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.
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.