144 people — including 116 children — were killed when 150,000 tons of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a school and houses in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales on October 21, 1966.
A Tribunal investigating the 1966 events found that the National Coal Board was entirely responsible for failing to act to prevent the disaster, though they were never prosecuted.
Sophie-Ann Williams of North Wales provided the photo below of her Grandfather, the late Reverend Colin Peter Bessant. He was helping to dig out after the Aberfan Disaster. Paula Bessant Williams, Sophie’s mother, said, “My Dad never spoke about it without getting really upset. Just said it was the greed of man…”
“…and yet…the innocent are those who get punished most zealously of all. And what would one then have to say about our so evident torturers: Why does not fate punish them? Why do they prosper?
And the only solution to this would be that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but …in the development of the soul. From that point of view our torturers have been punished most horribly of all: they are turning into swine, they are departing downward from humanity…”
“The Ascent” from The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue)is an elegy not only for the people of a village who suffered the loss of a generation and the wounded soul of the Welsh who saw their beautiful country destroyed when the coal mines came to the valleys, but for our world, besieged by unbridled industry pillaging the land and its people, exploiting riches for a few. Aberfan is our entire structure under collapse — the condemnation of a corrupted capitalism and the truth of our entrapment in a world that reduces to rubble all that is sacred.
Over one year ago, Richie Davis wrote this powerful story for the Greenfield Recorder, our local paper. Our interview together was the first I had spoken publicly about the composition that had been underway for years.
Art that is simply willed is not art.” (Thomas Merton)
Several concepts were embedded in the process of composing Aberfan. These became emotional and compositional imperatives, apparent only as I went along: chaos, the spiraling of events, silence after trauma, the absolute necessity that what wrenches, what pulls at the heart and hurts, be contained in the tension between how things were and how things could have been.
I am honored to announce that Aberfan has been awarded a $5,000 grant from M.S. Worthington Foundation of Nantucket, MA. With their support and belief in the value of this large work — so resonant in these current times of despair and upheaval — we will be able to return to the studio to continue recording.
“The MS Worthington Foundation is proud to support your mission. Thank you for your good work!” writes Sabrina Elwell, President.