Atlantic Boychoir’s ‘Christmas Truce’ concert to bring message of peace
A concert coming up on Nov. 17 will take the audience back to Christmas 1914 in the trenches, and what was a rare moment of peace amidst the carnage.
“Christmas Truce” will tell the story of the unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front during the First World War.
It will be told by actor Greg Malone, interspersed between songs sung by the Atlantic Boychoir.
The 104 boys and young men in the choir will perform songs that tell the story of the truce that happened 104 years ago.
The choir will be joined by the Atlantic String Quartet, members of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, organist Joshua Tamayo and harpist Sarah Veber.
Atlantic Boychoir artistic director and principal conductor, Jakub Martinec, said the show’s message of peace is particularly timely today. “These days and what’s happening around the world, it’s so important. Leonard Bernstein said once that our response to violence will be that we will make more music more powerful and more meaningful than ever before, and I think that’s exactly what we have to do — we have to sing more, and I always say that people that sing together don’t fight together,” he said.
The Atlantic Boychoir was founded only two years ago but are already known as the “singing ambassadors” of the province, and for their high level of choral excellence.
They range in age from eight to 22 and come from all across the province, trained in a centuries-old European model of boy-choir singing in which younger boys sing soprano and alto, and young men sing tenor and bass.
The choir is especially looking forward to working with renowned German conductor Lucius A. Hemmer as a guest conductor on several songs sung in German during the show, including German carols and one piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.
“What can be better than working on it with a German conductor that grew up on Bach and knows the repertoire so well?” Martinec said excitedly.
Hemmer spoke with The Telegram from Germany.
While he’s looking forward to visiting Newfoundland, he said he’s honoured to be invited as a guest conductor for the concert.
“The Christmas truce is very important, especially to Germans, because German history, especially the 20th century … was quite an inglorious period from the First World War and the Second World War… Germany was always a terrible part of it, so it’s quite an important thing for a German,” he said.
“You see new conflicts coming up, and I think it’s important to remember.”
Hemmer added that “music is the language without words” and, in that way, it can bring people together in peace.
Meanwhile around the province, Martinec said the rehearsals leading up to the performance have been “very powerful” for the boys “to learn about the history through the musical aspect.”
They started rehearsing for “Christmas Truce” back in August. Rehearsals are a complicated task because the choir is spread out all across the island.
Martinec travels for regular weekly rehearsals to four centres in St. John’s, Clarenville, Stephenville and Corner Brook.
The boys come from all over, though, including Bonavista, Botwood, Grand Falls and Lewisporte.
Some of them even rehearse on their own with a local music teacher. The entire choir gets together for long weekends and occasional retreats to sing together as a group.
Martinec said he hopes the choir and their special guests can bring the concert’s message of peace to as many people as possible in St. John’s.
“Christmas Truce” is on stage at the Basilica Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available now at the Holy Heart Theatre box office.
The Atlantic Boychoir is 104 boys and young men ages eight to 22. They have toured Europe, performed with The King’s Singers, and in 2019 will share a stage with five-time Grammy-winning vocal group The Swingles, and will also tour France, the United Kingdom and United States.
German conductor Lucius A. Hemmer will travel to St. John’s as a guest conductor for the “Christmas Truce” concert.
Atlantic Boychoir artistic director and principal conductor, Jakub Martinec.