Relating to Remembrance

Children's choir brings meaning of peace to local youth.

World-renowned choral director Rollo Dilworth leads the White Rock Children’s Choir during a visit to the Semiahmoo Peninsula earlier this month.

The importance of remembrance – particularly around Nov. 11 –  is easy enough to grasp for older children and teens and even easier for adults with knowledge of the world wars and other conflicts of the last century or, at least, a family context for them.

But how can younger children relate to a Remembrance Day concert, either as audience members or as performers?

That’s an issue that is being tackled directly, and positively, by Sarona Mynhardt, founder and director of the White Rock Children’s Choir’s musical family, now approaching its 20th year in the community.

Their Remembrance Day concert, We Will Not Forget (2 p.m. Nov. 11, St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 1480 George St.), will feature all of the organization’s choirs – some 140 singers in all.

And that includes Angeli (ages five to seven), Prelude (ages eight to 11) and Ad Libitum (12 through high school), as well as the Cantrix Women’s Choir, Mynhardt’s “kitchen table” group of women a cappella singers, which recently refocused with a commitment to become a formal choral group.

“For younger kids, to sing old war songs doesn’t work – it’s easier for adults to relate to that,” Mynhardt said. “We try to find a way to get kids to relate to different situations in the world,” she said.

While the selections by Cantrix will include such touchstones from the past as A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, the focus of the concert is even more inclusive, Mynhardt added.

“For older people it’s about remembering, but for the kids it’s a promise to the older generations that they won’t forget these things happened, and that they will relate to them in their own way.”

Gospel and spiritual-style songs like Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around and Rise And Shine, by world-renowned Afro-American choral director and composer Rollo Dilworth, of Temple University in Philadelphia, emphasize deeper issues and the need to remember the sacrifices of the past, Mynhardt said.

“It’s more about ‘how can we make a difference in the world – how can we effect change, and what does peace really mean?” she said, noting that Dilworth – who accepted an invitation to do a workshop with the choirs earlier this month while visiting the Pacific Northwest – “had the children eating out of his hand” during two hours of uplifting work on both musical dynamics and message.”

“He’s really big on this,” Mynhardt said, adding that he involved children in discussions of being bullied or not being treated right.

“He told them that everybody in the world has felt at some time that they were not being treated fairly, or that their voice was not heard,” she said.

Soloist Josh Bogert, 15 – a well-known performer who is also engineering and producing the choirs’ new CD, Rejoice and Sing, will provide his own perspective with one of his compositions, Carved in Stone.

“It was a song he wrote last year about seeing a war memorial, and what it meant to him,” Mynhardt said.

“The message… is that everyone can come together in peace – no matter where you come from.”

Tickets are $10 (children under 12 free) and proceeds will go to the Sources White Rock-South Surrey Food Bank. For tickets, call 604-536-0236 or email  whiterockchildrenschoir@gmail.com

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