Sister cities of Thionville, France and Urbana, IL, USA team up for “Let It Be” collaboration

Features moving guest performances by musicians from both sides of the Atlantic. Project honors the late Kermit Harden, World War II veteran who liberated the French city in 1944.


“During the pandemic, and with the distance which separates us, we’ve made
a pure moment of magic together. Thank you.” —Mayor of Thionville Pierre Cuny
On Memorial Day,  Monday, May 31st, 2021, the sister cities of Thionville, France, and Urbana, Illinois, USA honor the memory of those lost – to war and to the COVID-19 pandemic – by releasing a stunning video of the Beatles’ legendary “Let It Be”. Recorded in 2020, the City of Urbana and Thionville collaborated on this recording with the intention of providing joy, inspiration and togetherness, while helping grieving families. American and French musicians and celebrities – all together nearly 50 artists of all ages and origins – participated in this project under the co-leadership of Pierre Ananicz and James Barham.  
“Over the past year, the world has suffered from the COVID-19  pandemic. We  now share renewed optimism and hope as vaccines become available. Music is the universal language and it can help us heal. We’re honored to share this song with our Sister City, Thionville, and look forward to continued collaboration between our communities.” —Mayor of Urbana Diane Wolfe Marlin

Viewers of the video are encouraged to share it far and wide, comment on our Facebook page, and donate to Champaign-Urbana’s Refugee Center. Contributions can be made through the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois at their website

Origins for these two cities’ connections go back to November, 1944, when Thionville was liberated by the American Army led by General Patton. Among the GIs who composed the battalions stationed in Moselle were several men from the Urbana area, including Kermit Harden. Harden was a decorated veteran and held four Battle Stars: Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. Captured by the Germans in October 1944, he was held as a POW for 45 days before being included in the first prisoner exchange of the war. He returned to active combat and received the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action in Germany, the Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge and the Purple Heart in Northern France. For his service to the people of France, he was awarded the Order of the Legion d’Honneur by the French government. Kermit died in 2019 and is survived by his wife Ann, his son Andrew, and daughter Elizabeth.

In 2019, while Thionville was celebrating the 75th anniversary of its liberation, the representatives of Urbana and Thionville officially confirmed the twinning between the two cities. This connection was originally spearheaded by Elise Poillot, a University of Luxembourg teacher who went to the University of Illinois in Urbana as part of a partnership program between her University and the American Law faculty.

Thionville is the second largest city in the Moselle region of France with 42,000 inhabitants, and as it is only a few miles away from Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium and is less than two hours from Paris,  is located in the heart of what is considered the “three borders area”. With a similar population size, Urbana is a city in the county seat of Champaign County, Illinois, United States. Outside of the Chicago metropolitan area, it is the tenth-most populous city in Illinois, and is included in the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area.

French and American artists participating include: Fabien Miua, Rob Krum, Guillaume Vosgien, Candy Foster, Raphael Vitrano, Brandon T. Washington, Andy Abranrantes, Fabien Fritsch, Sam Payne, Cédric Vosgien, Ayla McDonald, Marie Helene Caroff, Patch Adams, Susan Parenti, Claire Cugnart, Bob Pearse, Gabriel Lalegge, Emily Blue, Yakou, Alexandra Choisnest, Maddie Brown, Kevin Roy, Anthony Mura, Quentin Zeimeth, Thomas Lalore, Franck Aubert, Alain Hombourger, Pierre Ananicz, Hannah Scalise, Maggie Ward, Lucia Cogliandro, Kate Levy, Wendy Hundley, Julie Salana, Mallory Simonds, Zilber Karevski, Raeann Dossett, Pascale Adrian, Scott Schwartz, Thierry Hummel, Dawn Clark, Evelyn Underwood, Chloé Gobbo, Dawna Nelson; Instrumentalists include Olivier Karim (drums), Christopher Fuentes (bass), Mickael Sanso (bongos), Rémi Encelle (piano); and the French band Ten Minutes Left (Kev, Flo, Gauthier et Val).

Special thanks to Executive Producer James Barham, and to Engineer James Treichler (Wave Upon Wave).