BBC News

A Beautifully Written Story and Music from “Aberfan”

South Wales Police Museum

(Originally posted on the 50th anniversary, October 21, 2016.

Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children

By Ceri Jackson, BBC News

Here are a few short samples from our first studio sessions for Aberfan.

First, “Rain Sequence”, the layering of pianos at the beginning of the piece.  

Second, “First Hymn”, a demo excerpt of “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.  The children were to sing it on the day of the disaster before they went home. 

“Rock Sequence”, the catastrophic collapse.  

Last, an excerpt of “Altered Rain”, the impossibility and hope of life forever altered as people descend back into the village following the mass funeral. 

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), 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 return to the studio to complete its recording.

Photo courtesy of Alan George

21ST.OCTOBER 2020: Aberfan 54th anniversary

(Originally posted October 2019)

As the day of the 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.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), 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 return to the studio to complete its recording.

Climate Emergency: “Who Will Pass This On”

Applause to Greta Thunberg Bristol climate strike: ‘The world is on fire’

Laura Siersema Trio performing “Who Will Pass This On” live in 2012, using the same words:  “You gotta get up — the world’s on fire.” I’m on the piano with Billy Klock on drums, and Wim Auer, fretless bass.

 

WHO WILL PASS THIS ON

You and I are not unscathed
we seek the bones of our own making
whisper in the smell of autumn
who will pass this on–

We are one
from the beginning
deeper than oceans
wider than sky
trembling like the sun–
you gotta get up–

Blazing in their holy places
listen, the voices warning:

You gotta get up
the world’s on fire–
you gotta get up
the world’s on fire–

We are one from the beginning
deeper than oceans
wider than sky–

I had always dreamed–

You and I are not unscathed
we seek the bones of our own making
whisper in the smell of autumn
who will pass this on–

original version (so totally different) Talon of the Blackwater (2009)
c 2012 Laura Siersema

Aberfan: First Hymn (“All Things Bright and Beautiful”)

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

The “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 Children by Ceri Jackson, BBC News, October 21, 2016)

The catastrophic collapse occurred about 9:15am.

Here is a demo sample of voice and piano parts  from Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue).  ‘First Hymn — Rock Sequence’:  

Aerial view, October 21, 1966, courtesy of AGU Blogosphere

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.

 

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 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 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.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), 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 return to the studio to complete its recording.