Below Ground (For Baritone & Piano)
For Baritone & Piano
I - Prelude
II - Ah, You That Breath The Upper Air
III - Interlude
IV - Workers Song
Please note: The movements in this work can be performed as a song cycle, or individually.
Below Ground is a reflection on my Welsh heritage, as well as family mining background from the Cwm Valley. The song cycle explores the theme of news and reportage through various points of history and perspectives; taking extracts from King George the Sixth to poetry published in newspapers, written by miners in Wales and Cornwall in the 19th Century. As someone who grew up on brass bands and mining stories from my Grandad, these songs offered me the opportunity to learn more about the rich history of mining communities, giving me insights to their day-to-day life. As such, I wanted this to inform the overall structure of my song cycle, where each movement offers a different perspective on miners. When researching texts and discovering a wide variety of source material, this cycle suddenly became a personal project. After reading the miners poetry, I recalled memories of my Grandad (whom this work is dedicated too), and the initial working life he went through before pursuing a career as an operatic tenor.
To me, it was important to capture the danger associated with this profession. Miners would often risk their lives in poor conditions and wages in order to provide the necessary fuel to keep the country functioning. This led to me using the more chromatic and darker aspects of my musical language to convey the poetic unrest and disquiet amongst the workers.This is reflected in the initial two movements, where the speech of King George VI recounts a mining disaster in the Welsh Village of Senghennydd in the early 20th Century. In contrast, the initial miners poem in movement two, entitled ‘Ah, You That Breath The Upper Air’ , reflects on the danger of the work and the ignorance of the upper classes at the time. However, I did not want this piece to be one-dimensional and focus purely on the political anxiety of the times. Therefore, the final movement entitled ‘Workers Song’, takes form as a folk-song. Invoking the traditional songs that miners might have sung during their journeys to and from the mining pits.
Private recording - Available on request.