The well-known Canadian composer, Andrew Ager, is bringing an emotional and personal musical tribute for the fallen heroes of Vimy Ridge to the Canadian War Museum on the evening of April 9 as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.
Ager, who composed “The Unknown Soldier” for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, was first approached by the Canadian War Museum several years back to put on a performance for Vimy. He and a committee from the museum have been working hard since the summer of 2016 to put this event together.
“I think it’s going to be a quite a night,” said Ager.
Emceed by CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld, the evening will start off with a signalling from the bugle that was played at the dedication of the Vimy Ridge Monument in 1936.
A number of special guests and dignitaries are scheduled to speak that evening including Canadian historian Dr. Margaret MacMillian, who will be providing an overview of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
At the heart of evening is Ager’s work “The Unknown Soldier” created for choir, baritone, and orchestra.
The piece is composed of eight movements inspired by the poetry and words of young combatants, of both sides, from the First World War.
“When I wrote Unknown Soldier I had written an original version that included mostly letters and content from British sources. Then I was visiting a friend in Germany, and we went by a strip mall in a city in Germany, and I saw the office for the searching and identification of German war graves, and they had their own version of the unknown soldier from World War One on display. So, then I thought well this piece is using texts written by young men, most of whom perhaps were 20 maybe not even 20, from both sides who had no real choice but to do this. They were just sent off to fight. I want to represent what they had to say regardless of which side they were on during World War One,” explained Ager.
In between the movements, excerpts, letters, and journals from both sides will be read out.
The composer has tweaked some of his pieces using traditional songs from World War One, giving audiences something unique to experience for the occasion.
Close to 40 choir singers have volunteered to sing the pieces at the event.
After the event, the museum will stay open late into the night, allowing guests to look at the exhibits.
The Vimy Ridge commemoration ceremony holds a personal significance for Ager, whose grandfathers served in the war. One of his grandfathers served in Belgium and was severely wounded after being gassed.
“For me, to be able to write music that kind of brings back a kind of nostalgia or memory of that time means a lot to me. Also, my grandfather who was in Belgium was a professional musician much of his life and encouraged me when I was a kid to continue studying music. So, I kind of owe this to him,” said Ager.
Ager has dedicated the piece to both of his grandfathers.
Vimy- A Commemoration in Words and Music will be held on Sunday April 9, at 7 p.m. at the Canadian War Museum Lebreton Gallery.
Tickets for adults are $30 children 12 and under are $1. To purchase tickets click here