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Friday, June 14, 2024
80 years later, songs of the D-Day era will ring out in NOTL
Ian Russell is chair of the St. Mark’s Anglican Church Juno Beach concert committee that will present a commemorative D-Day concert on June 7. RICHARD WRIGHT

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s St. Mark’s Anglican Church will be the setting for a commemorative event produced by local amateur historians who will recount the horrors and importance of D-Day through music and spoken word.

“Between the readings and the songs, they are going to bring a lot of emotion and a lot of nostalgia,” said organizer Ian Russell.

It’s four decades later, “so it will be a little bit beyond the experience of the people who are there because it was before (their time). But it will be so visceral.”

The Friday, June 7 event — one day after the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — will be presented in three acts, each about 20 minutes long.

Each segment will be orated by classically trained Hollywood actor James Mainprize, who is now a resident of NOTL.

“I have heard him many, many times because he is a reader at the church,” Russell said. 

He’s almost 90 years old “and he’s brilliant. Anybody can read something but with somebody that is a trained actor and reads something, it is a lot different.”

The evening will open with readings from former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower’s speech to Allied troops as they prepared to cross the English Channel to Normandy on the morning of June 6, 1944. 

That will be followed by excerpts from Cornelius Ryan’s 1962 novel, “The Longest Day,” about the first day of the invasion.

The final segment will tell the story of Doug Hester, a D-Day veteran and Torontonian whose diary is an incredible first-person account of life as a soldier on what has become known by many as the Day of Days.

As well, St. Catharines soprano Melissa-Marie Shriner has been secured to accompany Mainprize’s narration.

“The readings are going to be interspersed in songs and music,” Russell said.

“She is doing all of the music of the time,” he added, including songs by such Second World War-era stars as Vera Lynn, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

While being hosted at St. Mark’s, the event is being presented as a non-denominational experience, Russell said. “Everyone is welcome.”

wright@niagaranow.com

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