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Music and Musings

Last night, my friend Kathy – the gifted musician who played at my book launch in March – invited me to hear her play in an orchestral concert downtown. The evening was a double treat, as the concert took place in one of Halifax’s beautiful historic churches, Fort Massey United, where I’d never been before.

History geek that I am, whenever I attend an event in an old church, I make a point of arriving early to explore the building and read the memorial plaques on the walls. In particular, since I began Shattered I’ve been seeking out the plaques in memory of soldiers who fell in the Great War.

Every old church in the country has these memorials. Out of a total population of eight million, Canada sent over six hundred thousand young men and women to the Great War and more than one in ten didn’t return, so that’s not surprising, but I got a surprise at Fort Massey. It has three plaques in memory of five brothers who died overseas between 1914 and 1918. Four of the Stairs boys were killed in action over the course of the war, and the fifth, who had earned a Distinguished Service Order, died of influenza less than two weeks after the Armistice was signed. I stood there looking at the names on the tarnished brass and wondered how their parents were able to go on living.

Then I settled into my seat for the concert. As the orchestra sent Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ ringing into the rafters, I counted my blessings. I suppose part of the poignancy of old tragedies is that there’s nothing we can do about them but imagine.

Lest we forget.


  1. Janet
    July 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I, too, always imagine what it must have been like for parents, siblings, even the soldiers themselves. They died for our freedom, something that should never be forgotten!

    The church looks lovely – I've yet to explore Halifax's old churches. When I'm there, I tend to walk around downtown and marvel at the old architecture. Even that gets my imagination going!

  2. Julia Smith
    July 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I've never seen that church, Jennie – looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing your discoveries about the Stairs brothers. Now we're all thinking about them, which brings them close and turns back the veil of time.

  3. Jennie Marsland
    July 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Hi Janet, Julia,

    I just can't imagine getting one notice, then another and another and another, then the last one when the war had actually ended. I'm going to see if I can find out more about the family.

  4. Theanne and Baron
    July 28, 2011 at 2:32 am

    5 sons lost during and immediately after 1 war. A mother's heart would be wrung with grief…how does one go on, recommit to life and continue to live?