WSO commemorates Liberation Day from afar Netherlands tour postponed, but orchestra pays homage to WWII connection

Today would be Rotterdam.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/05/2020 (883 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Today would be Rotterdam.

A performance at De Doelen, a 2,200-seat concert hall in the Dutch city, would have been the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s third stop on its eight-city tour of the Netherlands and Belgium. It was to have been one of many ways the European country would celebrate Liberation Day — a national holiday commemorating the freedom from Nazi occupation in 1945.

MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS FILES "We are extremely sad about this. It was weird to have the whole thing hijacked like this." Gwen Hoebig said..

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the postponement of the tour — which was to have included the Winnipeg Singers and other guest performers from Canada and the Netherlands — to 2022, the cancellation of the rest of its 2019-20 season and the laying off of the orchestra.

“We are extremely sad about this,” concertmaster Gwen Hoebig says in an interview Monday. “It was weird to have the whole thing hijacked like this. But with the health risks, there was no question about it. It had to be cancelled.”

The postponement hasn’t stopped the WSO from marking Liberation Day and letting its subscribers, the city and the world know that the orchestra remains a going concern. In a YouTube video released today, the orchestra (separately, then edited together) performs the famous opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which it would have performed during the tour.

“It’s not a replacement for the real thing,” Hoebig says. “All of us miss (performing) terribly, but we all know that this is the way we have to do it at the moment.”

WSO music director Daniel Raiskin has a special connection to the Netherlands. He fled his native Russia during a concert tour and moved to Amsterdam in 1990; five years later he became a Dutch citizen. In a message the WSO posted on its website today, the maestro remarks on how his life bridges two countries that forged a bond during the Second World War 75 years ago.

“How could I have ever imagined that I would become so connected to both the Netherlands and Canada?” Raiskin writes in the message.

“Here in Amsterdam I live just a few blocks away from an eloquent and touching monument called Amsterdam Thanks Their Canadians… Today I would like to pay tribute to all Canadians who gave their lives in acts of selfless heroism fighting for the future that I am a part of today.”

Supplied WSO music director Daniel Raiskin visits the Amsterdam monument paying tribute to Canadian soldiers who liberated the city during the Second World War.
The liberation of the Netherlands and the Belgian port city of Antwerp took place from September 1944 to May 1945 and the First Canadian Army was a major force in the fight. Manitoba regiments played a big part in the Canadian effort, including Lord Strathcona’s Horse, the 12th Manitoba Dragoons, the Fort Garry Horse, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the 402 (City of Winnipeg) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

More than 7,600 Canadians were killed in battles during the liberation of the Netherlands.

The WSO’s recognition of Liberation Day also includes a poem by Di Brandt, Winnipeg’s poet laureate, and a video by Canadian tenor Adam Luther, who was to join the orchestra on the tour.

In the meantime, the WSO’s musicians have turned to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and employment insurance to cover for lost wages, and the WSO executive prepares for the 2020-21 season amid the pandemic’s many uncertainties.

“It’s causing a lot of stress financially, because musicians don’t make a lot of money,” Hoebig says. “EI is not the same as working.”


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Supplied Tulips are placed by the monument Amsterdam Thanks Their Canadians.
Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.


Updated on Monday, May 4, 2020 11:04 PM CDT: Updates details in story.

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