How proud Canadians are of their Canada was very apparent on May 25th, 2006, in The Centre of the Square, Kitchener. A concert, which had been in the planning for nearly 2 years, finally came to fruition and featured 2 very special musical commissions for Alfred Kunz, the first of which followed a spirited introduction of Irish and Afro-American songs performed by the Millennium Choir, with the Concordia Male Chorus making a guest appearance, and crowd-pleasing Ukrainian dances.
The highlight of the first part of the evening followed, a commission from the Tuerr Family about Anne Tuerr’s life, starting with happy beginnings 1927 in the region of Banat, Yugoslavia, a 200 year old settlement of the Danube Swabians. In 1944 Anne was taken, as were many of her country folks, in cattle cars to the Ukraine, where she suffered unspeakable hardships, yet somehow managed to survive with the help of her faith. After 3 years of hard labour under catastrophic living conditions she was sent to Frankfurt an der Oder and then to Vienna, where she managed to reunite with some of her family, the part that had not perished in the war.
Shortly thereafter, through much more hardship she arrived in Canada, where she met her husband Paul Tuerr. They married after all financial obligations had been cleared away and enjoyed a long and happy marriage with several children until Anne’s death in 2005.
This is the life on which the dramatic choral composition by Alfred Kunz is based on, in memoriam. The different stations of Anne’s life are clearly audible and thus visible to the inner eye of the listener. Mr. Kunz managed to communicate all of the joys and sorrows of this life of Anne Tuerr, that reminds us that freedom is not something to be taken for granted; instead it needs to be nurtured and if need be defended.
Anne’s philosophy put into very simple words is valid no matter who is concerned, here or anywhere else in the world: "We should never forget our dead, but for the sake of our children we must forget and get on with our lives to build a better world, a world without hate, a world with peace." This theme as the leitmotif threads through the entire composition repetitively, less we forget its importance.
Drawing on classical examples of dramatic choral works Mr. Kunz managed to give this work a unique and Canadian flavour that transcends time effortlessly by including more avant-garde harmonies, slightly reminiscent of Orff’s works at some point, which adds tremendous drama to the story telling, actually underlining the importance of those passages.
The composition was very well received and left a deep impression on the audience.
After this moving performance it was most fitting to hear the Youth and Children’s Millenium division sing and play something really Canadian. Musical reflections of Hockey, Eskimo Lullaby, Spirit of the Sun, Do not weep, and Donkey Riding delighted everyone.
Soloists of the Choirs
This was followed by a Scottish segment, featuring tenor soloist Peter McCutcheon, a student of popular tenor Mark DuBois. Of several selections the traditional Scots wha ha’e… was a favourite. No wonder, it deals with what we all crave most: Liberty! However, the very rousing We rise again also drew huge enthusiasm, likely because that is a Canadian theme so strong, it was the reason why most people came here.
After an intermission we heard another commissioned work and it was all about Canada. The evening’s narrator was none other then Michael W. Higgins, who is leaving with his wife Krystyna, the participating choirs’ accompanist, to head up a University in Fredericton. He had asked Alfred Kunz, artistic director of this fantastic evening, to compose Canadian Portraits, of which there are three: Emily Carr a painter identified with painting our countries very soul.
William Kurelek, prairie painter and illustrator of Ukrainian decent, who painted quaint and sometimes disturbing images of all our heritages.
Bejamin Chee Chee, native Canadian artist extraordinaire! His Canada geese reflect the spirituality natural to our First Nation People.
This would have been a good time to end the concert, but when so much work goes into a project so much wants to be said and shown and shared. Thus we saw the Ukrainian dancers again, heard some more Canadian sounds, like Gordon Lightfoot’s Did she mention my name?- of course with a Kunz arrangement - like most of the evenings works. A French maritime piece was not missing to complete a multicultural voyage across the history of our lives and our nation.
The finale was nothing short of spectacular with the flags of all provinces and territories being carried onto the stage and all performers, all 275 of them, and a standing audience singing O Canada from the very bottom of their hearts. Indeed, this was a Canadian Rhapsody.
The evening concluded for a lot of the singers in the Concordia Club. The big hall was filled to capacity and Paul Tuerr was on hand with his family to celebrate the first performance of his commissioned work. Alfred Kunz honoured Paul Tuerr with a memento for this occasion, a collage of writings and a page of the musical score.
The Higgins’ were given a fond farewell with a gift of paintings and Dana Kunz surprised her husband also with a painting. At midnight the mood was still intimate and high and happiness prevailed, hopefully to last us through some of the darker days. Music will always help us to that. Thus we thank the commissioner of art and musical works, the composers and the re-creators - the choirs and soloists, the musicians that make up an orchestra, the dancers and all other artists who brighten our days. Without them life is hardly worth remembering!
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