The Maple Leaf
Vol. 15, Issue 08
Fortissimo Fantastic Celebrating 200 Years of Peace
Leaders of the Ceremonial Guard (left) and the 3rd (US) Infantry Regiment's Fife and Drum Corps stand on Parliament Hill during Fortissimo 2012.
Photo: MCpl Dan Pop
The 3rd (US) Infantry Regiment's Fife and Drum Corps performs on Parliament Hill in August during Fortissimo - a musical commemoration of the War of 1812.
It’s not often former enemies come together to acknowledge bloody victories and terrible defeats. Yet this was the theme of the 15th edition of Fortissimo – the Canadian Forces Massed Bands Beating of Retreat Ceremony held on Parliament Hill August 9 to 11.
Fortissimo featured the 200th commemoration of the War of 1812 and for two hours each night, over 400 Canadian and international military musicians entertained over 30,000 spectators in a singular event of musical precision that would have impressed the likes of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock.
“Fortissimo 2012 was the Canadian Forces tribute to the War of 1812,” said Major Mike Plaunt, artistic director of Fortissimo and commanding officer of the Ceremonial Guard. “The most important accomplishment of Fortissimo was the successful collaboration of ceremonial units between four nations.”
The lion’s share of the show was carried by the combined efforts of the soldiers of the Ceremonial Guard, a unit made up of personnel from across the Army, both Regular and Reserve.
Also represented in Fortissimo 2012 was the National Band of the Naval Reserve, the Land Force Atlantic Area Band, the 15th Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery Band, the 30th Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery and the Governor General’s Horse Guards Mounted Fanfare Team.
Supporting Canada’s brass bands were the glorious kilt-swinging pipes and drums represented by the Black Watch, Seaforth Highlanders, Lorne Scots, Nova Scotia Highlanders, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa and the Ceremonial Guard.
Fortissimo’s commemoration of the War of 1812 wasn’t complete without representation from the United States military. This was fulfilled by their premiere ceremonial unit, the Fife and Drum Corps of the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment. The Old Guard rarely appears outside the US given their vigil over the Tomb of the Unknowns, so it was a rare treat to witness the precision drill and music of the regiment’s musicians whose Revolutionary War-period uniforms and music brought listeners back 200 years with their renditions of “Yankee Doodle” and “The President’s March”.
The Old Guard wasn’t alone. They were supported by the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums whose period uniforms mirror an 18th century American Continental Army unit. This group of teenage youths from Williamsburg, Virginia added their flare of Revolutionary War melodies to Fortissimo.
Finally from overseas, 85 members from the German Armed Forces Ceremonial Drill Team staged a dazzling display of silent drill in addition to an inaugural appearance by the Jamaican Defence Forces Band who were here to celebrate their country’s 50th year of independence.
Each evening’s finale featured the combined massed bands performing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”featuring the guns of the 30th Field Artillery and the bells of the Peace Tower’s Carrillon. As the cannon smoke settled on the lawns of Parliament Hill providing a ghostly contrast to the blood red tunics of the Guards, and with the pungent aroma of cordite pervading the cool evening breeze, it wasn’t difficult to envision the epic battles fought between Canadians and Americans some 200 years ago.
Fortissimo 2012 was a fitting military tribute to what some historians refer to as America’s Second War of Independence and what some consider Canada’s first and only war of independence, the War of 1812.