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From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Events: Maestro Rik Ghesquiere and 'The Great War in Music'

ww1 Centennial News Podcast LogoIn October 19th's WW1 Centennial News Podcast, Episode 94, host Theo Mayer spoke with Maestro Rik Ghesquiere, a Belgian conductor participating in a special WW1 commemorative event in Nashville on November 10th and 11th. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for clarity: 


Theo Mayer: TghesquiereMaestro Ghesquiere is a Belgian conductor here's a musical event planned for Nashville, Tennessee, that reaches across the Atlantic to invite some Belgium musicians to America's country music capital, Nashville. But It's not a country music event that's being planned. Maestro Rik Ghesquiere, and several members of the Brussel's Philharmonic Orchestra are bringing over an inspiring international musical event, 'The Great War In Music,' which will play in Nashville the weekend of November 10 and 11. Calling in from Belgium and with us today is Maestro Rik Ghesquiere. Maestro, welcome to the podcast.

Maestro Rik Ghesquiere: Hi Theo. I'm very honored to be a guest in your program.

Theo Mayer: Maestro, how did this concert in Tennessee happen? Can you tell us the story?

Maestro Rik Ghesquiere: Actually it's a fantastic story, the major conductor in France, Maestro John Carlo Kereru, is a regular guest as conductor at the Brussels philharmonic. And he's of course also the big Maestro of the National Symphony. I regularly play the trumpet in the famous Belgian orchestra and besides that I'm the chief conductor from the Brussels philharmonic and also a freelance conductor traveling internationally. Then via Facebook I became friends Digilesta who has an extraordinary relationship with the Parthenon [in Nashville]. Together with Digi we made the plan to put the remembrance of WWI in the picture in a concert with musicians actually from the home front.

Theo Mayer: I understand the performance is made up of two pieces by Belgian composers, the first inspired by a Belgian poem about the WW1 experience and Flanders and the second inspired by letters of WW1 soldiers. Can you tell us more about the pieces you'll be performing?

Maestro Rik Ghesquiere: Yes, we will play two pieces from the Flemish composer... The poem is about a mother losing her son during the First World War. The poem is written by a Flemish poet. They put it on music, with pictures and movies from World War. For this, we worked together with the Flanders Peace organization also with the Flanders Field Museum, which I think is very internationally known. The other composer who wrote a composition for peace letters from the song and actually for this he used letters from the soldiers themselves as an inspiration and so actually we give a voice to the soldiers themselves hundred years later.

Theo Mayer: Are you also using a local youth choir? That's part of the performance. I personally think that the voices of children are a wonderful element in a performance about war. What role do they play?

Maestro Rik Ghesquiere: We're using a children's choir from Nashville. The children's choir, they sing four songs. Of course, they miss their fathers fighting during the war. That's the first song. Second song, they are angry at the officers from Germany who do not give proper foods to the prisoners. They are happy when a letter arrives [from their fathers] and then you hear the postman ringing his bicycle and the piece is ending very beautifully with the hymn. Let's hope that he can bring his message to the children and also to the American public because we're grateful that the Americans actually came to save us and a lot of soldiers gave their life for all these and all freedom. FlandersHeader

Theo Mayer: Now, you've held this concert in Europe several times, what's the audience response been?

Maestro Rik Ghesquiere: The direction is very emotional. They see the picture, they see the movie. It's not easy music to listen to. All of a sudden you hear the voices of these children and you get emotional. You really feel the suffering of the people in Europe during this war. You feel it.

Theo Mayer: It sounds like a wonderful program. I'd love to see it. Are you going to videotape it or something?

Maestro Rik Ghesquiere: Of course, we already video taped it in Belgium here but of course I will also video tape it in Nashville. You must see, it's a total event because you have the orchestra, music and then you have this beautiful video with films from the war itself and one of the films is also about the cemeteries you have in my country, in Flanders, in Belgium. I remember as a trumpet player, when I was young, I went to all those cemeteries. You see the beautiful American cemetery with old American soldiers laying there and when I was a child I didn't realize this like now because I went with my trumpet to the cemeteries exactly on 11th of November every year and then played the last post for those people. I'm in Nashville to remember this. 

Theo Mayer: That's a great story. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Maestro Rik Ghesquiere: That's a pleasure and see you in a few weeks in Nashville.

Theo Mayer: Maestro Ghesquiere is with the Brussels Philharmonic. If you're going to be in the Nashville area on Veteran's Day, this promises to be a real treat for you. Learn more about the upcoming concert in Nashville at the links in the podcast notes.