Episode: From Failure to Flanders Fields, with Dr. Paul Aitken

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From Failure to Flanders Fields, with Dr. Paul Aitken

November 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of World War I. It’s an unprecedented milestone of the modern era. Dr. Paul Aitken will observe that anniversary in concert with a performance of his moving and beloved setting of the poem “Flanders Fields,” on location at the Flanders Fields battlefield in Belgium. Dr. Aitken is encouraging choirs around the world to observe this milestone in their own ways, because making music together is sometimes the best possible response to war.


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Highlight to Tweet: “Let’s do concerts of peace this 11/11, and show our true colors.” -Dr. Paul Aitken

Show Notes:
  • Choir directors like to help people. That can carry over into very different fields, but helping people is helping people.
  • After getting rejected from doctoral programs at the University of Oklahoma (twice), Paul got permission to audit the program. During that time he set a poem called "In Flanders Fields," by WWI veteran, John McCrae to music. It was the first winner of the Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Competition in 1998.
  • The powerful piece helped to win him a spot in the OU doctoral program. His current success comes from that difficult place of failure.
  • Coming up this year:
    • A mass choir singing "Flanders Fields" and Paul’s 30-minute-long cantata, "And None Shall Be Afraid" at Flanders Fields proper.
    • Honoring veterans around the world by remembering the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (this November 11th) by organizing concerts around the world that feature choirs singing songs of peace and performances of "Flanders Fields" worldwide.

Dr. Paul A. Aitken (b. 1970) is Director of Music & Worship Arts and Composer-in-Residence at the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, Idaho where he oversees more than twenty ensembles and a professional staff of six spanning two campuses.The first ever winner of the ACDA Brock Student Composition Competition for his piece “Flanders Fields,” Aitken is sought after as both conductor and composer. He has been commissioned by organizations such as the American Guild of Organists, the State of Idaho, and the Boise Philharmonic Master Chorale. Aitken made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2010 conducting his major work, And None Shall Be Afraid with a choir of 200 and the New England Symphonic Ensemble. Aitken now has more than 40 compositions to his credit spanning more than two decades of writing.Aitken is a lifetime member of ACDA and has served at State, Division and National levels, including National Chair of Music in Worship. Dr. Aitken holds degrees from the University of Western Ontario, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and the University of Oklahoma. He is married to his lovely wife, MacKenzie, and together they are raising four teenage boys and running a very robust real estate business together.

Resources/links Mentioned:

  • Paul Aitken’s website
  • Paul Aitken on Facebook
  • And YouTube
  • Or Twitter
  • And why not also check out Paul on Soundcloud
  • And of course, Instagram
  • Choir Nation group on Facebook
  • Patreon - Support the podcast!
  • Watch THIS version of “Flanders Fields”
  • In Flanders FieldsBy John McCrae, 1872 - 1918In Flanders fields the poppies blowBetween the crosses, row on row, That mark our place, and in the sky, The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead; short days agoWe lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lieIn Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe! To you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high! If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields.
  • The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, and not Dan Forrest
  • The Great British Bake Off
  • Giada De Laurentiis has a huge head



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