Music. Giving voice to history Mount Pearl Show Choir to tour First World War monuments this summer

Published on May 4, 2007

Carl Goulding, the director of the Mount Pearl Show Choir, believes in special moments.

One of his most memorable happened in 2002, when he was conducting a performance of Threnody in Hiroshima, Japan.

As we started performing, an old Japanese man in the audience stood, and then fell to his knees and cried throughout the whole thing. The kids told me afterwards that they had trouble staying focused; they had to just look at me as I was conducting. It was just one of those moments when everything you have worked so hard to do has materialized.

Threnody, created by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, uses a youth orchestra, youth choir and youth narration to illustrate the horrors experienced by civilians during the bombing of Hiroshima.

We used to go to a lot of show choir competitions but after we won a certain number of them, it lost its fascination. And just as we were coming out of that, Murray Schafer called me and asked me to work with him and a Japanese teacher to interpret his music for performance in Hiroshima.

Founded 2000

That was the beginning of Gouldings Peace in Education project, which he founded in 2000.

Its main goal is to use music to educate both the performers and the audience about our cultural heritage. The project changed the focus of the show choir from competition to education, leading its members to expand beyond their usual show pieces. They began learning more heritage music as well as modern pieces that highlight the culture and history of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada.

In August, as part of Peace in Education, 80 members of the show choir will travel to Europe to perform at the First World War monuments in Beaumont Hamel and Vimy Ridge in France, and at Flanders Fields and Ypres in Belgium, and at Salisbury Cathedral in England.

Their performance will feature two moving pieces on the nature of war.

Heroes, by choir keyboardist Robert Hewitt, is a tribute to the Newfoundlanders who died at Beaumont-Hamel. The Kontakion, by Vancouver composer Rupert Lang, honours Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, and includes a roll call of their names.

Being involved in the Peace in Education Project helps bring history alive for the students involved.

Phyllis Barter, a board member and travel consultant for the choir, feels the experience is a real education for the kids.

With pieces like this, she said, with connecting it to whats going on in Afghanistan, it helps them understand. They get excited about travelling and they really get an education about history that they dont get from studying.

Goulding agrees.

Weve been to Japan, and that made that part of history real for them. Now we are going to the next part. They are going to be performing on the grounds where members of their families fought and died. They read about these things, but once theyve been there and seen it, its different. Its life, not just history.

Encountering history is not the only benefit of participating in the show choir.

It is a really positive activity for the kids, they all play an important role, Barter said.

They are responsible for the choreography, and the older kids play a mentor role for the younger ones.

Students also learn to work towards long-term goals. International trips require major fundraising, which calls for dedication from students and their families. The show choir has an active parents committee that co-ordinates fundraising efforts, which can include everything from collecting recyclabes to selling fishcakes.

Or course, travelling is only one part of the Peace in Education Project. Goulding and his choir also educate local audiences by including heritage music in their long-running Etcetera show.

Heroes, The Kontakion and other heritage pieces, as well as selections from Grease, Phantom of the Opera and Spamalot are all part of the Etcetera show running May 8-12 at the Mount Pearl Glacier. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 and are available from the Glacier during business hours or they can be ordered by phone at 748-1100.