"Valiant Hearts: Canadians in War Commemorated in Words, Images & Song was enthusiastically received by a sell-out crowd in St. John's Church, Elora on Sunday, October 20, 2016. The narrative and screen show told the stories of Canadians in war from the Boer War in 1899 through to Afghanistan. The music by the Elora Festival Singers ranged from soldiers' songs and patriotic ballads like 'Soldiers of the Queen' and 'Johnny Canuck's the Lad' to the beautiful motet by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Lord Thou Hast Been Our Refuge. We will be performing it again in Hart House Great Hall on November 11 at 7:30 A perfect way to commemorate Remembrance Day --for all ages. Tickets are available from uofttix.ca
LUCILE:A TITANIC LIFE was a sold-out hit in May at the Guelph Museum. With actors, singers, musicians and a screen show it tells the story of the most famous fashionista of the Edwardian age from her childhood in Guelph to her voyage on the Titanic and the scandal that came afterward. It will be repeated on Saturday Sept. 10th at 2:00 and tickets are going fast. To reserve yours go to:http://guelphmuseums.ca/event/lucile-titanic-life-2/ Afterward I will be giving a tour of the exhibition. A not-to-be missed experience!
When I gave a talk a the Guelph Civic Museum in 2012 about my book, RMS TITANIC: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage, many of those who attended were fascinated by the story of the famous survivor Lucile. Lady Duff Gordon, and the by the fact that she had grown up in Guelph. I suggested to the museum's chief curator, Bev Dietrich, that they should do a show about Lucile and her remarkable life. This led to the mounting this May of the first-ever show in Canada about Lucile, the most famous fashionista of the Edwardian era. Guest curating this exhibition has been a remarkable experience, full of challenges and learning for me. but it's very gratifying that the end result has been so successful. We've had coverage on the show in the Globe and Mail, Women's Wear Daily, Zoomer and other periodicals and the attendance has been excellent and the response from viewers enthusiastic. (It will run until Nov. 13.) I've been giving talks and tours at the museum and will be doing so for the run of the show. Along with showcasing Lucile's romantic gauzy gowns. we also have a Titanic model and video and artifacts to tell of how she escaped from the sinking liner. This is a great show for all ages and I'll be happy to do school tours this fall for interested students. The museum has prepared curriculum tie-in material.
A full house of 300 people attended a performance of 'Dark Days, Bright Victory' at Hart House on November 11th. Her Honour, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario gave a gracious welcome. And the audience found it a moving performance and a perfect way to commemorate Remembrance Day. Thanks to Hart House and photographer Iduo Andrew An for the photos.
"Will you be doing this again?" was one of the most frequent comments I heard after we performed 'Dark Days, Bright Victory: Canada's World War II in Words, Images and Song'at the Elora Festival in July. So I'm delighted to report that we'll be performing it on November 11, '15 at 7:30 in the Hart House Great Hall on the University of Toronto campus. Once again we''ll have Shaw Festival actors Christopher Newton and Brigitte Robinson, assisting me with the narration along with a powerful screen show, and the Elora Festival Singers conducted by Noel Edison, recreating the music of the era. "I'd like my children (or grandchildren) to see this." was another comment people made at Elora so we have special student prices and also a family ticket price. For tickets simply go to uofttix.ca Here's a very special way to commemorate Remembrance Day this year.
I had an amazing time touring Newfoundland for Book Week back in May. I was too wildly busy to blog about it but here are some photos of a week I'll always remember.
I was excited yesterday when the announcements were made of the nominees for the 2015 T-D/CCBC Children's Book Awards. From Vimy to Victory is one of the 5 nominees for the $30,000 Toronto-Dominion Canadian Children's Literature Award. It's unusual for a non-fiction book of this kind to be nominated for the literature award so, win or lose, I'm excited. It was also great to see that the book has also been nominated for the $10,000 Norma Fleck Award which is for the best Canadian non-fiction book. I won this award in '07 so don't expect to win again but a nomination is just great. The awards are given out on November 18th at a swank gala generously hosted by the T-D Bank who do so much for Canadian children's books.
Check out this video from the TD Children's Literature Awards.
After the success of "Canada, Fall In' last year, I was worried that doing a performance this year about the Canadians in World War II might seem like an also-ran. So I worked hard to tell the story of the war with real-life stories, images and music. And I'm delighted to say that it worked! Audiences were very moved and people came up afterward with stories about their parents and grandparents. I was able to use photos in the A/V presentation of my mother and father as well as the parents and grandparents of some of the singers and performers in the show. Actress Brigitte Robinson's father was an intelligence officer in Holland so we had an excerpt from his diary. My mother at 98 was able to attend and I included a story of hers about nursing during the Blitz in London. And Marg Reynolds, the widow of Ron Reynolds, a Dieppe veteran, was also there for the first performance. (She is the gray haired woman in front of the church with me in the photo below.) And I'm delighted that we'll be doing it again in Toronto at Hart House on November 11, Remembrance Day at 7:30. Ticket information will be on the Hart House Ticket site by October 1.
I've been working for over a year on a play entitled Last Day, Last Hour which is about one of the most sensational courtroom battles in Canadian history. The case was a libel suit brought in 1928 by Sir Arthur Currie, the man who had led the Canadian Corps to victory in World War I. The cause of his grievance was a front-page editorial in the Port Hope Evening Guide which claimed that Currie had needlessly wasted Canadian lives, particularly during the advance toward Mons in the last days of the war. The trial placed Canada’s role in the war under a microscope and its proceedings kept the country riveted for weeks. I've incorporated some of the dialogue from the trial transcripts for the courtroom scenes in what I trust will be a compelling drama. The Curtain Club in Richmond Hill did a first reading of the play in March which was hugely helpful. I've revised it since then and the VOS Theatre Group in Cobourg will be giving another reading on Saturday October 17 at 7:00. And what I'm very excited about is that it will take place in the historic courthouse in Victoria Hall, Cobourg, where the original trial took place 88 years ago. Even more exciting is that the VOS plans to do a full production of the play in May 2016 as part of Cobourg's World War I commemorations. Here's a photo of director Bea Quarrie with VOS member Florence Fletcher making plans in the Cobourg courthouse. What a setting!