At this year’s JUNO awards, Assistant Professor of Music Zachary Wadsworth’s album When There Is Peace: An Armistice Oratorio has been nominated for the category “Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral.” The album comes at the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of World War I, and it was recorded live at Vancouver’s St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church. It was broadcast across Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on Nov. 11, 2018, which is Remembrance Day.When There is Peace: An Armistice Oratorio was released on Oct. 1, 2019 and it features original composition from Wadsworth performed by Arwen Myers, Erick Lichte, Lawrence Wiliford, Martin Fisk, Robin Reid, the Borealis String Quartet and the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir.
Established in 1971 and named in tribute to Pierre Juneau, the JUNO awards recognize and bring to the forefront Canadian music artists’ achievements over a year’s cycle. The awards include a weeklong festival which migrates between Canadian cities and brings with it various events for fans and new opportunities for the nominated artists. Every year, they recognize achievement in a variety of categories and musical genres, among them pop, rock, alternative and classical music.
The album stands as an exploration of the various facets and horrors of war, with the music echoing the events of World War I leading to the armistice, which ended fighting between the Allies and Germany on the Western Front. Each of the tracks within the album follows this storyline.
The opening track, “Marching Men,” begins at first with a slow violin, which intensifies and then abates throughout the song. In the background and throughout the track, drums can be heard, echoing the sound of men marching or cannons firing. “Marching Men” is followed by “Night at the Trenches,” and later “Evening Songs,” both of which include stunning performances by the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir. The next track, “Over the Top,” brings a level of sonic urgency, perhaps mirroring the frantic nature of warfare. Meanwhile, “Among the Dead” makes heavy use of the choir, and in strong accordance with its title, the track brings to mind a painful lament of death. “Soft Rains” follows it seamlessly, with a gentle feeling that is perhaps best described by its title. Among the most important tracks within the album is “Armistice,” which signals the beginning of the end for the trench-weary soldiers with its introduction of sweet bells. The album ends with a gentle track titled “To the End.”
The nomination brings both accolades and exposure for Wadsworth’s music. Schubert: Schwanengesang; Brahms: Vier ernste Gesänge, Handel: Dixit Dominus; Bach & Schutz: Motets, Summer Night and Schubert: Winterreise are also nominated for the “Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral” category. In a category full of strong nominations, Wadsworth’s album stands out as one which is historically relevant and emotionally powerful, factors which may be sufficient to garner a win.
The JUNO awards will be held on March 15 at 6 pm central time and can be watched on CBC.