‘Stories from Yugoslavia: Reflection on Canadian Peacekeeping’ is a thoughtful suite of compositions by Emily Armour, inspired by moving conversations she has had with veterans of that little-discussed conflict. This photo is of Armour’s partner on duty in Yugoslavia. (Submitted)

VIDEO: Experiences of Bosnia/Croatia veterans inspires Cowichan pianist to compose suite

Armour’s compositions set the mood for Remembrance Day

Emily Armour, a classical pianist and piano instructor from Cobble Hill, on Vancouver Island, has composed a suite called Stories from Yugoslavia: Reflections on Canadian Peacekeeping.

With Remembrance Day right around the corner, the recently recorded work is particularly timely.

The pieces are for solo piano and Armour says she was inspired by Canadian peacekeeping veterans who served in Croatia and Bosnia.

“I have been very fortunate to learn from these veterans and the subject matter is deeply personal. Their honesty, willingness to share, and patience, while I worked on this project has opened my eyes and helped me understand a very significant part of Canadian history. It is my hope that this work will inspire questions from those like me who once knew little about this conflict, and provoke further inquiry into veterans issues relating to peacekeeping.”

The four movements listed in order are ‘No Birds in Sarajevo,’ ‘Elegy,’ ‘The Pocket,’ and ‘Epilogue’.

It was recorded in one live take at Silverside Sound Recording Studio in Cobble Hill. In the video caption there is a short poetic fragment written by the composer’s colleague, Lucas McKinnon:

“Heavy arms anticipate

the burden of time.

As the last leaves fall,

we walk into pale woods.”

Armour said she never planned on composing the work.

“I’ve just been fortunate enough to know a few veterans who served overseas and hearing them talk about their experiences has really inspired me actually. I got my masters in music a few years ago but I never composed during that time period. Composing is a new thing for me.”

“I’ve written for my students a bit — a couple of pieces that are more accessible for kids — but I haven’t written any pieces like this one.”

Armour said she was inspired by her partner, who served overseas in Croatia, and other friends who are veterans.

“I’ve just been really lucky to hear their stories. It’s really opened my eyes about what peacekeeping really means and what it has done to the veterans who have done that particular thing.”

Bosnia and Croatia are not conflicts that are on everybody’s lips but the peacekeepers who went to the Balkans were all marked by that experience.

“That’s maybe why I was kind of moved by it. These veterans who went there saw a lot of terrible things. They experienced PTSD. I think we need to acknowledge their sacrifices and honour them. I think it’s sometimes overlooked. That particular aspect of the military — peacekeeping — is misunderstood sometimes. Just to hear them talk about it highlighted how little I know about it.”

Listening to the music and looking at the picture that accompanies the video (which is of Armour’s partner) certainly makes the listener think about what happened there.

“That’s what I was hoping for. I didn’t really grow up learning about Canadians in Bosnia and Croatia, and I didn’t know how significant it was for the people living there and for the veterans who went there. My whole point was that people will hear and have questions about it, what it has been like for them, and maybe, if they know a veteran, to ask them about it. It’s a significant time.”

The poetic comment by McKinnon — the owner of Silverside Recording Studio in Cobble Hill — was inspired by his hearing the music.

“He also writes poems, and he came up with that fragment while I was playing. He’s very insightful. He did a great job, understanding what I was playing.”



lexi.bainas@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria transit usage sees gradual rise

Ridership still down 66 per cent compared to last year

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

Government Street becomes pedestrian-priority corridor

One block of downtown street closed to cars entirely

‘The face of Belmont’: Custodial staff at Langford school pivot to support parents, students

Staff serve as point of contact for parents, students with school

Saanich property tax notices in the mail, residents unable to pay in person

Payment options, late penalties adjusted due to COVID-19

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read