.

 

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Contributions are tax deductible.

America: The Farewell Tour

I must share this.  Interview with Chris Hedges on his latest book America:  The Farewell Tour.

“This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races…Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering , exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress.”

As an artist, I work on the inside.  Yet everything I experience — and compelled to compose — is mirrored on the outside.  This book describes us in the context of history and fault, a world whose series of oppression and slaughter, greed and inequality, change only in details of the time.  My composition Aberfan, which I continue to hold, is microcosm for the macrocosm of our drawing extinction.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Poem for Aberfan

In 2016, Welsh poets Grahame Davies and Tony Curtis were commissioned to write a Sequence of poems, entitled Aberfan Voices, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster.  Each poem goes with a photograph by IC Rapoport.  This is the second of two posts introducing Grahame and Tony, sharing one each of their poems.

Both Tony and Grahame are serving as humanities scholars for my project Aberfan.  I am deeply honored and grateful for their participation in its unfolding and fullest, true expression.

Here is “Life”, written by Grahame Davies.

Life

Life is too big,

though children never know –

their world a nature-table, miniature,

seeds on a tray, a garden in a jar,

four walls of cut-out prints of autumn leaves

and a calendar that counts to Christmas.

 

Life is too big.

They never tell you that.

You’re never wise enough, never mature.

Take it from me:

your heart is never big enough

to hold it all – the deluge of the dark.

Stars are too distant

and the griefs too great.

 

Life is too big.

We try to make it fit

our columns and our canvases,

our lenses and our lines,

to make the immeasurable commensurate

with what we can contain:

words on a page,

a garden in a jar.

 

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Photo IC Rapoport,  1966

 

 

What is the value of connecting to your soul?

Does connecting to your soul enable you to make good choices for the environment?

In this desperate time of upheaval, as our earth is besieged by unbridled industry pillaging the land and exploiting its riches — embodied by mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking to extract natural gas — it is urgent we activate a moral and creative counterweight to intellectual arguments for climate change:   awaken the spirit of shared humanity and responsibility that lives in each of us.

Aberfan speaks directly to what is at the heart of our survival as fully actualized beings on a thriving planet — the need to reconnect with our own souls, where one realizes the interrelatedness of all things and greed does not overpower the value of life.  Only then are we impelled to critically examine the impact that our daily choices are having on our environment.

In bearing witness to the specific atrocity of Aberfan we expose our present challenge.  In sensing what is greater than ourselves, we re-envision a sustainable and just future.

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

At the crossroads of modern music, experimental media and environmental justice, Aberfan catapults this disaster into the present.  Music will be presented both in exhibition, live performance and participatory installation with photographs taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Photo IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

Almost Halfway There!

In just a few days, $175 has come in!  Fantastic!  Join them with your tax deductible gift today.

A total of $8370 has been raised!  With gifts ranging from $10 to $2250, individuals, small non-profit foundations and institutions are helping us get closer to the recording of Aberfan being a reality!

$1630 more will get us halfway there!  Please give what you can and tell two friends!

Donate Now

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.

Thank you!

Every Gift Matters

I am grateful to every listener and believer in this mission!

Your support is critical to the success of Aberfan.  For a project this large, every donation makes an impact!

Donate Now

$8220 has been raised!  With gifts ranging from $15 to $2250, individuals, non-profit foundations and institutions are helping to make the recording and presentation of Aberfan a reality!  Join them with your tax deductible gift today!

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.

Why Art Matters: “Aberfan”

Art connects us not only to the symbolic life of the soul, bringing light to darkness, but to external events that caution us.  Art stretches our minds and hearts, eliciting change where we had not felt before.

Donate Now

Over this week, $515 has been contributed, raising the total to $8,195!  Fantastic!  Join them with your tax deductible gift today.

$11,805 more will enable us to complete the studio recording of Aberfan.

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.

Recording “Aberfan” — Please Support!

aberfan-memorial-garden-plaque-2Thank you to everyone who has contributed to support Aberfan!  During our first studio sessions in late September we recorded about a 1/3 of the piano parts in 11 hours!

If you have not done so already, please consider making a donation now!

This year end fundraising campaign ensures we are able to continue recording!  Here is what your donation will do:
  • $25-$99 Pays for up to to two hours in the studio — Receive download of completed recording and be listed on my website donor page.
  • $100-$499  Pays for studio time with one additional musician — All of the above plus a CD copy of completed recording.
  • $500-$999  Payment towards the percussionist and studio producer — All of the above plus 2 free CDs of your choice.
  • $1,000 and above Payment towards mixing and mastering engineers — All of the above plus an invitation to visit the studio as we work.

In this time of uncertain governmental support, YOU are helping to bring art into the world!

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax-deductible.

DONATE NOW.

Aberfan is funded in part by Puffin West Foundation, Thendara Foundation, Puffin Foundation and Deupree Family Foundation.

Photo Aberfan Memorial Garden.