15 June 2015

Landslides in Art Part 22: Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue)

Posted by Dave Petley

Aberfan: 7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue

Laura Siersema is a composer and poet based in western Massachusetts in the USA.  In the aftermath of the terrible 1966 Aberfan landslide disaster in Wales, in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a coal mine spoil heap collapsed and buried a school, her mother wrote a folk song “In a town called Aberfan”.


As we approach the 50th anniversary of the disaster next year, Laura has been working on anew, much longer piece about the disaster entitled Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue). In Laura’s words:

“My mother wrote a folk song, “In a Town Called Aberfan,” in the wake of the tragedy, that I used to hear when I was a child. I have been compelled for years to work on an adaptation of my own. Using excerpts of melody and lyric from my mother’s song, as well as portions of hymns sung earlier that morning and at the funeral one week later, Aberfan is now a full modern piece incorporating movements of Rain, Sunrise, Rubble, Rock, Hymns, Interludes, Trauma, Silence and a Field, and their alterations.”

This is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).  Two samples of the piece can be played online via Laura’s blog: First Hymn – Rock Sequence and Altered Rain.  Laura also has posted some reflections on writing the piece on her blog.

Laura is seeking funding to record the full piece later in 2015, ahead of the anniversary of the Aberfan disaster next year.  Details are on her website.

This is part 22 of the Landslides in Art series of posts on this blog.  Part 21 is here.