Remembrance: Voices from the Great War

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The Bach Elgar Choir and prominent stage actor, Lorne Kennedy, recently performed a moving portrait of life during the Great War told through songs, letters and diaries from McMaster’s extensive World War 1 Archives.

Wednesday, June 1, 1915, France

“The battle raged loud and fiercely in front of us and over us – shells, trench mortar bombs, grenades, bullets, all swelled the chorus of battle in the moonlight...The tragic moment was when Allan, in a few words, reported that the attack had failed … stopped by machine guns, many killed and wounded. So it is – this is just one of many of the “situations” one encounters and I tell it so that it may be in my story of these days. Our letters, dear heart, how they will live with us."

Charles Hammond Mitchell captured the brutality of war in this letter home to his wife Myra, while ­serving as an intelligence officer in the First World War.

This was just one of the many moving passages read aloud during Remembrance: Voices from the Great War. The performance recalled a number of poignant moments and everyday occurrences recorded by the people who experienced the war both on the home front and on the battlefield.

Sponsored by the McMaster University Library and the McMaster University Alumni Association, The Bach Elgar Choir and prominent stage actor, Lorne Kennedy, presented a portrait of Canada at war told through letters, diaries and popular music drawn from the McMaster Library’s extensive First World War Archives.

The performance was inspired by Kathy Garay, Assistant Professor in McMaster’s Arts and Science Program and member of the alto section of the Bach Elgar Choir. Working with the choir’s artistic director, Alexander Cann, Garay transcribed and curated the written materials and provided Cann with access to sheet music from the era to create a picture of Canadian life during the war years.

Read more about how Garay and Cann brought these war archives to life as featured in The Hamilton Spectator.

“The First World War archive is truly a jewel in our collection,” says McMaster University Librarian, Vivian Lewis. “This concert provided a wonderful opportunity to share this remarkable collection with the community, to listen once again to the music of the time, and to shine a light on the stories and experiences of ordinary people, living in extraordinary times.”

Explore some of the materials featured in Remembrance: Voices from the Great War from the McMaster University Library archives.