The Challenge of Remembrance

Ken Stephen, Large Stage Live

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has stirred the pot to thought-provoking effect in a remarkable Remembrance Day online concert entitled Notinikew (Going to War) – a Program of Remembrance. This programme, guest-curated by Winnipeg-based indigenous composer Andrew Balfour, swept away Remembrance Day’s more conventional expressions of heroism and sacrifice, and forced the audience to confront difficult truths that cut uncomfortably close to home. In this respect, the concert followed the path blazed 58 years ago by Benjamin Britten’s stunning War Requiem, a work which was “hostile to received notions of patriotism,” as Eric Roseberry so tellingly wrote in a 1991 programme note. Through immersion in Balfour’s powerful compositions, and in the equally powerful poetry and commentaries of Elder Dr. Duke Redbird, the audience were brought face to face with the experiences of war as lived by indigenous soldiers and their communities.

This remarkable Remembrance Day virtual concert was by turns disturbing, exciting, dramatic, meditative, saddening, and uplifting — quite an emotional journey for a 1-hour event.

When it comes to creating virtual events designed for online viewing, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and its gifted members and leaders have become the absolute masters!

Read the full review on Large Stage Live.