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Remembrance: Palmer students to perform at Richmond cenotaph

Remembrance Day will be commemorated in-person this year at the Richmond cenotaph after a break because of COVID-19.
RC Palmer Concert Choir, under the direction of choir teacher Iris Chan (front left), will perform on Nov. 11 at the Richmond cenotaph.

RC Palmer Concert Choir will be back this Friday on Remembrance Day at the Richmond cenotaph performing a musical version of “In Flanders Fields.” 

After a couple-year break because of COVID-19, their teacher Iris Chan said it’s an “honour” to give back to the community. 

In preparation for the annual event, she has tried to convey the importance of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices soldiers made for their country. 

When students give up their day off and come to perform, instead of just taking a break, it brings home the meaning of the day, Chan explained. 

“Instead, they’re coming out to serve their community,” she told the Richmond News. “This part is the most valuable, other than the opportunity to perform in such a solemn occasion.” 

For Grade 12 student Mikolaj Dzierza, remembering past wars is especially important now, given the war currently taking place in Ukraine. 

Dzierza’s family is from Poland and he is acutely aware of the history of the Second World War, and he’s worried the current conflict will spread into his country of origin. 

With lots of family back in Poland, he said, “we worry here in Canada.” 

“It’s better if we could get along and have peace and not fight these pointless wars,” Dzierza said. 

As the students practice “In Flanders Fields,” the emotion of the words as they sing them is obvious.  

“That’s the power of music,” Chan said. “We can read notes, we can see the text, but what is it that we want to convey.” 

She wanted her students to realize many soldiers who fought in the First World War, for which the poem was written, were very close in age to them.  

The performance is the ultimate goal, but the process, the social-emotional piece, the sense of accomplishment, belonging and community is also part of being in the choir, Chan said. 

And doing a difficult piece with so much range and emotion soon after coming together again has been a challenge, Chan said, but she felt her students have risen to the occasion.  

“It takes time for people to be vulnerable, it takes time for community to be built, it takes time for us to trust each other and trust ourselves to show our voice, when it’s something so personal,” Chan said. “They really are a special group to so courageously show a part of themselves.”  

One choir member, Iris Chan, who happens to share the same name as the choir teacher, will sing O Canada and God Save the King at the public Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov. 11.  

“I’m really happy that Palmer gets the opportunity to be a part of the Richmond community and showcase this for Remembrance Day,” Iris said. 

It feels special, she added, especially since it’s the first Remembrance Day performance in-person since the pandemic. 

— with files from Shaina Garces