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Commemorating the Netherlands Tour and Liberation Day in a Different Way

News 2020-05-04

Commemorating the Netherlands Tour and Liberation Day in a Different Way

Amsterdam thanks Canadians!

I was just a young man of 20 when I came to the Netherlands 30 years ago. I knew very little about the role Canadians played in liberating this tiny country during the Second World War, but it became overwhelmingly obvious during the May 1990 freedom celebrations in Amsterdam that there was a unique bond tying these two very different countries.

A bond between people is defined as a strong feeling of friendship, love, or shared beliefs and experiences that unites them. Canada shares a very special bond with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was forged when, in May 1945, Canadian troops freed the Dutch from Nazi occupation. That bond was made even stronger when Canada, along with its Allies, saved the Dutch population from starvation.

Today is May 5th 2020 and we are celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Liberation of the Netherlands here in Amsterdam. In these sobering times of worldwide pandemic our celebrations are nothing like the ones that had been so carefully and lovingly planned. But, cancelled or not, when I look at my 21-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, both born here in Amsterdam, I can’t help but think about the thousands of Canadian soldiers that gave their lives for freedom in Holland — many of them as old as my son today, or even younger.

Life can often take turns that are impossible to predict. How could I have ever imagined that I would become so connected to both the Netherlands and Canada? As a proud Dutch citizen for a quarter of a century now, I am so grateful to this small country that I used to associate with tulips and cheese, for giving me a new home and hope. It offered me a chance at a future and freedom that feels particularly precious today.

As Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra I am blessed to make music with a group of talented, highly motivated and passionate musicians in front of dedicated and caring audiences. I have forged many wonderful friendships in Winnipeg and have developed the deepest respect for the spirit of Canadian people.

I can’t tell you how saddened I am that our beautifully planned WSO tour of the Netherlands and Belgium had to be postponed and that we are not able to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Liberation all together.

Here in Amsterdam I live just a few blocks away from an eloquent and touching monument called “Amsterdam thanks its Canadians”. It was created by the Dutch artist Jan de Baat and was publicly unveiled May 5th, 1980. Today I would like to pay tribute to all Canadians who gave their lives in acts of selfless heroism fighting for the future that I am a part of today. These beautiful tulips are for them!

Moreover, on behalf of the entire Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra – its musicians, administration, staff and all the board members – I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to all our supporters, donors and sponsors for helping us envision and plan our first European tour on such a special occasion.

While we cannot commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Liberation today in person as we had planned, we will do so in 2022! Its profound importance remains the same. We will always remember on both sides of the Atlantic. We will always be grateful and free!

Daniel Raiskin, Music Director

Thank You From the Musicians of the WSO

May 5th marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands, when General Charles Foulkes, commander of the 1st Canadian Corps, accepted the surrender of German forces. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 Tour to the Netherlands and Belgium was planned to commemorate this significant event and celebrate the bond that was forged between Canada and the Netherlands. It is with deep gratitude that the Musicians of the WSO dedicate this video to the many people, both here and abroad, who adopted a musician or contributed in any way toward this tour. Although our tour has been postponed, we look forward to honouring this historic moment in the future.

The Musicians of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra would like to thank Sean Philips from  clicksplashwow for producing and editing our project.

The Stones of Amsterdam Remember, We Remember

A poem by Di Brandt
Commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the Netherlands Tour

The Stones of Amsterdam Remember, We Remember (PDF)

Di Brandt is a renowned and best-selling poet who served as Winnipeg’s inaugural Poet Laureate in 2018 and 2019. She teaches Canadian Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Winnipeg. Di Brandt grew up in a Plautdietsch-speaking traditionalist Mennonite colony in southern Manitoba, and left it at age 17. She has travelled widely and held numerous fellowships, writer residencies and teaching appointments across Canada and internationally. She considers Winnipeg her home.

“Thank you to Maestro Daniel Raiskin and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the invitation to contribute poetically to the 75th Anniversary Celebrations of the Liberation of Holland by the Canadian Army near the end of the Second World War. Thank you to Canadian composer Matthew Whittall, in Finland, for lively productive conversations about this anniversary commemoration, and Canadians’ role in it; and thanks to Arnold Schalks of Rotterdam for help with the Dutch phrases in the piece. I’m honoured by this opportunity, and moved by the stories of courage and suffering of the people involved in these grave events, carefully passed down to us across the better part of a century. The Netherlands were the homeland of my people several centuries back, and this project also gave me a chance to reconnect with my ancestral heritage in a restorative way.”  -Di Brandt

A Message from Canadian-Finnish Composer Matthew Whittall

A Message from Canadian Tenor Adam Luther

A Message from Yuri Klaz, Winnipeg Singers

 

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