March 28, 2017 6:09 pm
Updated: April 7, 2017 12:31 pm

Calgarian to honour Vimy Ridge soldiers with performance on a special flute

WATCH ABOVE: A former Calgary reservist will be honouring Canadian soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge 100 years ago by performing Amazing Grace on a specially-made flute. As David Boushy reports, there’s a connection between the flute and oaks that once grew on the battle site.

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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.

READ MORE: Alberta teens bring history of Vimy Ridge to life with artwork

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.


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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.

READ MORE: Lethbridge students head to Vimy Ridge for 100th anniversary

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.

WATCH: Calgarian Ryan Mullens plays the flute he had created from Vimy Oaks at Beny-sur-Mer Cemetery.

“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.”

READ MORE: Edmontonians invited to ‘stand watch’ at Cenotaph for Vimy 100 vigil

Mullens will be leaving Calgary Friday for a two-week tour of European battlefields.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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