Sir Carl Jenkins - 'Cantata Memoria'

   15th October at 2pm at Nelson Boys College

(Press reports, photos, videos)

Satin Feathers
- screen version
Lux Aeterna

Nelson Civic Choir's tribute to Aberfan


The Nelson Civic Choir under the baton of Chris Lukies rehearsing for the Aberfan concert




















On October 21 1966, disaster struck the small South Wales town of Aberfan, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Fifty one years later, the Nelson Civic Choir is paying a tribute to the people who lost their lives with a concert at Nelson College. 

In the village of Aberfan in the heart of the South Wales coalfield it was raining; hard and unrelentingly as it had been for weeks. In the morning, the children emerged into streets shrouded with a dense, cold fog. Mothers waved goodbye from the doorstep, never imagining in their worst nightmares that it would be for the last time. 

The 240 pupils of the Victorian red brick Pantglas Junior School wound their way to school. As they congregated for morning assembly, they were excited. At midday the half-term holiday would begin. 




Rescuers search for survivors in the South Welsh village of Aberfan after mining waste poured down the mountainside into the Pantglas Junior School and surrounding houses, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Their daily rendition of 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' – a hymn written only a few miles away – 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. 

Above the village, and its school, was a tip.  Every mining community had its tips: the waste product of coalmining. They were notorious for sliding but there was particular concern about Aberfan's 'tip number seven' which had risen to a 34m heap of some 230,000 cubic metres of waste, towering above Aberfan. 

It sat on highly-porous sandstone riven with streams and underwater springs. It had slipped three years previously when an ominous crater appeared at the top. A bulge had formed at its base as mountain spring water liquefied the spoil into thick, black quicksand. 



Getty Images

The sun rises over the valley as people arrive for a memorial service at Aberfan cemetery to mark 50 years since the Aberfan tragedy on October 21, 2016 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

Numerous complaints had been made to the National Coal Board about it – including a petition from Pantglas school three years earlier. The Coal Board had brushed complaints aside. On the morning of 21st October, one witness saw part of this huge pile of waste turned itself into a wave which travelled down the tip towards its base. Seconds later the bottom of the tip shot out, forming a glistening black avalanche that consumed rocks, trees, farm cottages, then ruptured the Brecon Beacons to Cardiff water main, engorging it further in its descent.

Down in the school, the lights began to flicker and sway; there was an ominous roar like a jet plane screaming low over the school in the fog. The huge avalanche of waste engulfed the school and neighbouring houses. If fate had played its hand 20 minutes earlier, the school would have been empty.

The crisis whistle sounded in the colliery and miners, their headlamps still lit, ran to the school where women were clawing at the slurry - trying in vain to reach their children. One man looked to his left, where there was a woman on her knees screaming. He said: 'Have the children gone home?' She said: 'No, they're all in there.'

That day, 116 children and 28 adults were killed. It took recovery workers 15 days to dig them all out.

Karl Jenkins' Cantata Memoria: for the Children of Aberfan tells that story. It also depicts the long and incomplete process of grieving and finding meaning in life after tragedy. It is about children, and their special place in our lives, and about the process of healing.

For the first New Zealand performance of this piece, on Sunday 15th October at 2.00pm in Nelson College, the Nelson Civic Choir will bring together 140 singers in adult and youth choirs, a 43-piece orchestra and a specially commissioned video and lighting to enhance the impact of the music.  It will be a moving and memorable event. Tickets are available at TicketDirect.

 - Stuff

Memorial cantata an emotional and musical experience

Nelson Civic Choir, guest singers and orchestra, with Nelson Young Voices.Sunday, October 15th.

Reviewed by Jenny Snadden.

The Nelson Civic Choir, Nelson Young Voices Choir, and guests singers and musicians offered the first New Zealand Performance of Jenkins 'Cantata Memoria' for the Children of Aberfan, at Nelson College, on Sunday.

A packed audience in Nelson College hall were privileged to hear the first NZ performance of Karl Jenkins' 50th anniversary musical tribute to the 116 children and 28 adults who died on October 21, 1966 when a huge coalmine slag heap collapsed onto Pantglas Junior School and surrounding houses in the village of Aberfan, Wales.

Under the polished baton of conductor Chris Lukies, every facet of the performance was a triumph for those involved: the professionalism of the orchestra, the stage management, the dramatic lighting changes, the central placement of the children's choir to heighten the poignancy of the story, and the performance of the Civic Choir, which supported the children beautifully while never overwhelming them.

The starkness of the tragedy and the emotional responses and legends that grew up around it were movingly expressed by the music and the sensitive accompanying video.

The multilingual score featured mainly Welsh, English and Latin.

Bass-baritone Joel Amosa's beautiful rendition of the folk song "Myfanwy" introduced a heartrendingly complete recitation of the names of the dead, intoned by both choirs, underpinned by Zane Maxwell's mellow euphonium.

Soprano Sarah-Jane Rennie joined Joel Amosa in an expressive "Lament for the Valley" (Agnus Dei), accompanied by the soulful violin obbligato of orchestra leader Hedda Oosterhoff. Rennie's lovely lyrical coloratura in "Did I hear a bird?" floated effortlessly over the children's voices and the adult choir.

Helen Webby's glorious harp playing throughout lent a quintessentially Welsh flavour to the music.

The final Lux Aeterna melded with the children's sweet voices singing a nursery song, and an uplifting recitation of the word "Light" in many languages, signalling a brave return of hope.

This was as much an emotional as a musical experience, and the final standing ovation provided an emphatic endorsement of all those involved.

3 Cortege
5 Lacrymosa Lullaby

3 Cortege

7 Satin Feathers
8 And once upon a time
9 And a half
10 When the shadow dies
11 Lux Aeterna

Cantata Memoria by Karl Jenkins is used by permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty. Ltd, exclusive agents for Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd of London

Rossini - Petite Messe Solenelle - Nelson Cathedral - 21st May 2017

Civic Choir rejoice in Rossini!


Martin De Ruyter/FairfaxNZ

Chris Lukies conducts the Nelson Civic Choir on Sunday at Nelson's Cathedral, performing Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

Following their memorable trip to New York to sing in Carnegie Hall, the Nelson Civic Choir opens their 2017 Nelson season on Sunday, May 21st with Rossini's sparkling Petite Messe Solennelle, in the wonderful setting of Nelson Cathedral.

The choir is joined in this concert by four accomplished local soloists: Zoe Bennett, soprano, Erica Sim, contralto, Ewen Griffiths, Tenor and Graham O'Brien, Bass.

Conducted by musical director, Chris Lukies, they are accompanied by the musical director of Nelson Cathedral, James Thomas on organ, and Lizzie Peacock on Piano.

Although Rossini is better known for his bubbly comic operas, the Petite Messe, is a serious piece (solennelle), written 30 years after his last opera. It shows off Rossini's lively talent, with some of the passages sounding as though they may have come from operetta. 

The structure intertwines major solo parts with substantial passages for chorus. Compared with Rossini's operas, this work is not often performed, and this concert gives audiences a rare chance to hear a sacred, but not too solemn work by Rossini in the glorious Cathedral setting.

The Civic Choir are also working toward their October 15 concert, fulfilling the promise they made before their New York trip. That was to bring the new Karl Jenkins work, Cantata Memoria,  back to Nelson to share it with their fellow musicians and the wider community.

With singers and instrumentalists from the Top of the South, Christchurch and Wellington, a children's choir and full orchestra, and a specially commissioned video to complement the music, the first New Zealand performance of the Cantata Memoria promises to be an emotional and memorable event.

Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle, Nelson Civic Choir, Nelson Cathedral, Sunday  May 21,  2pm. Tickets from TicketDirect , the Theatre Royal, or at the door.

Choir Committee
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email: nccnoelstephens@gmail.com

Phone:  021 061 2568

Noel Stephens (Acting Chairperson)

Lindsay Vaughan (Treasurer)

Karen Gibson (Acting Secretary)

Patti Martin (Committee member)

Akasha Doel (Youth Representative)