Special Report by Robert Lloyd
St David’s Day concert and celebration of Amelia Earhart (Burry Port’s moment in world history), featuring Burry Port Town Band, Burry Port, Burry Port Junior Band and the brass ensemble of the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment, at Memorial Hall, Burry Port.
It is so often the case that inspirational stories lend themselves to equally inspirational tributes.
It was certainly the case at Burry Port Memorial Hall when Burry Port Town Band staged the Welsh premiere of ‘Stillness’ a special composition celebrating the achievement of Amelia Earhart, the first woman to cross the Atlantic in a plane.
Burry Port’s part in the Earhart story is well documented. In 1928, a seaplane carrying Earhart landed in the estuary and was later towed into Burry Port harbour.
Nearly 89 years later, composer Tom Davoren was finally able to stage a ‘homecoming’ for his 15-minute-long musical tribute.
Tom, who hails from Gower and made his first connection with Burry Port Town Band as a musician at the age of 14, has seen the work performed across the Atlantic and at other venues in Europe, but Saturday night was a first for Burry Port.
The 31-year-old composer also marked the occasion by giving a special pre-concert question and answer session on the topic of ‘Stillness’ – a move which was greatly appreciated by a transfixed audience.
The piece was performed by the combined bands of Burry Port Town Band and the brass ensemble of the Band of the RAF Regiment, under the direction of guest conductor Dr. Darrin Oehlerking, of the University of Saskatchewan.
The wonderfully evocative composition conjured up images of flight, Atlantic storms, the stillness of a daring journey through thick fog and clouds, rolling waves in the estuary and even the mechanical opening of the Burry Port harbour lock gates.
Woven into the fabric of the piece were references to a recently re-discovered hymn tune written by John Roberts and called Burry Port.
‘Stillness’ provided a fitting climax to an entertaining and challenging day of activities for Burry Port Town Band.
The afternoon saw young musicians from all over West Wales descend on the Memorial Hall for special musical workshops with the guest conductors and senior musicians.
The concert itself soared like a speeding jet from the off, with the brass ensemble of the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment opening the evening with The Earle of Oxford’s March, A Londoner in New York, a wonderfully emotional Londonderry Air, Three Brass Cats, The Battle of Jericho, the James Bond theme from the film From Russia with Love and, finally, the Jaco Pastorius classic The Chicken Pee-Wee.
The second-half opened with a showcase of the work carried out with the junior musicians earlier in the day and featured a selection newly-arranged traditional Welsh music, including Mi Welais Jac Y Daw, Migildi Magildi, Suo Gan and Men of Harlech.
Burry Port Town Band weighed in with A Fanfare of Daffodils by Gareth Wood, a new arrangement of Tydi a Roddaist by Dan Price and the dazzling Gareth Wood version of Sospan Fach.
The evening’s climax was, quite rightly, provided by Tom Davoren’s ‘Stillness’.
It was entirely fitting that it should receive a standing ovation.
Tom Davoren, along with Michael Thorne, is co-musical director of Burry Port Town Band.
Burry Port is blessed with having access to an internationally recognised composer and musician who can provide such wonderful inspiration to fellow band members and junior musicians.
You have the feeling Amelia Earhart herself would have approved of his musical tribute.