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The Drowning of Capel Celyn
(Boddi Capel Celyn)

Harp: Sioned Williams

First performed by Sioned Williams as part of the Sandbach Concert Series, 25th September 2013.

Capel Celyn, a village near Bala in North Wales, was flooded in 1965 to create a reservoir for Liverpool. People were devastated as the water rushed into the valley, drowning the Chapel, Quaker Meeting House, a number of cottages, and the Post Office. There had been considerable  protests, including the bombing of a transformer on the site of the dam structure, and in many respects the controversy had wider and longer-term consequences. I wrote this work to mark the 50th anniversary of the flooding in 2015, as well as the 60th birthday of Sioned Williams.


There are five movements to the work. The opening movement, ‘First Light’ (Golau cynta’r wawr) has the feeling of the first shafts of light over a waking village, in some respects reminiscent of similar scenes in Under Milk Wood. It is followed by ‘The Wheels of Treason’ (Olwynion brad), the title from a poem by Huw T. Edwards, grandfather of Sioned Williams and chairman of the ‘Save Tryweryn’ campaign). There is a march-like quality, increasing in intensity and providing a drive towards the third movement, ‘Flooding’ (Llifogi). It begins with a trickle, the initial rhythm taken from the stream opposite my study, but it completes with an explosion of sound which takes much time to die. In my mind, gradually the waves subside and the waters soften, leading to the opening figure of ‘Sunken’ (Suddedig). Bubbles stream, fish glide, and towards the end are the first signs of sadness. ‘Farewell’ (Ffarwél) the final movement, contains a nod to that most famous of Welsh pieces, Myfanwy, by Joseph Parry. Each movement contains at or near its end, three symbolic tolls of a bell, to mark betrayal. These take different forms, sometimes a simple chord, other times an arpeggio sequence, although in the central movement these are altered to be more ‘explosive’, in recognition of the widespread protests against the flooding. 


Read an article on the piece (from the Daily Post) here.

Listen Capel Celyn
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