On Christmas Day, 1914, French, British and German soldiers along the Western Front laid down their weapons, emerged from the trenches and joined in song to celebrate the season. Now referred to as the Christmas Truce, the unofficial ceasefire was a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amid the violence of the First World War.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 armistice, conductor Rachel Rensink-Hoff will lead the Avanti Chamber Singers in a performance to remember the truce on Saturday, Nov. 24 at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in St. Catharines. This marks the first performance of the season for Brock’s choir in residence.
Titled And on Earth, Peace, the concert will include Remembrance Day tributes, popular songs from the time of the First World War and classic Christmas carols. Songs will be performed in English, German and French, and the audience will be invited to sing along to carols that soldiers would have sung.
“The moving story of the Christmas Truce was fitting inspiration for our first performance of the season,” said Rensink-Hoff, Assistant Professor of Music in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. “As we look back to Remembrance Day and forward to the holiday season, we will join together in song — just as those soldiers did more than 100 years ago.”
Many differing stories about the Christmas Truce have been shared. Even today, it is still unclear exactly what happened on Christmas Day all those years ago.
The most commonly shared account is that soldiers all sang carols together in celebration on Christmas Eve before emerging to wish their enemies a Merry Christmas the next day. After the soldiers ceased fire, they met to exchange small gifts and souvenirs.
The Avanti Chamber Singers is comprised of 30 musicians from around the Niagara region.
Rensink-Hoff said she works with different individuals every year, and hopes to showcase the hard work and talent of this year’s choir at the opening concert.
“The challenge with a new choir is gelling together as a group — not just musically, but interpersonally,” she said. “This is now my second season with Avanti and it makes a big difference when you know people more closely because it helps all of us feel that we are in this together.”
Accompanying the Avanti Chamber Singers will be pianist and organist Lesley Kingham and guest trumpeter Timothy White.
And on Earth, Peace takes place Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Advanced tickets are available through the Avanti Singers website, at Thorold Music and Booksmart, or from choir members for $20 for adults and seniors. Tickets at the door are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors. A $5 ticket is available for students and eyeGo program members.
The Avanti Chamber Singers will also be performing on Feb. 23 and April 27 at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church.
Rensink-Hoff is also the conductor for the Brock University Choirs, which includes both the chamber choir and the new women’s choir. Their first performance will take place Dec. 1.
For more information about upcoming choral performances, visit the Brock University Music website.