premiered by the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Wales & Ben Gernon (conductor)
Dylan Thomas was born at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, on 27 October 1914. He lived in the red-bricked, semi-detached house with his mother and father, Florence and David John, and older sister Nancy, until after he turned 20, when he moved to London to pursue his career. Over half of Thomas’ published poems were written at Cwmdonkin Drive during these early, formative years. A recurring theme of his life and poetry is the contrast between the happy bliss of his childhood in Swansea, and the later turbulence of adult life with his unpredictable marriage to Caitlin, a strong attachment to alcohol, and exhaustingly long reading tours to America, where he eventually died in 1953.
Cwmdonkin evokes the sense of nostalgia Thomas undoubtedly felt for his childhood home as a grown man. After the Luftwaffe’s heavy bombing of Swansea in the Second World War, Thomas returned to view the destruction of the town he loved so dearly. He commented, “Our Swansea is dead”, and went on to explore the theme of grieving for a destroyed community in his radio play, Return Journey.
The piece opens with a landscape – or ‘soundscape’ – of Swansea Bay, that “long and splendid curving shore” which Dylan Thomas could see from the upper floor windows of the house in Cwmdonkin Drive. The sound of gentle waves and seagulls is joined by a long winding theme, which continually unwinds as the music progresses. In the middle portion of the piece, three memories briefly occur – the sound of swing music playing through the gramophone in the family living room, a peal of bells from the local church with the strains of a familiar hymn emerging from the congregation inside, and a traditional folk dance. Interspersed with these snapshots is a chorale, which eventually grows to form an accompaniment to the revival and development of the opening theme. As the piece reaches its climactic conclusion, a sustained chord halts the music abruptly, leaving it unresolved. As this chord fades away, so too do the memories – a fleeting sensation we have all experienced in our lives.
Bass Clarinet Concertino 2013
Written for Oliver Janes, who plays the solo part on this recording, accompanied by musicians from the Royal Academy of Music & Lloyd Coleman (conductor)
Breaking the Wall 2012
BBC National Orchestra of Wales & Nicholas Collon (conductor)
Breaking the Wall was the centre piece of the 2012 UCAN Perform Festival. The performance was the culmination of an extraordinary Cultural Olympiad journey when UCAN Productions Junior Chairman, Lloyd Coleman, was asked to write a large-scale orchestral work in celebration of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The resulting work, Breaking the Wall, was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in March 2012.
Using this inspirational score and narrative, UCAN Productions, under the direction of Artistic Director Bernard Latham, has created a dramatic representation of the story of Pheidippides, which was performed by highly talented blind and partially sighted young people from across Wales. The narrator was Giles Abbott.