Ennis Sisters mark 75th D-Day anniversary with emotional Juno Beach performance
Emotional performance was highlight of band's career, says Maureen Ennis
The Ennis Sisters took to the stage on the shores of Juno Beach in Normandy, France, on Thursday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Allied invasion of Europe.
"It was such an honour to be on that stage. It's been kind of an unbelievable experience since we've been invited to perform this song here today," Maureen Ennis told CBC Radio's On The Go roughly an hour after the Newfoundland and Labrador folk trio performed Sing You Home at the site of one of history's fiercest battles.
"To hear all the stories we've heard over the last couple of days and then have the opportunity to walk on the beach where, 75 years ago, D-Day happened — every step that we took on that beach we wondered what happened here. What is the history beneath our feet?"
On June 6, 1944, some 14,000 Canadians landed at Juno Beach to join the more than 150,000 Allied troops to fight at the five beaches of Normandy that day.
Canadians stormed from the sea with the British on their left and right, attacking Sword Beach and Gold Beach, and the Americans attacking Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.
97-year-old Rod Deon was among those Canadians 75 years ago — and he was among the thousands who honoured those fighters in Normandy on Thursday.
Dad has met up with a fellow Canadian veteran in France - that he served with on the <a href="https://twitter.com/HMCSOTTAWA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HMCSOttawa</a> 75 years ago!!! WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DDay75?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DDay75</a> <a href="https://t.co/7rYhmsv4HN">pic.twitter.com/7rYhmsv4HN</a>—@jenndeon
Ennis said there was a lot of emotion running through the crowd of spectators.
"The veterans crying — it was such an overwhelming, emotional moment for us. I'm surprised that we were able to sing through it," Ennis said.
A memory close to the surface
As the soon as the final notes of Sing You Home rang out, Ennis said the group was whisked away to their dressing room without much time to fully grasp what they had just done.
"But then, as people were coming back here, we heard that our song went over very well, and at the same time people were talking about their experiences with World War II. It's just a very powerful moment to be on this beach today," she said.
"To stand on the beach and lookout over the English channel there, and just be in awe over what happened 75 years ago, there's no feeling like it."
For the veterans of D-Day who had the opportunity to grow old, many more did not.
Ennis said memories of those harrowing days seems close to the surface for many of the veterans in the audience.
"As soon as any kind of emotional thing happened you could see the tears coming down the faces of the veterans sitting in the front," she said.
"It kind of took us back, once we got off stage and they're sitting right in the front, and you realize that these are the men that lived through that. It's incredible."
A highlight of their career
It was either fate or destiny that the Ennis Sisters were asked to perform during the 75th commemoration of D-Day.
An organizer of the event had been driving through Ottawa and heard the group's song Sing You Home on CBC Radio in her car, Ennis said.
Overcome with emotion, the organizer pulled her vehicle over to listen closer. When she got home, she began researching the band, coming across a YouTube video for the song which sealed the deal.
"So they reached out to us and of course we accepted, without any hesitation at all," Ennis said.
"Honestly one of the highlights of our career, to this point, to be here today."
With files from On The Go