In Remembrance: Service, Sacrifice and A Soldier Bear Named Winnie

This year marked the 15th anniversary for the Amabile Boys & Men’s Choirs to present In Remembrance, and for a while we thought that it wouldn’t be possible. But the boys and men said that this concert is one of the most meaningful for them and we just needed to find a way to make it happen. And soon, a new idea was born.

An idea to record a concert with a storyline and to present it digitally so that people, not just in London, but around the world could access it. Motivated and supported by countless individuals who wanted to ensure that we shouldn’t forget, we were pleased to bring you a new In Remembrance story from World War I.

This story, in a script written by Carol Beynon (Amabile Boys & Men’s Senior Artistic Director), with audio and video mastered by Mark Payne of HOP Studios, Service, Sacrifice and A Soldier Bear Named Winnie came to the big screen November 8 through 15th, for a run that was extended two days. The story recounts vignettes of Canada’s participation in World War I, through the eyes of a father and child, played by Jack Spence – a member of Amabile since he was 9 years old and his son Brent, a member of the Treble Concert Choir. We met Major Henry Colebourn (played by guest actor David Rogers), a veterinarian from Winnipeg, who was conscripted at the age of 27 to care for the army’s tens of thousands of horses shipped overseas to war; and the orphan bear cub whom he adopted and named Winnipeg Bear, or Winnie for short.

Viewers from across Canada, the United States and even Europe and Asia joined viewed this year’s performance. We couldn’t be more thankful and proud of all the Boys & Men who came together to create such a marvellous performance honouring our fallen service personnel.

There are many people we’d like to thank to helped make this performance as successful as it was:

To all of our special guests: Brian Barber, David Rogers, Alexis Gordon, Avery Payne, Father James Mockler, Gwyn Beynon and Encore: The Concert Band, and Maddison Bell; thank you for all the work you have done and put into this project. Your talents are extraordinary and we are so thankful you were able to work with us.

A special and most sincere thank you our sponsors, Central Optometry and St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica for their support.

To all of our Boys and Men’s choristers: your dedication and talent is incredible. We know that you miss singing face-to-face and your willingness to adapt to a virtual setting is just one of the many reasons why we’re thankful for you.

To our conductors and accompanists, thank you for your dedication and hard work as we navigate this unprecedented time.

Thank you to HOP Studios and Mark Payne for his tireless work in putting together this phenomenal performance of remembrance.

On behalf of the Amabile Boys & Men’s Artistic team: Carol, Mark, John, Jeff, Don, Lydia, Rosemary, Tristin, Denise, our volunteers, staff and all our choristers – thank you for supporting us in making this project so successful, and for joining us in remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. We will remember them.

Scroll down for photos and more from this year’s In Remembrance Performance.

The Amabile Boys & Men’s Choirs is honoured to have the following special guests joining us in this performance:

Alexis Gordon – Nurse Minnie

Alexis is an alumna of the Amabile Choirs and Medway High School, and an actor living in Stratford and London, Ontario, Canada. Currently, she plays the starring role in Emma Donoghue’s Room (suspended during COVID-19 but nonimated for the Carol Bolt Award) and has performed with The Stratford Festival (Coriolanus, Guys & Dolls, A Little Night Music, Carousel) and The Shaw Festival (Brigadoon). She released her first CD, Summertime, in 2018.

David Rogers – Major Dr. Harry Colebourn

David is the Co-Artistic Director at the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. A director, writer and designer, David has performed leading roles across North America including The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Tommy, Joseph …., The Music Man, Evita and Into the Woods and has performed his one man show Broadway Heroes to critical acclaim in venues across Canada. David was a featured vocalist in the Canadian premieres of Kander and Ebb’s The World Goes ‘Round and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as a guest soloist with several renowned symphony orchestras.

Brian Barber – Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Brian is a Toronto-based freelance musician with over 20 years of experience performing in multiple genres of music as a singer, guitarist, pianist, and has extensive experience as a music director and theatre performer. He holds a Master’s degree in classical piano. He has been involved with several music productions at the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia and Drayton Entertainment as well as an entertainer in the cruise ship industry to Australia

Jesse Grandmont

Jesse is an exceptional artist who began playing violin at the age of 3. From classic to rock and everything in between, he is a most versatile musician on violin, vocals and acting. He is a regular cast member at the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia and has received accolades for his production and performance of Fiddler on the Loose.

Father James Mockler

Father Mockler has spent most of his career in London, Ontario where he currently serves as rector of St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica and is chaplain to the London District Catholic School Board, the London Police Service, the RCMP, and Ontario Police College.

Encore the Concert Band

Conducted by Gwyn Beynon, Encore the Concert Band was established in 1994. It’s 70 musicians represent all walks of life drawn from the London community at large. The programs contain, as often as possible, music composed by Canadian composers including composers and arrangers from the London area.

Trailer for In Remembrance

CTV News London’s coverage of an Amabile Drive-In Rehearsal/Recording Session, click here.