by Jane Salemson
During the week of January 25th, when Pinkas Zuckerman and Amanda Forsyth are performing the Brahms Double concerto for Violin and Cello with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, I thought it would be interesting to tell about a concert on Oct. 29. 2014 in Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, UK. It is an excerpt from my book "Britcellist Abroad".
The concert was by the Canadian National Arts Centre Orchestra with Pinchas Zukerman conductor, and soloist in the Bruch Violin Concerto. His wife, Amanda Forsyth is the principal cellist. Other works performed were the Brio: Toccata and Fantasy for Orchestra by John Estacio, the Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams, and Beethoven's Symphony #7.
The concert was to commemorate the 600,000 Canadian soldiers who came to help England in the First World War, almost a hundred years to the day. The soldiers made a big impact in Salisbury, as they were based on Salisbury Plain, just outside the city. Here is a brief description of the Canadian Army coming to England.
The Canadian Division, consisting of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and the Newfoundland Regiment, were taken by the fleet of 33 Atlantic liners assembled in Gaspé Basin off the coast of Quebec province for a rendezvous with their Royal Navy warship escorts. On 3 October, 1914, the transport ships steamed ahead out of Gaspé Bay in three lines led by the Royal Navy warships.
Making its way up the St. Lawrence seaway the convoy passed through the gateway of Canada, the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As it passed the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, the sealing-ship SS Florizel, with the Newfoundland Regiment aboard, joined the fleet.
As the army set sail for Europe it was the first time that such a large contingent of troops had ever crossed the Atlantic. The voyage was uneventful and long. The fleet entered Plymouth Sound off the south coast of England on the evening of 14 October 1914. Censorship about the arrival of the Canadian Armada had been so strictly controlled that the fleet was completely unexpected by the local people of Plymouth and Devonport. However, word quickly got around that the Canadian transports had arrived and the townspeople flocked to the waterfront to cheer. When the Canadian troops disembarked they marched through the streets to a warm welcome. However, they endured a long miserable winter training in the mud and drizzle of Salisbury Plain. There they spent four dismal winter months in the mud, cold and rain. On the sodden fields, in the fog and mud of the battalion lines, in the dripping tents and crowded, reeking huts. Morale was low and sickness was common. But once the rains stopped and training could begin properly, the men of Canada gave promise of the great spirit they possessed. They displayed a spirit of endurance, courage, and willingness that proclaimed them to the world as troops of the finest quality.
In the spring of 1915, they were deemed ready for the front line and were razor-keen. Nothing, they believed, could be worse than the Salisbury Plain. In the years that lay ahead, they were to find out just how tragically wrong that assessment was.
Although I had been to the cathedral many times in the summer and early autumn, when walking to the concert, I was totally blown away by the beauty of the cathedral and its surrounding close. From the busy street leading to the cathedral there is a centuries-old stone archway. Walking through it takes you into a different world. The Close between the arch and the wall surrounding the edge of the lawns around the cathedral footprint, is a large green lawn circled by beautiful houses from the 15th -18th centuries, several of which have appeared on Masterpiece Theatre. Mompesson House was one such place in movie history. Scenes from the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility were filmed there. Other famous houses include former UK Prime Minister Edward Heath’s house, Arundells, built in the 13th century. Next door is the “Wardrobe”, the Rifles Museum, and further down the road which circles the cathedral, is the Salisbury Museum and the Bishop's House. Since the clocks moved back last Sunday, with lighting only on the walkways surrounding the cathedral, it gets very dark even before Evensong. It had been drizzling for a while, making the area around the cathedral very misty. The view of the yellow sandstone cathedral with the mist swirling all around and up to the spire, which is engulfed by it at the top, is breathtaking, making a perfect backdrop for Halloween and a great photo.