Thursday, 20 October 2016

Aberfan: Cantata Memoria


I have just been watching Welshman Karl Jenkins' incredibly moving Cantata Memoria.
It is a multilingual choral work with a special importance for all Welsh people of a certain age for it commemorates the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults in what became a mining disaster that shocked the world
Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the Aberfan disaster.
For those that may not be familiar with what happened, back in 1966, after a period of heavy rain a coal spoil tip which had been mismanaged and neglected by the National coal board disintegrated into the small Welsh village of Aberfan. The slurry overwhelmed the village and practically destroyed the village school where the children had just arrived at their desks for registration.
I was just four years old when the disaster occurred but it has always had a certain resonance with me as I remember when , as an older child of eight or so,  I and my fellow classmates were reminded by our own teacher that most of the dead where younger children of similar ages to us.

The Jenkins' work is a stunning piece of  National and indeed international remembrance for Children lost in such disasters. It's been a long long time since I have been so moved by such an event



42 comments:

  1. I remember the Aberfan disaster very well. It was truly shocking, especially for school children. Strange to think that the notion of a slag heap turning into a wall of black slurry had never been thought of until that.

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    1. Our teacher scared us by saying that many of the children were found at their desks .overwhemed by the slurry ...not something that should have been said to children sitting at t heir desks

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    2. Oh, that is terrible, a child hearing that , it sticks in your mind forever ..
      This is so heartbreaking ..

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    3. Oh my god this is so terrible. I am younger and had not heard of this before. My god.

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  2. What a terrible thing to happen. This has obviously left its mark not only on you, John, but an entire nation.

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    1. Halifax has its own disaster jimbo I recall

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  3. I am old enough to remember watching as the news unfolded and disbelieving that such a terrible thing was happening. Mining disasters usually involved men, when pits collapsed and miners were trapped, injured and killed, but the children - never! As the mother of a young son myself, my heart went out to those poor parents, waiting in the vain hope that their children would be found alive, but gradually realising that all hope was gone. A whole generation lost to a small mining village, their future non-existent. And the mourning still goes on, as well as the nightmares, the loss and the heartache.

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    1. Yes historically in Wales mining disasters have always involved men ( and teens) never small children and housewives at home

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  4. Mining disasters are usually terrible and people got trapped maybe for several days and the outcome is rarely good.
    Nowadays I know these kinds of catastrophe to happen in China.

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  5. Before reading your post, I had never known of this horrific event.

    Now I can imagine how touching that music would be.

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  6. I remember this vividly. The black and white film on the news, the photographs of desperate grieving parents. The despair, pain and loss is still etched in my memory ... I was six years old ... but because of the age of the victims I somehow understood it all.

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  7. So much innocence lost. This is heartbreaking.

    On a more uplifting note, thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog. I'm glad to be a new follower.

    Keep going gently. Smiles.

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  8. How sad that a town is associated with such a tragic event. I'm not really familiar with it, but it sounds like something which could have been avoided? -Jenn

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  9. How horrific that they were mostly children! A reminder to cherish each day.

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  10. So very sad. I have just listened to Aberfan 'Tears of The Valley' by
    Johnny Bell.
    My grandfather and his parents emigrated from Wales through the West Indies and came to Australia. This sad time was told to us when were growing up. It made us realise how fortunate we were because it was something we couldn't comprehend and we felt sad for the children and their parents.

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  11. What an horrific thing to happen, the pain and loss will reverberate through so many people and for so long.
    I am so sorry

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  12. Tragic, horrific . . . very sad.

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  13. I was ten years old and can remember seeing the newspaper headlines. Such a sad and horrible tragedy.

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  14. I remember the disaster as if it was yesterday, it was the first such event that I felt I'd almost experienced personally. I don't suppose the people of Aberfan have ever recovered.

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  15. Thank you for sharing this

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  16. I was 14 and remember it so clearly - I think the Commonwealth countries held a collective sense of family grief and in NZ it certainly was remembered, as was the plane that came down over Lockerbie.

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  17. Like some others' comments above, I too recall the day vividly - though then I'd just turned 20.
    Working close so to home I was able to go home daily for lunch. As usual I always listened to the one o'clock news and on this day at this time it was a case of "Reports are coming in of....." and though details were sketchy there was little doubt that a major catastrophe had happened. When I returned to work I tried to tell my work colleagues but couldn't convey the seriousness of some kind of major tragedy. I remember saying breathlessly "In Wales, somewhere called Aber...something." Nobody seemed to be paying much attention to me or that bothered, and I was left frustrated. That evening they all would have been faced with more up-to-date news of an event which, for those of us at the time, will remain indelibly in our minds for the rest of our lives. What a horror it was, even now, to think of it as it happened!

    I must seek out this complete Carl Jenkins work, a contemporary composer who, even before this, had the knack of conveying deep emotional involvement for his listeners.

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  18. They are talking about this on breakfast telly in England this morning. There is going to be a minutes silence at 12.00pm today in commemoration. They interviewed a survivor who was helped out of the window by a teacher and the caretaker. He was told to run home. He and his older siblings all survived. His family never again spoke of the event.

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    1. The silence is at 9.15 and not 12 as I stated above.

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  19. I have never forgotten the black and white news images of this terrible event as it unfolded. I was 12. I am reminded of it whenever somewhere in the world rescuers ask for quiet as they search disaster areas for survivors.

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  20. I have never forgotten the black and white news images of this terrible event as it unfolded. I was 12. I am reminded of it whenever somewhere in the world rescuers ask for quiet as they search disaster areas for survivors.

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  21. Thanks John. The Cantata Memoria is a fitting tribute. The silence near the end is deafening. Mining is a dangerous business. I'm reminded of Larkin's poem about an explosion in a mine.

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  22. I remember it as if it was yesterday and the bewildering total disbelief experienced by everyone that day

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  23. I remember very well the day it happened because, for some reason which I don;t remember, I wasn't at school. It was the only time as a child that I recall the television being on in the daytime.

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  24. Wales definitely had its share of disasters in the history... God knows my country had them tons as well. Hope they stay away from us in the future... not that I'm optimistic

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  25. I was three. My mother tells me it came on the news and she turned off so I didn't see the children. She watched the later news. Mum was protecting me from seeing the awful sight. A tragic day.

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  26. Terrible! I had to google to learn more about it and am shocked about the ignorance of the responsible.

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  27. I was also 4 John, and remember it on the lunchtime news and Mam crying, " that's my home". We were in Worcestershire, and Uncle Lloyd sped down there to find the family. Sadly my 2nd cousin, Carol, had died in the school. The slide had missed the family home in Moy Road by a few feet. RIP

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    1. Thank you for sharing this Bevery... You have made it all more real

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  28. As it happened in one of the Welsh valleys, a musical memorial is so fitting. There have been a couple of TV documentaries about this terrible tragedy recently. Any natural disaster is awful but what happened at Abefan was worse because it was caused by the stupidity of private mine owners, followed by the inaction of the National Coal Board. Kisses are blown for each one of those little angels. R.I.P..

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  29. Was there ever any retribution to the guys responsible for such a horrible event?

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  30. Tragic event etched into our nations memory.

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  31. Tragic event etched into our nations memory.

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  32. It is so sad when children perish for no reason. Through the negligence of others. It is those instances that permeate the minds and souls of the tragic area for generations to come.

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  33. The coal board actually had the cheek to use money from the funds raised by the general public for the village
    They eventually paid this money back

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