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Music Windsor’s Orchestra Breva celebrates the heroism of Laura Secord

Melanie Paul Tanovich is the director of Orchestra Breva in Windsor, Ont.

GEOFF ROBINS/The Globe and Mail

“She did what needed to be done,” explains Melanie Paul Tanovich, referring to the Canadian heroine Laura Ingersoll Secord. “That’s the way it is in wartime.”

Tanovich is the founding musical director of Orchestra Breva, a regional ensemble based in Windsor, Ont. To mark the 150th anniversary of Secord’s death, the conductor created a concert program to celebrate the life and times of the woman who trudged 32 onerous kilometres out of American-occupied territory during the War of 1812 to warn British and Indigenous forces of a looming American attack on a post in the Niagara region of Ontario.

Secord’s exact role in foiling the Americans at the Battle of Beaver Dams is a matter of some dispute. Still, her bravery is acknowledged and her status is secure, if not in the minds of all historians, then in the hearts of Canadians and on the boxes of bonbons that bear her name and elegant signature.

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Orchestra Breva’s sesquicentennial program includes the overture to Gluck’s 1774 opera Iphigénie en Aulide, a reading of the Chief Tecumseh poem So Live Your Life, William Billings’s American Revolutionary War anthem Chester, an Indigenous musical performance and a commissioned piece for wind instruments, The Refuge of Spring, by 19-year-old Emma Colette Moss.

“The program is about heroism,” says Tanovich, who founded the 32-piece Orchestra Breva two years ago. “Not just in war, but in every day.”

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Tanovich has created a concert program to celebrate the life and times of Laura Secord.

GEOFF ROBINS/The Globe and Mail

The tribute concert premiered at the University of Windsor late last month. A tour of Southwestern Ontario communities concludes June 23 at Queenston Heights in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was in Queenston in 1813 that Secord overheard talk of the American plot to take Beaver Dams.

The concert ends with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, a large-scale symphonic piece originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, who, the composer initially believed, embodied the democratic spirit of the French Revolution. But when Napoleon subsequently proclaimed himself emperor, Beethoven would not hear of it and undedicated the piece.

“So, he is no more than a common mortal!” Beethoven reportedly raged upon receiving the news of Napoleon’s monarchical declaration.

Never meet your heroes, they say. Perhaps it’s time to get to know your heroines instead.

Orchestra Breva’s A Sesquicentennial Tribute to Laura Secord will be presented June 20, at the Ingersoll Cheese Museum, Ingersoll, Ont.; June 21, Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, Brantford, Ont.; June 23, Queenston Heights, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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