This week, tomorrow especially, we take time to think about those who have served our great country, Canada, in times of war and who have given their hearts to preserving peace throughout our history. We remember.
I get into lots of conversations with people about ‘memory’ and about the fact that sometimes I spend more time exploring the past than living the present. I’m sure that some of my friends who also deeply explore their family histories and more recently, research British Home Children on behalf of other families, are also confronted this way about their preoccupation with memory and the past. I don’t know that I would call this interest in history a hobby. I think it’s something more. I suppose in every generation, it is a valuable thing that some members, record, archive and sustain our histories.
As I look at the lives of British Home Children…the lives of black slaves in Canada…I am saddened when we do not find these individuals names on certain census records. I also am disheartened when I learn fires or other natural disasters have destroyed records. For example, while we do have some written records/narratives about David Shepard, one slave who came to the Atlantic provinces with his owner, Governor George Fanning, we can not locate his census records from Virginia, where he lived in servitude for a number of years, as a young man. When I did the research, I learned that all records were burned in a fire.
Recently, I began a series of posts titled, My Father’s Music. While I have explored each piece of sheet music and archived it, I have had an amazing time talking to Dad about this music and his experience of it over Skype. Just recently, I learned something quite magical.
Bob Pounder was a phenomenal organist who played the beautiful pipe organ in Zion United Church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Often, Zion United hosted concert performers. Because my father’s tenor voice was often accompanied by Bob Pounder, sometimes during these concerts, Dad was invited to meet the performers. Only a few days ago, I learned that my father has met people like Mario Lanza, Paul Robeson and Lauritz Melchoir. All three received huge international notoriety in their time. And, as my father, has said, “Where do the youth have opportunity to meet such musical geniuses today?” He was sixteen years old and standing in the wings. Can you imagine? He said that Paul Robeson’s hand was huge and he had to look up at him as he was such a large man.
Mario Lanza, Dad said, performed mostly popular music in his tenor voice. However, the two pieces I selected to post here were from films and very spirit filled. In the selection from The Great Caruso, I am also amazed by the young choir boy’s soprano! I’ll Walk With God was performed in the film The Student Prince.
A funny story that he shared about Lauritz Melchoir is that he was booked to perform at a certain time of the evening, but he ended up late. It turns out that he went duck shooting and showed up at Zion, wearing his outdoor hunting clothing and boots. He humoured the audience by sharing with them that he had heard that Saskatchewan offered some of the best duck shooting and that because he was late, he would take requests and would sing longer. I guess it turned out to be the most awesome evening.
I can’t imagine what brought performers like these and others to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Zion United Church, but I think it is history that should be recorded and remembered. Thanks, Dad, for sharing all of this!
I’m going to include here a piece by Paul Robeson, one I just love. I’ve read some articles about Paul’s phenomenal history. A good one is a pdf NOTE AND DOCUMENTS
Paul Robeson in Canada: A Border Story written by Laurel Sefton MacDowell.
I’m also going to post the piece Because as performed by Lauritz Melchoir. I share this piece because Dad remembered singing this piece for several weddings in his youth.
I really treasure Dad’s memories of his music and performances. I will never forget my Dad’s tenor voice singing so many solos throughout my childhood, youth and adult life. These songs are very important to me. Why? Because.