Duration: c. 12 minutes
Publisher: Ty Cerdd
Stillness was commissioned by an international consortium consisting of the following ensembles and their directors. This consortium was constructed due to a shared connection between each member and the story of pioneering aviator, Amelia Earhart. The composer remains indebted to the support of each consortium member and to Ty Cerdd, the centre for Welsh music, for their input in bringing this project to life.
University of Saskatchewan Wind Orchestra (Canada)
Dr. Darrin Oehlerking
University of Kansas Wind Ensemble (U.S.A.)
Dr. Paul Popiel
Central Band of the Royal Air Force (United Kingdom)
Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs
Montclair University Wind Symphony (U.S.A.)
Dr. Thomas McCauley
Burry Port Town Band (Wales)
Michael Thorne & Tom Davoren
Ty Cerdd (Wales)
I first encountered music thanks to the enthusiasm and encouragement of his local band, the Burry Port Town Band, in West Wales. Famed for it’s picturesque harbour, a perhaps lesser know part of Burry Port’s identity is it’s surprise hosting of pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart, who was received by the town on the completion of her first successful transatlantic voyage in June 1928.
Taking off from Newfoundland in Canada, Earhart and her crew intended to arrive at the English port of Southampton. Burry Port Harbour would prove to become a safe haven for the daring female pilot, from Kansas USA, when visibility proved too poor to reach the final target.
The unexpected spectacle of a world record attempt by Earhart’s Fokker F. VII aircraft, in it’s signature vibrant orange colour, caused quite a stir amongst the local people of Burry Port. One person who did manage to speak to her on the day was the reporter from the Llanelli Mercury newspaper. He managed to get his interview early on the morning after their arrival, before she took off again;
"How lovely your country is," she said. "The stillness and the silence brings back again the almost awesome feeling which came to me as, hour after hour, we pushed forward through the thick clouds and fog. It was as if we were alone in the world. To think that 48 hours ago I was in America and now I am in Wales!"
Stillness takes it’s title from this quote and it’s inspiration from the stages of Earhart’s journey from Canada to Wales. The opening of the piece attempts to balance two conflicting moods; the sense momentum and timelessness associated with air travel. There is a sense of underlying tension, which leads to aggressive music depicting the challenging weather conditions that forced an unexpected landing just off the coast of South West Wales. Through the mist a port town becomes progressively more visible, which leads to small flotilla of working boats sailing to meet Earhart’s aircraft and gently guide it ashore. As the harbour gates are cranked open a bustling, exciting atmosphere is revealed as the whole town of Burry Port have turned out to great the intrepid, transatlantic visitors.
Throughout the work a melody from the traditional Welsh hymn tune Burry Port by John Roberts becomes progressively clearer; changing from it’s native minor to an optimistic major key. Whilst this itself is a reference to the shape of Earhart’s journey this musical material has been included due to it’s close connection to Burry Port Town Band. Tab John, a long serving tuba player with the band, discovered what was thought of lost sheet music for the hymn in a forgotten and threadbare copy of the Welsh methodist hymnal in a local ‘bric-a-brac’ shop as I was composing Stillness. The fact that this hymn would have been sung during the time of Earhart’s landing, and that it’s Welsh text referees to ‘finding safety in the desert’, made it’s discovery seem very much like fate.