The Great War Sextet: Canadian War Poetry with Trombone & Strings

An incredible music and poetry evening not to be missed! 

A unique and powerful, life-affirming classical concert premieres this Remembrance Day weekend, November 9th and 10th, 7:30pm, in the heart of downtown Ottawa at the gorgeous Arts Court Theatre and across Rideau Hall at MacKay United Church, respectively. In honour of the one hundred and first anniversary of the conclusion of the First World War, The Great War Sextet: Canadian War Poetry with Trombone & Strings features an acclaimed ensemble of classical performers setting new music to verses penned by our brilliant soldier-poets.

Composer, Benjamin Sajo, is an Ottawa-based writer and teacher of music. The music is written to bridge generations, combining the passionate styles of the early twentieth century — the pastoral sensibilities of British Romanticism and the avant-garde intensity of German Expressionism, paralleling the dichotomy of the contemporary imperialistic idealism versus the brutal reality — and the frank sincere passion of contemporary poetry slams.

Starring Felix Del Tredici (“disturbing yet fascinating” and “hair-raisingly virtuosic”, New York Times) whose trombone and recitations represent here the torch of the Unknown Soldier, matched by a string quintet featuring Marianne Di Tomaso (Canadian Music Competition, grand prize, 2006; Virtuoso e Belcanto violin competition, first prize, 2018), Essie Liu (Founder, Precious Moment Violin Service; Faculty of Ottawa Suzuki Strings), Maxime Despax (Quator Despax; Interro String Quartet), Jake Klinkenborg (fellow of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas Global Leaders Program, 2016; McGill Chamber Competition winner, 2016, with ensemble “Tetrakis” ), and Vicente Garcia (Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, Orford Music Academy) under the baton of maestro Pratik Gandhi (music director of Rouge River Winds, resident conductor for the Toy Piano Composers collective, and conductor of the Juno-nominated recording of Granitic by Bekah Simms, 2019).

Presented in the style of contemporary spoken-word, the poetry can be found in the collection We Wasn’t Pals: Canadian Poetry and Prose of the First World War, edited by Bruce Meyer and Barry Callaghan and published by Exile Editions, and includes works by John McCrae, W.W.E. Ross, H. Smalley Sarson, Bernard Freeman Trotter, William H. Ogilvie, and Adelard Audette.  Most of the poets were young men at the time; flowers of their generation. Their invocations teach modern audiences how, even during the darkest of inhuman experiences, great art may still be inspired from and the spirit prevail even at the brink of shell-shock and doom.

The musicians were hand-selected by their passion and professional commitment to new classical music and realizing the work of emerging Canadian composers. On his challenging performance as the trombonist, Felix Del Tredici reminisces: "I chose to take on The Great War Sextet because of Benjamin's commitment to give a voice to the unknown. I appreciate his energy and belief in the material, and I want to be a part of this energy and message."

For the Arts Court theatre performance, a cocktail reception will precede the show by half an hour.

With financial support from the Ontario Arts Council and private patronage, tickets are free for veterans and military service members. 

Tickets may be purchased directly from the Arts Court Theatre website or Eventbrite, or by visiting  They can also be purchased at the door of the venues or at the Leading Note music store on 370 Elgin Street.

Stay up-to-date at the event Facebook page.