Keith Hagerty

Radford University

RADFORD.—The Radford University Department of Music will take a step back in time with a Veterans Day production, Nov. 11, honoring the 70th anniversary of World War II.

Titled “Art Mirrors Conflict: A Recognition of the 70th Anniversary of the United States Entering The Second World War,” the production will be at 8 p.m. in the Performance Hall of the Covington Center for Visual and Performing Arts. It will include Radford University’s choirs, the RU Jazz Ensemble, student soloists, pianist Nitza Kats and guest musicians David Ehrlich on violin and Teresa Ehrlich on piano.

The free public concert will feature music from one of the most memorable eras in U.S. history, said David Castonguay, Radford University’s director of choral activities.

“Using personal, musical expression we hope to highlight how art reflects various conflicts, illuminates our lives and honors our family members who are veterans,” Castonguay said.

The production may also raise awareness among today’s youth of sacrifices made by earlier generations of military veterans, he added.

“For many of our students, that war is a far distant event,” Castonguay said. “Yet so much of what drove the history of their childhood—the rise and fall of Communism and the Cold War, Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli conflicts that now polarize our world and have led directly to the rise of Islamic radical terrorism—all of these things were a direct outgrowth of World War II.”

Veterans Day holds a special meaning for Castonguay, whose father was a Pearl Harbor veteran, serving as an infantry sergeant in the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

“Growing up in my house, Pearl Harbor Day was always marked,” Castonguay said, adding that regional chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have all been invited to the production. “My father rarely spoke of the war, but virtually every adult male on my street in Bristol, Connecticut, was a veteran.  Friday nights were spent in smoky living rooms playing cards. When certain things reminded them of the war—such as an anniversary, a phone call but most often a song—the conversation would become hushed, sometimes sullen or sad and even occasionally rejoicing.”

Of the dozens of pieces to be performed, Castonguay said he is particularly moved by choral music from the period, such as the combined university men’s and women’s chorales singing Hugo Distler’s “Lebewohl,” a rendition of music written by Jewish Czech artists who later died in concentration camps. He also cited the RU Jazz Ensemble performance of Big Band numbers by Glenn Miller and the finale, Samuel Barber’s elegiac “Agnus Dei.”

“Closing with ‘Agnus Dei’ leads the audience toward the present so that they will begin to reflect how art in our day reflects the ongoing conflicts,” he said.

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