‘Stories from Yugoslavia: Reflection on Canadian Peacekeeping’ is a thoughtful suite of compositions by Emily Armour, inspired by moving conversations she has had with veterans of that little-discussed conflict. This photo is of Armour’s partner on duty in Yugoslavia. (Submitted)

‘Stories from Yugoslavia: Reflection on Canadian Peacekeeping’ is a thoughtful suite of compositions by Emily Armour, inspired by moving conversations she has had with veterans of that little-discussed conflict. This photo is of Armour’s partner on duty in Yugoslavia. (Submitted)

VIDEO: Experiences of Bosnia/Croatia veterans inspires Cowichan pianist to compose suite

Armour’s compositions set the mood for Remembrance Day

Emily Armour, a classical pianist and piano instructor from Cobble Hill, has composed a suite called Stories from Yugoslavia: Reflections on Canadian Peacekeeping.

With Remembrance Day right around the corner, the recently recorded work is particularly timely.

The pieces are for solo piano and Armour says she was inspired by Canadian peacekeeping veterans who served in Croatia and Bosnia.

“I have been very fortunate to learn from these veterans and the subject matter is deeply personal. Their honesty, willingness to share, and patience, while I worked on this project has opened my eyes and helped me understand a very significant part of Canadian history. It is my hope that this work will inspire questions from those like me who once knew little about this conflict, and provoke further inquiry into veterans issues relating to peacekeeping.”

The four movements listed in order are ‘No Birds in Sarajevo,’ ‘Elegy,’ ‘The Pocket,’ and ‘Epilogue’.

It was recorded in one live take at Silverside Sound Recording Studio in Cobble Hill. In the video caption there is a short poetic fragment written by the composer’s colleague, Lucas McKinnon:

“Heavy arms anticipate

the burden of time.

As the last leaves fall,

we walk into pale woods.”

Armour said she never planned on composing the work.

“I’ve just been fortunate enough to know a few veterans who served overseas and hearing them talk about their experiences has really inspired me actually. I got my masters in music a few years ago but I never composed during that time period. Composing is a new thing for me.”

“I’ve written for my students a bit — a couple of pieces that are more accessible for kids — but I haven’t written any pieces like this one.”

Armour said she was inspired by her partner, who served overseas in Croatia, and other friends who are veterans.

“I’ve just been really lucky to hear their stories. It’s really opened my eyes about what peacekeeping really means and what it has done to the veterans who have done that particular thing.”

Bosnia and Croatia are not conflicts that are on everybody’s lips but the peacekeepers who went to the Balkans were all marked by that experience.

“That’s maybe why I was kind of moved by it. These veterans who went there saw a lot of terrible things. They experienced PTSD. I think we need to acknowledge their sacrifices and honour them. I think it’s sometimes overlooked. That particular aspect of the military — peacekeeping — is misunderstood sometimes. Just to hear them talk about it highlighted how little I know about it.”

Listening to the music and looking at the picture that accompanies the video (which is of Armour’s partner) certainly makes the listener think about what happened there.

“That’s what I was hoping for. I didn’t really grow up learning about Canadians in Bosnia and Croatia, and I didn’t know how significant it was for the people living there and for the veterans who went there. My whole point was that people will hear and have questions about it, what it has been like for them, and maybe, if they know a veteran, to ask them about it. It’s a significant time.”

The poetic comment by McKinnon — the owner of Silverside Recording Studio in Cobble Hill — was inspired by his hearing the music.

“He also writes poems, and he came up with that fragment while I was playing. He’s very insightful. He did a great job, understanding what I was playing.”



lexi.bainas@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley WildSafeBC coordinator Amanda Crowston teaches a Grade 5/6 class at Ecole Cobble Hill last fall. (Submitted)
The bears are back in town and so is WildSafeBC

The bears are back in town so keep an eye out, reminds… Continue reading

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
Bus link between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley expected by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in Regional District of Nanaimo budget

North Cowichan has heated exchange over timelines of its official community plan review. (File photo)
North Cowichan’s OCP review divides council

Tight timelines leads to heated debate

Matt Ellison was a star with the Kerry Park Islanders before embarking on a pro career that included stops in the NHL and KHL. (Submitted)
Ex-NHLers to highlight Kerry Park-Peninsula alumni games

Matt Ellison and Kyle Greentree commit to suit up in August

Aaron Stone, chairman of the Island Coastal Economic Trust, said he’s encouraged with the province providing finding for local agencies to hire staff to help get back on economic track during the pandemic. (File photo)
$70K for Economic Development Cowichan for new analyst

Temporary position to help recover from pandemic

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Most Read