Tuesday, November 13, 2018

At The Edge Of Peace

The Edge Of Peace was a multimedia presentation held in Confederation Park during the evenings leading up to Remembrance Day. A Montreal production company was behind this project, which used light, music, actors, and a series of spherical globes set up around the fountain. The presentation, marking the centennial of the end of World War One, was a fourteen minute show that ran through the evenings. In between, a few minutes would pass, and images were shown on the globes, both contemporary and period, such as this image of mothers commemorating lost sons.

The presentation weaves together a contemporary composer dealing with her own loss as she tries to compose a song paying tribute to those who fell in battle a century ago, with actors playing the part of several soldiers (including an indigenous soldier) from the war, reciting their words. The spoken words, alternating between English and French, were projected in both languages onto one of the globes throughout.

The first time I took in the show was the night it opened, one week before Remembrance Day, and I happened upon it as this image was projected- a soldier speaks of his war experience, superimposed with the haunting painting Ghosts Of Vimy Ridge, Walter Longstaff's painting that depicts the WWI battle site memorial at night, with ghosts rising up out of the ground. The painting is in the collection of the Canadian War Museum.

"They called, I answered" was a phrase commonly used through the presentation by these soldiers. The men of a century ago went through hell itself- and some of them, lying about their age- were more boys than men, forged through fire into soldiers, watching many of their own fall in battle.

The war's end is noted in the remarks by this soldier, relating a common experience: being in Mons, Belgium on the 11th of November, knowing that the cease fire was coming at 11 in the morning, waiting, biding your time with your friend, trying to keep the civilians from coming out of their homes... and hearing the crack of a sniper rifle minutes before the clock ran out, and knowing that while you were heading home, your friend was not. The sequence had a particular poignance.

The presentation ends with the composer having had found the right words to pay tribute, in a song that uses the name of the presentation as its title. She sings the song, with the soldiers projected onto another globe as chorus- check out my video here. I found the presentation moving, impressive, and very effective in conveying the cost of that war on those left behind. From the photographer's point of view, it also made for a compelling subject, just right for this time of year. Tomorrow I start turning my attention to this year's national service and Remembrance Day events.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The World Remembers

This is the Government Conference Centre downtown, lit up by night. First opened in 1912 as the main train station, it has served for years for the federal government in conference space uses, and the Senate will be meeting here for some years with the refurbishments that will soon be underway in Centre Block. The banners you see here are a fitting way to mark Remembrance Day. The building has over the last few years at this time of year hosted The World Remembers, an idea envisioned by the Canadian actor R.H. Thomson, whose family history includes several great-uncles who served and died in the Great War.

Several countries around the world have participated in a simple but poignant tribute to those killed in the First World War as each year of the centennial has unfolded. Names of each of the dead of participating countries in that given year (this being the centennial for the final year) have been projected onto a screen throughout the nights this year from September 12th until dawn on Remembrance Day. The primary Canadian setting for this happened to be this building, and there were other locations.

Signs about the project, including the death tolls by each of the countries participating in the project by the year, can be found here. The last year of the war was as horrendous as those that had preceded it. Banners marking the beginning and ending years hang from either side of the main sign.

The screen itself hangs on the west side of the building, overlooking the Rideau Canal. Names are projected onto the screen from a projection booth along the Plaza Bridge stairs. A Canadian name is at the centre, accompanied by names of others with national designations alongside them. That's from both sides of the war that was meant to end all wars. I find it fitting and poignant that they're commemorated together- brothers (and sisters) in arms. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

If Ye Break Faith With Us

Today is Remembrance Day, a particularly significant one as it was a century ago today that the guns fell silent across the battlefields of Europe and the Great War came to an end. I will be taking in the national service at the War Memorial and visiting the Canadian War Museum as well today. Have a look at my writer's blog for yesterday's post, as it also features this location with shots from 2016.

Green Island lies east of the downtown core, where the Rideau River splits into two and joins the Ottawa River at the Rideau Falls. On the north side of Sussex Drive, the land is parkland, and there are a number of monuments placed in this parkland, most of them military in nature. I came up this way on  Thanksgiving in October while taking fall photos, and decided to focus on two of the monuments for Remembrance Day. The first is the National Artillery Memorial, which originally stood in Major's Hill Park but which has been here for years. A field gun stands beside the wall, which includes inscriptions in English and French- the French text of the main inscription is on a plaque over on the left side. 

Beside it is another monument, more recent, placed here in 2015. It pays tribute to the Canadian soldier, doctor, and poet John McCrae, who wrote the poem In Flanders Fields after the death of a fellow soldier in World War One.

The monument depicts a larger than McCrae sitting, with poem in hand and poppies in red as part of the statue. It was created by artist Ruth Abernethy, who has a particular gift with sculpture- she's responsible for the Oscar Peterson sculpture at the National Arts Centre. This statue has a twin- another one by the artist is at the civic museum in Guelph, which was McCrae's home town growing up in southern Ontario. His family home there is preserved today as well.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Viewpoints From The Heights

The view from the Champlain Lookout is stunning when the fall colours are at their height like this.

I had descended the stairs to the lower area.

The hiking trail starts from here, descending its way down the slope.

I took in more of the landscape views.

Coming back up to the top, I happened to come across this very good doggie.

I leave off with these two views from the Lookout. Thus ends my formal fall series for the year, though I will have one post at the end of the month with a seasonal look at the Museum of Nature.