We Have Found a Better Land

(2015) 17’
for SATB chorus, divisi with solos
1. There were other people here before us
2. We have found a better land
3. Kóoch sighed deeply
4. The region is nothing like we read or heard
5. Elal
6. Those Altars


The six choral movements of We Have Found a Better Land explore texts relating to Patagonia, in particular the indigenous Tehuelche people and the Welsh Colony, or Y Wladfa, that settled in Argentina in 1865.
In the first, third and fifth movements creation stories of the indigenous Tehuelche people are explored. In the late-nineteenth century the Tehuelche befriended the desperate Welsh settlers and helped them to survive the harsh landscape by teaching them how to use the land, how to hunt and how to trade with merchants in Buenos Aires. During military campaigns in the 1870s Argentina colonised the wild landscapes of its territories wiping out almost entirely the native peoples, whose bonds to the land dated back 13,000 years, in the process.
In the second and fourth movements diaries, letters, stories and poetry are used to create a collage of texts. The texts include a description of the Magellan Strait from a sixteenth-century explorer; diary entries from Joseph Seth Jones, a passenger on board the tea clipper (the Mimosa) that carried the first Welsh settlers to Patagonia; a verse sung by the first settlers during their departure from Liverpool in 1865, reportedly to the tune of God Save the Queen; and a letter written by the Patagonian author Eluned Morgan, who was born aboard the ship Myfanwy during its journey from Britain to Argentina in 1870.
In the final movement, lines from a letter written by General Roca to Alsina, the Argentine Minister of War, concerning the Conquest of the Desert in the 1870s are interspersed with a mythological image concerning the sacred meteorite believed by the Tehuelche to be the embodiment of the first primordial woman, and a translated passage from the book Plant yr Haul (Children of the Sun) by Eluned Morgan. The movement concludes with a setting of the poem Those Altars by Patagonian poet Owen Tydur Jones, which contemplates the awesome landscape of the Paith (the Welsh name for the interior Steppe Lands of Patagonia) alongside the destruction of the Tehuelche people. MB

Articles & reviews

First Person: 'We Have Found a Better Land' BBC National Chorus of Wales's composer-in-residence seeks inspiration in Welsh Patagonia for a new commission / Mark Bowden / theartsdesk.com
Bowden’s a cappella, sixteen-minute piece, performed in the second half, contains strong resonances of the folk-creation themes featured in A Violence of Gifts, and showed the further evolution of this thoughtful vocal composer / Steph Power / Wales Arts Review