Whilst I normally only write something about concerts I attended in person I will be making one exception for this piece as I strongly believe it deserves this special attention.
A little bit of historic background on the piece. The 21st October 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the terrible mudslide in the Welsh village of Aberfan. A coal tip above the village slid down and caused serious destruction, amongst the buildings destroyed was Pantglas Junior School. A total of 116 children and 28 adults lost their lives. A serious tragedy for this little village and the whole of the mining community in South Wales.
S4C, the Welsh TV channel commissioned Sir Karl Jenkins with writing a piece to commemorate this sad occasion.
With a full Welsh contingency of soloist on stage this was a matter very close to everybody’s heart. Quite a few audience members were residents of Aberfan as well as people that very clearly remember this particular day.
Sir Karl was conducting the premiere himself. The music was so beautifully haunting and intense. All the names of the victims were integrated into the piece and it was just chilling. The whole piece is very difficult to put into words. The first few parts are very much replay the events of that tragic day with projections of images on the screen behind the chorus. The second half is very comforting with beautiful lyrical melodies. Elin Manahan Thomas and Bryn Terfel perfectly in tune singing in their native Welsh left you with an enveloping warmth.
One of the parts is very poignant with the children’s chorus singing a very simple and playful melody teasing each other which really brings it home that kids that age were the ones who had their lives taken away from them within a matter of minutes. The adult chorus joined in with projections of playing children in the background.
Jenkins music is so versatile and manages to take you on quite a rollercoaster of emotions. The Welsh national instrument, the harp, also had an important role within the piece and Catrin Finch was playing so expressive.
When the Shadow dies is just so emotional – the dialogue between Elin and Bryn could easily be seen as a discussion between parents that lost their child. It goes under your skin and leaves you reflecting. Coming to a close with Lux Eterna you have playful melodies waving you into their spell…
I really wish I would’ve been able to witness this piece there at the Wales Millenium Centre – whilst the TV broadcast already gave me tingles I can only imagine how intense the atmosphere must have been there!
This beautiful new piece of music is definitely worth listen to – the CD has just been released as well (http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4796486?)
Though I strongly feel that it is essential to familiarise yourself with the context behind the story first to really understand the significance to the whole community in Wales, especially South Wales.