The Conservatory Commemorates Armistice Day

This November is the centennial of Armistice Day, and the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance is helping to commemorate the end of the great war by featuring World War I-era repertoire in a free special event at the Kansas City Public Library, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.

2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of Armistice Day, the day that World War I officially ended. At 11:11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918, the Allied Powers met with Germany in Compiègne, France, and signed the armistice ending hostilities on the Western Front. Many Armistice and Veterans Day celebrations commemorate this historic event, and the Conservatory is proud to present a number of World War I-era works throughout our academic year, along with a special performance on Nov. 11 that includes a myriad of music, dance and spoken word events paying tribute to those who served.

William Everett, curators’ distinguished professor of musicology at the Conservatory, notes, “World War I had an extremely profound effect on music. Several notable composers served in the conflict (Ralph Vaughan Williams, Maurice Ravel) while others were active on the Home Front (Edward Elgar, Ivor Novello). Many created exquisite musical memorials to those who lost their lives in the war, including Elgar, whose Piano Quintet and Cello Concerto could be considered as Requiems in instrumental guises. Others wrote pieces in direct response to the war and its devastating effects on the world around them, including Igor Stravinsky and his evocative L’histoire du soldat.”

L’historie du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) had its premiere Sept. 28, 1918, in Lausanne, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. This theatrical work is to be “read, played and danced,” and the UMKC Conservatory Wind Symphony, directed by Steven D. Davis, is collaborating on this work with members of the UMKC Dance Division and the UMKC Theatre Department. It will be featured on our Nov. 11 performance, as well as on our Fall Dance program, Oct. 25 – 27, in White Recital Hall on the UMKC campus.

L’historie du soldat tells of a soldier heading home on leave as the war rages on. He still has a long way to travel, and is tired. Suddenly, the devil appears, offering him a deal: exchange his fiddle for a book that contains untold wealth and knowledge. The music is scored for a septet of violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone and percussion. The story is told by three actors: The soldier, the devil and the narrator. Dancers perform throughout the work as well, and a featured dancer will represent the non-speaking role of the princess, who the solider miraculously heals with his violin playing before ultimately losing everything to the devil.

“We often forget nowadays the importance of music as a source of solace and comfort during the war,” Everett continues. “Soldiers took record players with them to the trenches, where they would listen to music that reminded them of home. The importance of popular songs such as Ivor Novello’s Keep the Home Fires Burning and George M. Cohan’s Over There for morale building cannot be overstated. Offering a musical commemoration to the war, therefore, provides a heartfelt and meaningful tribute to those who lost their lives in World War I and those who lives would never be the same.”

Remembering WWI: The Conservatory Commemorates Armistice Day, 2 p.m., Kansas City Public Library, Helzberg Auditorium, 14 W. 10th St., KCMO, FREE. Attendees may come and go throughout the concert, depending on their preferences.

Check our online calendar, conservatory.umkc.edu, for other performances with significant music from the WWI era.

–Jessica Riggins

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