Gordon Mansell has organized an April 15 memorial concert at Our Lady of Sorrows Church to commemorate a pair of Polish tragedies. Photo courtesy of Gordon Mansell

Music used to ‘bind’ people torn by two Polish tragedies

By  Allison Hunwicks, The Catholic Register
  • April 5, 2012

TORONTO - The Our Lady of Sorrows Chorale and Ecumenical choirs will lift their voices in song April 15 in a memorial concert for the 72nd anniversary of the Katyn Massacre and the second anniversary of the Smolensk tragedy in Poland.

“Music is a force that can bind people or tear them apart,” said Gordon Mansell, music director and organist for Our Lady of Sorrows parish and concert organizer. “It is a language that transcends all others and its meaning can forge close ties and bridge cultures. When great sorrow is experienced, it is the sighs of humanity that call our attention to action. 

“Too often we become complacent to sorrow only because there appears to be so much of it on a personal and world level.”

Mansell got involved in commemorating the events shortly after the Smolensk tragedy in 2010  when he was asked to play the official Mass at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church for Canadian political leaders to honour the tragedy.

“For me, this was a very great honour and it became personal from that time on,” said Mansell.

The events being commemorated by this performance are tragically linked. In 1940, during the Second World War, approximately 20,000 Polish officers and police were murdered and buried in mass graves in the Katyn forest near Smolensk, Russia, by Soviet secret police. And just two years ago, a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski, military and political leaders and senior clergy crashed just three kilometres from Katyn, killing all passengers who were en route to commemorate the massacre.

“We may not have been personally touched by the Katyn Massacre, nor the downed airliner over Smolensk, but we feel the pain and share in the sorrow and trust in the healing power of music,” said Mansell.

Highlights of the concert include Bach organ compositions performed by Mansell, as well as Lucas Chorosinksi, music director and organist for the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, who will present the works of two of Poland’s more notable composers, Fyrderyk Chopin and Mieczyslaw Surzynski.

In addition, listeners can expect a number of choral works by the combined choirs, such as the “Grace” by composer Jonathan Elias. Featured soloists include internationally celebrated soprano Taylor Strande.

The 4 p.m. concert is being presented by the Consulate General of Poland in Toronto and under the media patronage of Catholic Youth Studio. Admission is free. Our Lady of Sorrows Church is located at 3055 Bloor St. W. in Toronto.

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