British Columbia

Remembrance Day project tells stories of 11 soldiers who fought for Canada

Composer Mark Haney says he got the idea for his Remembrance Day project two years ago, when he stood at the top of the hill at Falaise Park in East Vancouver, surrounded by houses where veterans once lived.

Falaise Park artist tells Renfrew Heights Veterans Housing Project history through people, music

Composer and double bassist Mark Haney stands in front of photos of the veterans housing project and soldiers in the war. (Jennifer Chen)

Composer Mark Haney says he got the idea for his Remembrance Day project the first time he stood at the top of the hill at Falaise Park in East Vancouver, in the middle of the veterans housing project, two years ago.

He says he came to the park, climbed up the hill, looked out "and literally just saw the whole thing fully formed."

Haney counted 11 trees positioned on the slope of the hill, and envisioned one musician at each tree.

"And I've really just been chasing that idea for two years. So it's been a very exciting project in that regard," he said.

On Tuesday, a solo trumpeter will stand at the top of the hill to begin the piece composed by Haney, which he has called "11."

Anita Eccleston is one of the musicians participating in the "11" music project. (Jennifer Chen)

In the 11-minute piece, the trumpet player asks a musical question and 11 brass instruments, each positioned under a tree, respond.

The trumpet will ask: When were you born? Where did you live? Where are you buried?

The answers, from 11 brass instruments, will paint a picture of 11 soldiers connected with the housing project, says Haney.

Connecting to veterans' lives

Haney, along with project co-creator Diane Park, gathered photos and information about the 11 featured soldiers to tell their stories. Some are buried in Europe, others are buried here in Vancouver.

The Renfrew Heights Housing Project, shown here in the midst of construction, was built in 1948. (Library and Archives Canada)

Park and Haney also spoke with relatives and dug through archives to find documents with information about how these soldiers lived and died. 

Antonio Mauro is one of the veterans honoured. Haney says when you look at his photo, you see this "brilliant, illuminating smile on this handsome young man."

Haney wants people to connect to Mauro's smile and what made him special to those who knew him, rather than focus on the specific battles he fought. 

Edmond Champoux, a D-Day veteran, holds a special place in Haney's heart. The 99-year-old spent a lot of time talking about his time in the war, and how he coped after he came back to Canada.

"Getting to know him has been an extraordinary experience that's really helped shape the project in a million small ways."

Champoux will be at the live performance of "11" on Remembrance Day. 

Edmond Champoux was a veteran living at the Renfrew Heights Housing Project for more than 50 years. He was a D-Day veteran and now lives at the George Derby Centre in Vancouver. (Photos by Edmond Champoux (left) and Diane Park (right))

Stories told through music

Haney used the soldiers' service numbers and names to tell their story through music, and says he chose the instruments representing each soldier according to what he learned about their personality. 

"I want people to feel a connection to this very important part of our shared history... and I want them to walk away feeling a connection to the experiences of 11 individuals." 

Mark Haney says he'll be a "tour guide" on Tuesday, which is a first for him, as he's usually playing his double bass.

But he welcomes the change and looks forward to interacting with audience members who come out for the experience. 

"So we're really trying to just humanize and connect people to the idea that this great, unbelievable task was just a collection of thousands of individuals," he says. "It's really about the individuals, for me and for this project."


Jennifer Chen is a journalist and digital/radio producer at CBC Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a radio producer at CBC Vancouver for 14 years.


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