Veteran Composes Piece in Honor of Battle of Normandy

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By Evie Allen
By Randy Livingston

CARBONDALE -- A World War II veteran is honored at a concert in Carbondale. The 97-year-old wrote a piece while on the battlefield.

The Southern Illinois Music Festival commemorated the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Normandy featuring that symphony.

Like many United States Veterans, World War II is a time Lionel Semiatin rarely talks in depth about.

"I don't like to talk about it much. I really don't," he says.
 
He was 25 yearsold and living in Canada when he joined the Army. During the Battle of Normandy, he recalls having a tune in his head that helped get his mind off the war.
 
"What was going on around me was not exactly pleasant, so I just went to the opposite to relax myself," Semiatin said. 
 
While on the battlefield he wrote an upbeat, jazzy orchestra piece called Tidbit Number 1. Semiatin says during the seven week battle, he used the quiet moments to continue to write the piece as a means of therapy.
 
"I'm very fortunate to have come through the war and in as good health as I am," he says.
     
Saturday the SIFest Orchestra commemorated the 70th anniversary of the World War II battle.
He says the six-minute-piece is similar to the sound of one of his most influential composers, George Gershwin. He says hearing it performed here in Southern Illinois has been a great honor.
 
"The most important thing in life, career wise, is not money, not success but appreciation for what you're trying to do," he adds.
 
Semiatin's musical career started when he was 12 years old. His Tidbit from Normandy, as well as other pieces, have been performed by orchestras all over the world.
 
"It's one of the achievements of my life. And the reason why is because it was done under such difficult and challenging circumstances," he says.
 
The SI Fest Orchestra will be performing three of Semiatin's pieces during the music festival.
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