Tuesday, November 20, 2018
I sat up at the very back of the Northern Lights Performing Arts Theatre, in the very last row below the technical box. I went to watch the grade 11 & 12 leadership class Remembrance Day service for the students and staff of Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. My daughter is in the class and I had been quietly observing her work hard on the service and could hear her talking to fellow classmates during the evenings as the service got closer. I could tell they were working hard on it. They had been to the cemetery to lay the flags on the graves of the World War veterans. They had been doing research and brainstorming what they wanted to have in the service. I could feel their respect as as they planned.
I wish everyone in the county could have attended the service that they created and performed. It was so moving, well rehearsed, creative and honouring. They used silence, sound, music, technology, powerful visual images of the war and the blood and the loss. The service began with the a music class playing O Canada and a student singing our national anthem with pride. I always think they are so brave when they do that. An MC welcomed the students to the service and set the stage for why it is important that we all pause to remember. They also talked about the significance of the 100th anniversary and the 100 bells. The audience settled in. The service flowed with ease and respect from the beginning to the end. Annabelle Craig, a grade 10 student, wrote and directed a play that was presented in silence, except for the sounds of the guns. At one point heaps of red paper was swept onto the stage to represent the blood, and eventually the poppies. The audience was silent. Not a phone peeped. Nobody fidgeted. Next came the role call. A powerpoint with images and music was used. Every veteran from Haliburton County in WW1 and WW2 was talked about. There was a slide of information on the big screen for each veteran. Students voices were recorded honouring each vet with their name, where they were from in the county, who their parents were, where they fought and died and where they were buried. They used a taping of Leonard Cohen reading “In Flanders Fields” as part of the power point. It was so quiet, respectful and honouring of the veterans and of each other. And the audience was still. And then River Cristiano quietly came onto the stage and with so much composure sang “Tomorrow is going to be a kinder day.” It was a beautiful transition from the horrors and loss of war to the hope that we all have to hold for tomorrow. The presentation ended with 2 minutes of silence, a laying of the wreath and a grade 9 student played the trumpet. The audience left in silence. It was very powerful.
The students know how to use that stage, the arts, the technology, each other and the creative talents that are in that school. The teachers supported them when asked, but let them take the lead and plan what they thought was important, relevant and meaningful. I was so proud of the leadership class and all the performers. So proud of the students who were in the audience and being so respectful. And so grateful for the teachers who supported them. It takes a community to remember.
The picture of Madeline Hopkins was in the Haliburton County Echo on November 13 and was taken by Darren Lum.