Liberty Memorial Central Middle School choir performance to honor WWI armistice centennial

photo by: Contributed photo

Lines from a World War I poem by Rudyard Kipling hang above the stage at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School.

An upcoming choir performance at the historic Liberty Memorial Central Middle School will honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The middle school’s seventh- and eighth-grade choirs will perform in the school’s auditorium at 7 p.m. Oct. 15. The Lawrence High School a cappella choir will perform as well.

The centennial of the war’s armistice, an agreement to end the war, is Nov. 11.

Christopher Kurt, the vocal teacher leading the show, said the veteran community and the general public are invited to enjoy the free performance.

“This is a very meaningful and powerful concert,” Kurt said. “We want to respect those who have gone off and dedicated part of their lives to this country and those families who have lost patriots due to war.

“This can be seen as a very emotional process, but a healing process as well,” he added. “In music, we are in the profession of healing.”

The students will premiere a modified choral rendition of “In Flanders Fields” by composer Timothy Takach. The rendition is based on a well-known poem written by John McCrae during the war. Kurt commissioned the song from Takach just for this performance.

Kurt said the idea for the performance and the commissioned song came after he performed in the Kansas City Heartland Men’s Chorus’ “We The Unknown,” a work exploring the lives of the possible soldiers in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Takach composed the piece, allowing Kurt to work with him.

Takach wrote a rendition of “In Flanders Field” for the performance that was made for just the voices of men. Kurt asked him to make a version for mixed voices to be used in the middle school performance.

Takach was happy to rewrite the song and work with Kurt to make a song just for his choir. Kurt said the students’ performance will be the official recording of Takach’s song. The official recording will be released at the American Choral Directors Association convention in Kansas City in February.

“It’s a very big deal,” Kurt said.

Kurt said the idea for the show came from the history of the school’s building at 1400 Massachusetts St. The building, which was constructed in 1923 as Liberty Memorial High School, is a memorial to the Lawrence high school alumni and 19 students who died fighting in the war.

“I wanted to build on that because this is such a big centennial,” Kurt said.

In the auditorium, an inscription of a World War I poem by Rudyard Kipling hangs above the stage. Plaques in the auditorium also honor the students who died in the war, Kurt said.

In the performance, songs will begin with a fighting spirit, mimicking the feeling of American soldiers first going off to war; they then will turn solemn as a reminder of the real cost of war.

“The concert goes through this progression of ‘We’re going to win and we’re going to fight’ to this ‘We lost lives and there’s pain embedded in this,'” Kurt said.

The show will conclude with a song by the middle school and high school choirs that references a few stanzas from the Kipling poem above the stage.

“It’s a piece that is near and dear to everyone at Liberty Memorial Central and everyone who has gone through the choir program,” he said.


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