Ukrainian-Canadian choirs sang in Ottawa to commemorate 100 years of Ukrainian independence. A “Road to Independence 1918-2018 Шлях до Незалежності” concert was held in Dominion-Chalmers Church on April 22. The performers were the Vesnivka Choir, a Toronto-based Ukrainian women’s choir; the Canadian Bandurist Capella, a Toronto-based Ukrainian male choir accompanied by the unique harp-like sound of the sixty-five string bandura; and the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir. “Road to Independence 1918-2018” was a presentation of Ottawa Chamberfest in partnership with the Capital Ukrainian Festival and Dominion-Chalmers United Church.
The photo shows the Canadian Bandurist Capella performing “Hetmany” (music by Mykola Lysenko; lyrics by Ukraine’s national poet Taras Shevchenko). The soloist is Pavlo Fondera. The concert featured 17 songs, ranging from traditional songs of hundreds of years ago to insurgent songs of the Ukrainian National Republic from a century ago. Instantly recognizable was “Shchedryk” by Mykola Leontovych, a song which was translated into English by Peter Wilhousky to become the immensely popular “Carol of the Bells.”
The Ukrainian National Republic was proclaimed on 22 January 1918, but did not exist past 1920 and the invasion-occupation by the Bolshevik Russians (which would persist for the subsequent 71 years). Much of Ukrainian music has a haunting, greatness-denied quality about it. It’s Romantic, in the Byronesque sense of the word. The depth of history is felt in every note and in every musical phrasing. The three choirs, made up of Canadians from the Ukrainian diaspora, did a magnificent job through their music of conveying that felt and shared history to an appreciative audience.
The Governor-General of Canada gives a summer concert series at his official residence in Ottawa, Rideau Hall. An unusual offering this year was a performance by the Dominion Carillonneur, using a mobile carillon. Dr. Andrea McCrady is the Dominion Carillonneur, and normally she plays the bells that are in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. She and her apprentice played a varied program for an intrigued audience on the grounds of Rideau Hall. We got a chance to see and hear a carillon up close. The how-to of this unusual form of music making was fascinating.
See and hear the mobile carillon.
The great Canadian, Oscar Peterson, would have turned 90 years old today. The jazz pianist is honoured at Oscar’s Corner at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, with a whimsical sculpture that juts out of the wall of the building. A thing-to-do for visitors to the city is to have your picture taken while sitting beside Oscar on the piano bench.
The Clayton Connell quartet played a concert on the street corner. The highlight was a beautiful rendition of Oscar Peterson’s celebrated Hymn to Freedom, a piece that is now a jazz standard and which became an anthem of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I’ve got four albums of Oscar Peterson (my dad, the jazz aficionado, has many more), and he is a favoured musical companion for me on trains, planes, and automobiles.
At Christmas time in 1914, the war in France had gone to the trenches, where it would remain for the next four years. After the sweeping battles of “the Guns of August” there was a brief winter lull, with the British and French dug in on one side, and the Germans and Austrians on the other, facing each other across No-Man’s Land. On Christmas Day, along some sections of the Western Front, soldiers from the opposing armies came out of their trenches for a brief Christmas truce. They showed each other photographs, exchanged small gifts, and in one case played a football match. It was ended when senior officers got wind of this unwarlike behaviour, and ordered the artillery to open up again, which sent the men scurrying back to the trenches.
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa is putting on an event called Gestures of Goodwill: Commemorating the “Christmas Truce” of 1914. Choirs sing Christmas carols, as the soldiers are said to have done to start the Christmas truce of 1914. In the foreground of this photo you see The Ottawa Sparrows Children’s Choir — they were Fritz, the Germans. On the other side of No-Man’s Land you see Aged in Harmony — they were Tommy, the British. The Ottawa Sparrows Children’s Choir started with Silent Night, in German (Stille Nacht), and then Aged in Harmony responded with O Come All Ye Faithful. Back and forth they went, from there. This was a charming commemoration of what was a fleeting display of humanity in the midst of the horrors of war.