By Heather Bambrick, BA’93
It all started with a phone call from my dear friend and former schoolmate, Kellie Walsh.
Kellie is a highly respected musician who conducts several ensembles, including Lady Cove, an award-winning women’s choir based in St. John’s. 2016 marked 100 years since the fateful Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, and Lady Cove was planning a concert in remembrance of the soldiers who fought and lost their lives. It was to be a concert to entertain the troops — one they never received. Kellie asked me to be host and musical guest for the evening and I enthusiastically accepted.
In letter after letter and memoir after memoir, one element was particularly clear. While these boys may have been fighting for King and country (Britain), they were doing so representing one place and one place only: Newfoundland.
Over the next two months I learned more about the wartime history of Newfoundland and Labrador than I had ever known. I read stories about the support the men had from their communities, letters from young soldiers to their families and memoirs of those who survived.
On more than one occasion, my tears dropped on the notes I was making, as the emotional weight of the information was just too overwhelming. I felt a combination of tremendous pride and remarkable grief. In letter after letter and memoir after memoir, one element was particularly clear. While these boys may have been fighting for King and country (Britain), they were doing so representing one place and one place only: Newfoundland.
Once the music was chosen and the repertoire shared with me, my job was to weave things together, to connect the events of the time with the performance of First World War-era songs and classics from the turn of the century. The show was called For The Boys.
There is no way to convey the privilege I felt at being part of that concert. I loved talking about the period, connecting the popularity of female film stars to the drafting of so many men, discussing the emergence of Dixieland music, introducing and sometimes singing songs like: You Belong To Me, K-K-K-Katy and Lift Ev’ry Voice. It all happened in front of a room of more than 400 people who sat shoulder to shoulder, listening intently, at times singing along full-voice, and crying together in respectful nostalgia.
So, I was able to come home, to celebrate and relish in the fact that I could return home . . . and to pay homage to those who were never to come home again.
Heather Bambrick is an award-winning jazz singer, voice actor, broadcaster and educator. She is based in Toronto, Ont.