Thursday, February 22, 2007

an article about a Remembrance Day concert

What are you doing this Remembrance Day? Does it matter? These may seem like silly questions, but I grew up long after both world wars had ended, and I was just a baby during the Vietnam War. "Remembering" is a futile exercise for me. I don't "remember" anything.

I have experienced loss and suffering, however. I have become aware of the deep human need to deal with the confusing, chaotic and destructive elements of our lives by containing them within the relatively safe boundaries of ceremony and ritual. Meditation and reflection are valuable tools that can heal our souls, even if we have no direct experience of terrible events such as war. Enter London Pro Musica's Remembrance Day concert, A War Memorial.

The choir, along with Orchestra London, will be presenting Mozart's Requiem, and two movements from Ralph Vaughn William's Dona Nobis Pacem. Choral arrangements of the poems In Flanders Fields and Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep will also be performed.

What is the most appropriate way to remember the dead? I have always been vaguely dissatisfied with the traditional minute of silence and the sound of a bugle playing Taps and Reveille. I understand the significance of this military music, but I have never felt that the ceremony was enough.

I'm intrigued by Pro Musica's program. Listening to Mozart's Requiem - a mass for the dead - is a fitting choice on a day set aside for the remembrance of fallen soldiers. It is a very moving piece of music that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the film Amadeus.

And Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church is a marvelous setting. Doug Leighton, a member of Pro Musica and a rector at the church, tells me that Bishop Cronyn used to be the garrison church for the military barracks here in London. There are several military displays and memorials from World Wars I and II throughout the sanctuary.

In a touching war story connected with the church, a young World War I artilleryman from Bishop Cronyn, Woodman Leonard, brought back a small statuette of a madonna and child from a demolished church in Europe during one of his leaves.

Leonard was later killed in action at Vimy Ridge, and as he lay dying he turned to his second-in-command and said, "I'm finished. Take over and carry on." A plaque near the front of the sanctuary at Bishop Cronyn is inscribed with those words in memory of Leonard, and the statuette is still housed within the church.

Death and dying, war and destruction - these are never pleasant things to contemplate. If it's a truly meaningful service of remembrance that we are seeking, then an evening spent listening to some of the world's most moving music seems an ideal choice.

November 5, 1998

copyright 1998, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

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