It is a day that has not been forgotten for the past 70 years.
May 5, 1945—the day that Nazi Germany surrendered to Canada in Holland after a brutal five-year occupation. The Dutch mark it every year. Across the country they mark the day with parades of Canadian veterans along streets lined with Canadian flags. But each year fewer veterans from the First Canadian Army are able to make the trip back to Holland with many of them in their 90s. Only a few dozen made the trip this year.
From the fall of 1944 to the spring of 1945, up to 175,000 Canadian soldiers of the First Canadian Army played a leading role in the liberation of the Netherlands and its people who had suffered hunger and brutality under Nazi occupation.
And the cost of victory for Canada was high—more than 7,600 of Canadian soldiers died.
That sacrifice will be commemorated on Willingdon Beach next month when some of the best orchestral student musicians come to Powell River and perform at Celebration of the Senses, June 17.
Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy (PRISMA) director Arthur Arnold, who grew up in Holland, has been organizing the event which includes dramatic moments of music and reminders of past sacrifice.
“There’s such a strong bond between the two countries,” said Arnold.
Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon has accepted the invitation to the celebrations on June 17 and will give a speech, said Arnold.
The maestro has also invited dignitaries from the federal government of Canada and representatives of the Dutch government to attend.
Arnold said the evening will have some big surprises in store for those in the audience. He said he is expecting close to 5,000 people to attend this year.
During the planned two minutes of silence, brought in by the playing of The Last Post, classic aircraft will perform a flyover of the beach, Arnold said. And the celebration will include performances of both national anthems of the Netherlands and Canada with a mass children’s and adult choir and the Pacific Philharmonic.
“With the live music of the orchestra, the planes will then provide an airshow,” he said.
Then later in the program the Canadian Navy’s HMCS Whitehorse, which will be anchored off the shore of Willingdon Beach, will participate with the required cannon shots in the orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Overture 1812. “As the composer required,” he added.
“This is going to be an incredible event to honour the veterans and to give back to Canada and to give Powell River an unforgettable experience,” Arnold said.
In addition to the beach celebration, the Anne Frank House’s travelling exhibition will also be coming to Powell River for PRISMA. The exhibition aims to increase knowledge on the history of World War II, the Holocaust and the life of Anne Frank.
The Anne Frank House is an independent organization entrusted with the care of the Secret Annex, the place where Anne Frank went into hiding during World War II. It was where she wrote her famous diary. Exhibition organizers have said it brings the story of her struggle, which was tragically cut short only a month before the country was liberated, to the attention of people all over the world to encourage them to reflect on the dangers of discrimination, anti-Semitism, racism and affirms the importance of freedom, equal rights and democracy.
The exhibition will be displayed in the upper level of Powell River Recreation Complex from June 20 to 27 during the PRISMA Festival during daytime. Concert-goers can also see the exhibition in the evenings before concerts and during intermission. The exhibition will move to PRISMA Square in Town Centre Mall, where it will be displayed until July 19.
Over the next month the Peak is looking for stories from local families of veterans or Dutch immigrants in Powell River who remember the liberation or have been in some way affected. Please send stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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