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How Green Was My Valley

Music by Roger Ames Book and Lyrics by Elizabeth Bassine
Based on a novel by Richard Llewellyn
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Synopsis

ACT I

Against a backdrop of rolling, green hills….with the foreboding of slag creeping over their once pristine world, the mining families of South Wales work, love, and fight to defy the changes of life at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The screeching of the winding wheel, the clanking of the mining cage…and the miners are thrust into the ever-present danger.  The Morgans -- Gwilym, Ivor, Davy, and devoted friends – Cyfartha and Dai Bando, scramble to overcome the rock fall and rescue Gwilym.  With voices strong and passionate, the village (company) sings of generations of miners, and the duality of their rich and dangerous lives.

Davy challenges Gwilym about poor wages and unsafe mining methods…and the reluctance to fight for change.  Gwilym is concerned about caring for family and demonstrates faith in the old ways.

The youngest Morgan son, Huw (our protagonist), listens to his father sing of days gone by, and asks how he can help pave the way for a better future. 

Ivor marries Bronwen (from over the mountain) and the family celebrates at their wedding.   The women talk of Ivor and Gwilym, made of the same cloth.  Angharad Morgan is smitten with the new preacher, Mr. Gruffydd, who officiates, and who speaks plainly of the needs of the miners and of a church that should be responsive and not austere.

At his tender age, ten year old Huw is mesmerized by Bronwen’s beauty.  The mine owner, Mr. Evans, asks Gwilym permission for his son, Iestyn to call on Angharad.  Gwilym wishes the boy good luck with his strong-willed daughter, while Huw is rebuked by the sadistic church deacon for eating too many sweets.

Later, on a winter night, the moon clear but ominous, Beth Morgan and Huw quietly leave their beds to address the miners assembled to misguidedly blame Gwilym for their increasing plight, standing in the way of unionization.  Beth chastises even her own son, Davy, for participating, and swears to kill any man who brings harm to Gwilym.  Beth and Huw fall through freezing snow and ice on their way home, and are rescued by Davy.

Beth and Huw recover at home and look forward to spring.  A pregnant Bron dances about.  Angharad and Gruffydd approach the house, arm in arm, from a walk in the hills.  A frail Huw wakes to learn that he will have a nephew and he promises to help care for it and his beautiful sister-in-law.   Gruffydd encourages Huw to walk with him in the hills when the daffodils bloom.   Ivor enters telling of shift cuts and a wage scale when they are interrupted by Iestyn Evans, arriving to pursue Angharad.

Into the scene between miner and owner, bursts Gwilym with a command for Ivor’s choir to sing before the Queen at Windsor Castle!  The men of the choir have wound their way up to Gwilym’s house to sing, as well, for Beth…making amends for their behavior that winter night, and honoring the matron of the village.

As all rejoice, the church deacon, Mr. Parry, chastises Mr. Gruffydd for taking a drink on this Sunday….but slinks away as Gruffydd soundly affirms the appropriate celebration of courage and forgiveness among the people of the Valley.

When Huw is well, he appears in church as promised, to sing a confident and bold Cym Rhondda.   More surprising is Huw’s instinctive attack on the deacons who use the service to harrowingly excommunicate a young, pregnant girl.  Huw calls them the hypocrites they are.  At home, Gwilym and Beth are proud of their son, but suggest he put his intelligence to use and begin school the following day.  Gruffydd gives Huw a gift of a pencil box given to him by his father, and to him by his father’s father.

At the National School, Huw is singled out by the self-loathing teacher, himself Welsh, but determined to live as an Englishman.  Taking the lead of the tightly-wound Mr. Jonas, a student smashes the pencil box, and the boys fight.  Jonas takes out all his rage at Huw…for his Welsh tongue and Welsh ways.  He breaks his blackboard stick across Huw’s back.  The boys befriend Huw, and he limps home.

Beth, Bron, and Angharad are discussing which man Angharad will marry, when Huw collapses inside the front door.  Gwilym says Huw must learn to fight and Cyfartha, Dai Bando and Davy determine to teach Huw….as well as to pay a call on Mr. Jonas.

Davy announces that the men in the Valleys are out on strike; he calls for a democratic strategy to turn the tide.  Gwilym is sad and desperate wondering what the future will hold for his sons as wages slide…like the slag does as the earth is plundered.

As the men’s choir marches off to the Castle, singing, Mr. Jonas receives his visit from Huw’s friends.

In the hills, Huw sees and overhears Gruffydd and Angharad talking passionately.  Angharad confesses not only her love, but her desire to be whatever Gruffydd needs of her.  Because of the depth of his love for her, Gruffydd will not allow Angharad to live a life of poverty.  Because of his love, he must let her go.

Having heard this conversation, Huw shares with Bron his sorrow for his sister,  and wonders aloud if he could ever be as selfless.  Believing in Huw’s goodness, Bron says she believes he could.

Outside the colliery, Davy admits to Gwilym that because steel workers are out in the other Valleys, they are taking the miners’ jobs.  Gwilym gives voice to his anger  as he sees men and boys slaving in ‘a crumbling world,’  acknowledging that life is far crueler than he’d ever imagined.  Even Davy has been paid short.  They fear that Ivor  -- working below --will not be able to support a family.  As they worry, the mine explodes.

Quietly, sitting with Bron at Ivor’s funeral, the young Huw again promises to care for her.  A defiant Gruffydd rails against coal, loans…whatever comes between men and God.  He commands the men to make representation for themselves in Parliament.  He dismisses the deacon’s warning to attend to the spiritual only and warns, The night is coming!

Soon after, Angharad leaves a weeping Beth and leaves her home to marry Iestyn in London.  Gwilym urges Huw to be the educated man who will lead the way in government.  Huw has heard the word ‘fight’ and can think only of earning any wage to care for Bron and her child.  Gwilym is frustrated, angered and despondent as he dreads Huw’s determination to go down the mine like himself and his other sons.  Huw follows as the miners go below in the cage, the winding wheel grinding.

ACT II

Seven years later, and winter snow covers the grey.  Men, used up and out of work, walk like shadows.  They have been on strike and life hangs by a thread.  Again, Gwilym is their target, as they focus on Angharad, now Mrs. Evans.

A strong young man, Huw helps the boy, Gareth, find lumps of coal, as Bron looks on.  She worries openly with Huw about Beth who misses her sons…Ivor dead, and two others off in Patagonia.  She pulls Gareth close to her at the thought.   She also reveals that Angharad is returning from London to live in the Evans manor, Iestyn now a drunkard and living in South Africa.

When Bron sympathizes with Huw over Angharad’s loneliness, she shares, too, that it is not her husband for whom she yearns.  Bron would not trade her short marriage for a longer loveless one…and supports Angharad’s sincere love for Gruffydd.   The wind sweeps the snow around them, and sacrifice hangs in the air.

Finally defiant, the men call for revolution!  Even Davy is fearful that no reason can prevail.  Outside the colliery, English soldiers have arrived to contain them.   The men have sworn to flood the pits, while the Morgans work at great risk to keep the mine from collapse.  A shot rings out!  Davy rushes into the crowd to try to make them stop.  Gwilym goes down the pit to keep the boilers making steam.

A few days later, Bron and Beth console one another because Davy has left the Valley.  He’d wanted Huw to go, as well….but Huw would not leave Beth….and he would not leave Bron.  Beth confides that she fears Gwilym will never come from the pit as long as he can be useful.  They talk, too, of Angharad’s unhappiness.  They wonder what is to become of them all.  In the mine, Gwilym is full of regret and remorse now that all he loves is poised to be lost.

In the Evans manor, Angharad lives alone, unaware of the gossip those in service enjoy, encouraged by the Evanses’ loyal housekeeper, Mrs. Nicholas.  Aimlessly, Angharad moves about, singing of the wealth of love and the poverty its absence brings.  When Huw and Gareth visit, she betrays her feelings for Gruffydd still…and Huw, his for Bronwen.

As they visit, Mrs. Nicholas is quick to seek out Mr. Parry at church, and spread the news of Angharad’s rides in the trap with Gruffydd.   Parry promises they will both get what is coming…..although we see Angharad and Gruffydd together in the hills,  yet again, saying goodbye.

Huw enters the church as Parry calls for Gruffydd to be driven out and Angharad shunned.  He confronts him and his evil, jealous mission to vilify, knocking Parry to the ground!

Gruffydd prepares to leave the Valley.  With sadness and pain, Gwilym praises Gruffydd, for being a man of rock and flame and gentleness.  They embrace.  Gruffydd gives Huw his pocket watch, having marked Time that he has loved.  He speaks of his regrets and his hopes of doing better wherever he goes.  Each goes off and Huw wanders into the hills where he sings of what he, too, has failed to do for the Valley, and what he might attempt in another place.  He thinks of emigrating, raising the wind!

Pack in hand, Gruffydd finds Angharad to say yet a last goodbye.  She, however, will not let him go alone and explains that together they will bring good works and the Word wherever they are needed.  That poverty does not exist where love lives.  They ride off together.

Like his Uncle Huw, Gareth is eager to be a miner.  He runs to his grandfather Gwilym, lunch pail in hand.  Gwilym and Bronwen explain that the future lies now in Gareth… that the mine takes life, doesn’t give it.  Huw appears and vehemently echoes their sentiment, painting an exciting picture of the bigger world and of building a ship and sailing it, raising the wind. Huw promises Bron that he will keep Gareth safe and away from the colliery.

Cyfartha and Dai Bando approach Huw as he walks away.  The mine is flooding…and Gwilym is missing.  They are into the cage at the colliery as it descends.  Hearing Gwilym’s faint voice, Huw first calls out Da! and then cradles his dying father in his arms.  He carries Gwilym’s body to Beth, who washes the soot from him with profound sadness, then anger.  She commands Huw to leave the Valley. 

Huw runs to Bron to plead with her to leave with him. While doing so, he confesses his long-time love for her; the beautiful vision she was coming to marry Ivor,  and Huw’s never forgotten ‘girl on the hill.’  She firmly explains that her heart will always be Ivor’s and that Huw must leave the Valley and make a better life.  As he leaves, she weeps.

Furiously throwing belongings into his old blue kerchief, Huw opens the door to find Bron and Gareth there.  Gareth steps forward, then springs into Huw’s arms.  Huw hoists him onto his shoulders.  Bron tries to hide her fear and sorrow, and tells Gareth of the excitement ahead – Australia maybe!  America!  We hear what she feels, however, when she sings (echoed by Beth’s voice) ‘all in love is lost, all in love is found.’  Before Huw and Gareth take leave, she reminds Huw that she always believed he would one day find his love strong enough to sacrifice.  Proudly Bron proclaims ‘The two best Morgans now…Don’t forget us!”  Music swells as the two climb the hill out of the Valley.

Cast Breakdown

HUW MORGAN, boy: soprano / man: tenor – a child of ten, when our story opens, Huw lives in the arms of a large, loving family.   A sensitive boy, he is however keenly aware of the challenges and sadness that confront the Valley.  He is determined to help where he can.  This actor becomes GARETH MORGAN in Act 2, Bronwen’s son.

In Act 2, Huw is young man of 20, even more the hero, but still walking the hard road taken by the good men before him  -- his father, brothers, and the Reverend Mr. Gruffydd.

Gwilym MORGAN, Huw's father: bass -- a miner for many years, he is reluctant to admit the changes that are bearing down on his beloved Valley.  He anticipates a life more difficult for his children, and will do everything possible to preserve fairness and dignity, for as long as he is able.

BETH MORGAN, Huw's mother: alto --  a strong, devoted wife and mother, Beth is the backbone of her family.  She takes on the burdens of each, and always without a thought of herself.

ANGHARAD MORGAN, Huw's older (late teens) sister:  mezzo soprano – another determined Morgan, Angharad is in love with the Valley’s new preacher, David Gruffydd.   She cares not for material wealth, but agrees to a marriage with the mine owner’s son, when Gruffydd will not marry her.

DAVY MORGAN, Huw's adult brother, tenor  -- the outspoken and radical son, Davy is the first to see the need for a democratized work force when both mining methods and miners themselves are abused by the mine owners.

IVOR MORGAN, Huw's brother, Bronwen's husband:  bass baritone – the eldest of the sons and much like his father, true to his family and inclined toward the old ways.

BRONWEN, mezzo soprano – Ivor’s wife, (mid-20s at the start of the story), and later the love of Huw’s life.  She helps Huw realize his strength and potential.

MR. GRUFFYDD, baritone – the Valley’s new minister.  An open-minded man who cares for spirituality as long as it provides reason and sense with sentiment and devotion.

He loves Angharad, but won’t subject her to his life of poverty.

MR. PARRY, tenor – Head Deacon, he is of the old school that relies upon fear to instill civil behavior, though he exhibits none himself.  The antagonist.

MR. JONAS, lyric baritone  -- Huw’s abusive teacher at the National School, and a would-be Englishman whose confidence is destroyed by his uncomfortable Welsh background.  He torments Huw because of this.  Also antagonistic.

Supporting Roles

DAI BANDO and CYFARTHA, character tenors, ensemble as cast – life-long friends, these devoted characters support each other’s every breath.  Boxers of some renown, they use their skills to teach Huw, whom they love as their own.

MRS. NICHOLAS, mezzo soprano, ensemble as cast – housekeeper to the Evans family for nearly half a century, she relishes in the misery Angharad exhibits, alone in the Evans’ mansion, longing for Mr. Gruffydd.

Chamber Maid and Cook, also mezzo sopranos, ensemble as cast – younger co-workers with Mrs. Nicholas at the Evans manse, and gossipers with Nicholas in Act Two. 

MERVYN PHILLIPS, non-singing, ensemble as cast – young schoolmate of Huw’s, Mervyn learns from Huw’s example of courage and forgiveness.

Gareth Morgan, Ivor's and Bronwen's 8 year old son – Act two only.

IESTYN EVANS, baritone, ensemble as cast --  the weak mine owner’s son, who courts and weds Angharad.

MR. EVANS, bass-baritone, ensemble as cast  -- the last of the independent miner ownders, and father of Iestyn.

Artists

The following artists are featured in the demo recordings.
Charles Tempkey
Jennifer Padn-Baldwin
Tim Jerome
Bradley Greenwald
William Gross
Frances Roberts
Long Island Masterworks Chorus

Notes

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