Sunday, December 10, 2023
December 10, 2023

Dona Nobis Pacem and more at BOTR concert

Remembrance Day will be marked on Salt Spring not only with the traditional ceremonies in downtown Ganges and the open house at the Legion, but with a special concert at ArtSpring that evening and the following afternoon.

Bach on the Rock (BOTR) Chamber Choir and Orchestra is presenting Remembrance 2023, anchored by Ralph Vaughan Williams’ acclaimed 40-minute cantata Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace), among other pieces. Concert producer and BOTR founder Carol Brown said she has been so impressed by the sound of the 29-piece orchestra assembled for the occasion, as well as the choir, whose members have embraced the spirit of the masterwork. Soloists are acclaimed Canadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc and baritone Hans Grunwald from Vancouver.

Vaughan Williams served in the medical corps during World War I and the composition reflects his experiences, along with words of writers such as Walt Whitman that he chose to accompany the music.

“We are incredibly fortunate to bring this work forward and to be in the company of Bach on the Rock’s artistic director Jean Sébastien Lévesque, and Suzie LeBlanc and Hans Grunwald, as we bring this production to life on Salt Spring,” said Brown.

She is also thrilled that four Gulf Islands Secondary School students are singing with the choir. Connecting the generations with the hope of spreading awareness about the horrors of war is one of Brown’s wishes for the event. That idea germinated in a conversation over tea between Brown and her neighbour Susan Benson, a well-known artist and theatre stage designer who has created impactful artworks on themes of war and envisions a larger exhibition at some point. Reaching younger people who have not experienced the reality of war themselves is one of Benson’s aims, a concept that Brown has carried into the Remembrance 2023 concert.

Brown said people often see the state of world conflict as being on a continuum, with war at one end and peace at the other, in an “us versus them” polarity.

“We need to step out of that continuum, out of that polarity, into another space where we can choose to see that peace has always been the case. And it is never us versus them. It is always and only us.”

Cellist Paula Kiffner and Bach on the Rock artistic director Jean Sébastien Lévesque during a recent rehearsal. (Photo by John Cochran)

Among other pieces in the Remembrance 2023 program are the beautiful Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied motet by J.S. Bach and the Makana Youth Choir singing Ani Ma’ Amin.

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“I think people are in for an incredible opportunity,” said Brown about the concert, noting that hearing a recording of such wonderful music is nothing like a live performance for audience members.

“What you bring and what we bring comes together in unique ways in that setting.”

Brown is grateful for funds and/or sponsorship provided by the Salt Spring Island Foundation, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 92, the Salt Spring Arts Council, Canadian Veterans’ Association, ArtSpring and Country Grocer.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11 and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12. But people are invited to come half an hour early to enjoy a pre-show singalong of songs from the World War I and II eras in ArtSpring’s lobby led by Salt Spring Singers director Don Conley on piano and members of the Singers, Viva Chorale and the Lost Chords choir.

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