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A Pittance of Time

in Arts & Culture/Featured by

Newfoundland and Labrador native Terry Kelly is travelling to Washington, DC this week to help make our embassy’s Remembrance Day ceremonies this year an unforgettable event.

The event, open to the public and taking place at the Canadian Embassy rotunda, is a little bit of Canadiana in the USA where the day is known as Veteran’s Day. In a country that takes enormous pride and connection to its military – and isn’t afraid to show it – a day like Veteran’s Day could perhaps be almost overwhelming for visiting Canucks. But Canadians in the embassy should feel right at home with Kelly’s presence.

“As one might imagine, I’m humbled, honoured, and thrilled to have been invited to the Canadian Embassy in Washington to participate in the Remembrance Day Ceremony”, said Kelly.

Kelly will certainly be singing “A Pittance of Time”, a song which has come to mean a great deal to Canadians and members of the Canadian Forces – a song which Kelly was inspired to write during two minutes of ‘silence’ on Remembrance Day.

But Kelly’s own story is one that has inspired many. At the age of one, Terry Kelly was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancerous condition that left him blind. Yet this didn’t stop Kelly – a natural athlete – from becoming a double-silver medallist at the 1979 Canadian Track Competition, from being a member of the Canadian Track Team that competed in the 1980 Paralympics.

Not impressed yet? Kelly became the third blind person in the entire world to run a sub five-minute mile.

“They fought and some died for their homeland.
They fought and some died, now it’s our land.
Look at his little child; there’s no fear in her eyes.
Could he not show respect for other dads who have died?”

Of course, Terry Kelly is best known for his music. With six studio release since his debut album in 1985, he has won seven East Coast Music awards and has been nominated for four Canadian Country Music awards and a JUNO. Kelly made music history with the release of his 2002 album, The Power of the Dream. It was the first music CD in the world with Braille liner notes.

And it is this one song in particular that brings so much meaning to Kelly’s presence in Washington. “A Pittance of Time”, recorded in 2002, has quickly become synonymous with Remembrance Day, and was motivated by a very personal experience of Kelly’s. On November 11, 1999 an announcement in a drug store asked customers to give two minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m. as an act of remembrance. Kelly, impressed with the store’s simple yet profound initiative, was sorely disappointed when a man – accompanied by his young child – ignored the moment and insisted that the clerk ring his items through. As the father and daughter were leaving the store, Kelly heard the young girl say, ‘Daddy you were supposed to be quiet through that time.’ Terry’s anger towards the father setting a bad example for his child is what motivated Kelly to write the song.

“Take two minutes, would you mind?
It’s a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who went over.
In peace may they rest, may we never
Forget why they died.
It’s a pittance of time.”

Terry Kelly’s visit to Washington won’t be Kelly’s first act of support for the nation’s military; a member of the Order of Canada, he was invited in 2007 by General Rick Hillier (then the Chief of the Defence Staff) to join ‘Team Canada’ – a group made up of NHL alumni and rock musicians who travelled to Afghanistan to meet and perform with the troops.

Kelly doesn’t take the embassy’s invitation lightly. “I will, of course, be remembering all of our veterans and fallen of earlier wars and conflicts, along with those of the present. I will also honour the most recent sacrifice made by Master Corporal Byron Greff, who was based in Edmonton with the reconnaissance platoon of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and died on October 29, 2011, in Kabul, when the Rhino he was travelling in was rammed by an explosives-packed car”.

Kelly needn’t worry about the honour of the two minutes of silence this time.

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