Saturday, January 08, 2005

Commemorating the Tragedy

As I write this, the television is still carrying the broadcast of the ceremony commemorating the victims of the tsunami that occured on December 26th, 2004. Even now, I find it difficult to comprehend how horrible such an event — a singular tragedy — that has touched so many people, not only in the countries directly effected by the awesome power unleashed by nature, but so many others around the world who have lost both family and friends.

Yet, while I cannot help but be moved by the fact that Canada has made the move to set aside a day for commemorating this immense tragedy, I cannot help but be slightly put off by some of the choices made for the event itself. Not the participants — the interfaith nature well reflects the cultural colours of our wonderful nation — however, the organizers decided to include several musical numbers in the "show", and it is with these that I must take issue. Not because the music was inappropriate, but rather becuase it was performed in such an amateurish manner.

Ottawa, and the National Capital Region, is home to several choirs of a professional stature, yet the event featured the choir of the "St. John the Evangelist Church", an ensemble that wouldn't compare to the least of some school choirs. Uneven tone, pitch and ... well, I can't bear to say more. The accompanying ensemble, which remained nameless, deserves to remain nameless. String players in uniform ... in a city that has the National Arts Centre Orchestra? Please.

Then there was the vocal soloist. Amy Stevenson. I'm sorry, and I am really trying to be nice here (Lord help me, please), but this ... singer ... was dreadful. Her pitch was deplorable, and I could hardly tell that she was actually singing something that had been composed rather than being improvised on the spot (in which case it was a brilliant, atonal, contemporary composition ... but it was not). In a land that has produced such luminaries as Dawn Upshaw and Sandra Graham, just to name two ... Sandra Graham being one who actually lives in Ottawa, I am amazed that this commemoration would chose to use such talentless performers for such an important event.

The devestation of this tragedy will continue to unfold for many years, and I can only pray that those who have lost friends and family are able to put their lives back together and find the strength to go on. Right now I am still waiting to find out if a friend of mine from Sri Lanka, Siringnaga Wilmadine Nawaratne, has survived. Regardless of what I find out, Siri will be alive in my memories for ever. May the same be said for all who were lost.

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