Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lest we forget...

Today is the day we remember and honour those who served so bravely during wartime, defending the freedoms we enjoy to this day, yet seemingly take for granted at times.  That is why Remembrance Day is so very important; we are reminded of the freedom we enjoy and have a wonderful opportunity to say thanks to service men, women and animals who went before us, as well as those who still walk amongst us today.

So it was on this sunny but cold day I joined what seemed like hundreds of others at the Cenotaph at Memorial Park on St. Paul Street West to mark the 11th hour of the 11th month when peace was achieved so many years ago.  I was heartened by the number of people who attended and especially so the number of young people who were there.  Some may worry the importance of the day will eventually be lost on the younger generation; from what I see each year at the services we should have nothing to worry about.  They seem to know how important this day is, too, and for that we can all be grateful.

So too those who seemingly are too busy the rest of the year to notice the proliferation of poppies for sale around the city; they also seem to grasp the importance of the day and pause to reflect at 11 am.  It is a small sacrifice to make for those who sacrificed so much for us years ago.

I always become reflective on this day, thinking of my father who was stationed in England during the Second World War, serving in the navy.  When he passed away years ago and I was going through his belongings I finally found his discharge papers.  It was the first I had known of his service beyond the little he said when he was alive.  He, like so many others, chose not to talk in great detail about the whole affair, as clearly it was too painful to do so for many.

I also thought today in musical terms about Remembrance Day.  I just finished listening to a treasured CD reissue from earlier this year of Dame Vera Lynn's classic 1961 MGM re-recordings of her popular songs, lavishly arranged for orchestra by Geoff Love.  The CD, entitled Yours:  The MGM Years, is on Sepia Records and readily available through my website at or email me directly at

The world of classical music did not escape the ravages of war over the years either.  French composer Maurice Ravel famously spent time during the First World War driving an ambulance, for example.  And another composer died in France during the conflict, cutting short a promising career as a brilliant composer.

George Butterworth was born in London, England in July of 1885 and in his early years as a composer became close friends with Ralph Vaughan Williams, even helping to reconstruct the elder composer's full score to A London Symphony from assembled orchestral parts.  Butterworth also wrote the program notes for the work's premiere in 1914, and Vaughan Williams later dedicated his work to Butterworth's memory.

It was during the First World War that George Butterworth found a sense of purpose found lacking in his life up until that point, quickly rising to the rank of lieutenant in the Duke of Cornwall's Durham Light Infantry.  He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for his defence of a strategically important trench network; the network was later named after him.  Despite his heroics on the battlefield he was killed at Pozieres, France in August of 1916 while leading a raid during the Battle of the Somme.

These are but two examples of the world of the arts clashing and ultimately intermingling with the grim reality of the real world during wartime.  Many more stories are out there waiting to be discovered.

In short, let us never forget the bravery and valour of those who defended our country and our allies in time of war.  Even today so many years later, we owe them all a huge debt of gratitude, payable with our solemn promise to not repeat the errors of the past.  On this day and every day throughout the year, we remember them and owe them so very much.

Lest we forget...

Take care and have a peaceful weekend.

November 11th, 2017.

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