Calgarian to honour Vimy Ridge soldiers with performance on a special flute
Calgarian Ryan Mullens is now the proud owner of a musical instrument that was literally a century in the making.
“It’s a hundred-year story, man. It’s humbling to be able to hold this wood and what it represents,” said Mullens, just moments after opening the package on Monday.
And the timing was perfect.
The former reservist received it just in time for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge in April, which he plans to attend.
The Vimy flute, as he calls it, was made from branches that fell from oak trees in a grove northeast of Toronto. The trees themselves are special because of the origin.
A century ago, after fierce fighting ravaged the battlefield at Vimy Ridge, Canadian soldier Lt. Leslie Miller gathered a handful of acorns that he found under a half-buried oak tree. Virtually all of the other trees had been destroyed.
Miller sent them back to his Scarborough, Ont. home with instructions to plant them. Nine not only survived, but thrived over the next 100 years.
Toronto-area flute maker Stephen Rensink was commissioned for the project six months ago. Rensink was drawn to the story – something he said is important for all his musical creations.
“Without the stories of where the wood has come from, the origin of the wood, the connection that it either has to me or to the person who is going to be receiving the flute, it’s just a piece of wood that’s been hollowed out and made to sing,” Rensink said.
Rensink also made two other flutes from the same Vimy oaks.
Mullens plans to play Amazing Grace at the anniversary to honour the Canadian soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge.
“This is about the soldiers in the First World War and those other conflicts after — this is about remembrance. This is a story of those soldiers that shaped our Canadian identity.”
“I know it’s going to be emotional — and I’m not going to fool myself, I have no idea what it’s going to be like, but emotional for sure.”
Mullens will be leaving Calgary Friday for a two-week tour of European battlefields.
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