Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
GRAVENHURST — We remember on Nov. 11.
Never to forget — the freedom we enjoy.
The Muskoka Concert Band trumpets those freedoms with the Elderberries Choir giving voices to the names indelibly etched on cenotaphs.
Saturday afternoon, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Trinity United Church in Gravenhurst, they present We Remember.
A concert that reflects the reality of war, its human toll and the hope and optimism that sustained all in and around it.
And the hope and optimism that came out of it and lasts in one way or another today.
MCB director Fran Harvey and her predecessor Neil Barlow know the power of the music that helped inspire and lead charges, while providing solace to not only the front lines but families and those they fought for at home.
Harvey and Barlow, both highly accomplished Muskoka musicians, band leaders and superb trumpet players in their own right, have each stood front and centre to bugle the Last Post and Reville from an early age.
So, what goes through their mind when they stand everyone at attention and the legion colour guard dips it flags?
For both, it’s their fathers.
Veterans of the Second World War.
George Harvey was a navy Petty Officer; Roland Barlow was an army corporal.
Harvey will also be thinking about her son-in-law, Warrant Officer James Clarke, who is regular forces serving in the Ukraine with Canada’s training force. This is his eight tour of duty, including Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Harvey, 59, herself, is a retired Canadian Armed Forces reservist who has done musical duty in the changing of the guard on Parliament Hill.
Her husband, Paul Minnoch, drummer in the MCB, was also a reservist for almost 30 years, serving and playing around the world.
In Grade 9, Harvey played her first Last Post.
She remembers an impactful “janitor” at her Toronto school, who was a First World War veteran and who “participated and spoke” in uniform.
“I was in such awe,” she said. “What he lived through.”
So, she can not only sympathize but empathize with “so many people in small towns who all know someone who was involved in the war.”
That’s why the retired music teacher and principal sees Remembrance Day as “very important to the past, present and future.”
To remember and continue Canada’s legacy “as peacekeepers.”
Barlow, who led the MCB for well more than a decade before returning to the trumpet section fulltime this year, too knows the importance of the day.
Not only was his father, Roland, an American veteran who served in the Far East; but Roland’s father, Ivan, was also a Signal Corp. veteran of the First World War.
As well, two of Barlow’s uncles were Second World War veterans, one again in the Signal Corp. and another who marched across Europe and helped liberate a concentration camp.
And a brother of Barlow’s mother was in the navy.
So Barlow grew up with war remembrances all around him and his family, which is why he stressed the importance of Nov. 11 concerts after moving to Muskoka 20 years ago and playing in and leading this band and several others.
Of course, he has played the Last Post hundreds of times.
And it’s because of that family connection that resonates so strongly with him, that other years he has put together similarly stirring memorial services.
The professional musician and semi-retired engineer admits to understanding the importance and power of music on not only the troops, but on those left behind.
He says music that uplifts and offers hope for all helps keep spirits up and minds off the sometimes terrible tasks at hand.
Barlow pointed to one of the pieces Harvey has in this weekend’s concert, Highlights from Exodus.
He says its melodic, sometimes haunting and melancholic chords build and peak into a crescendo that fills the heart with hope for freedom.
And an equally importance piece is the lighter fare of As Time Goes By, also on the program, which was “popular in rough times,” and remains so in today’s though less comparatively fraught troubling times.
He says people today don’t have quite the same “needs” and requirements of war service, but he expresses no doubt that today’s youth would step up if called upon “if the threat is great enough.”
Which is why Barlow is so encouraged and enthused each year to see so many people — especially youth — out in often inclement weather to honour the past, salute the present and pray for the future.
“It’s amazing and pleasant to see,” he says. “Serious and consistent.”
He says it’s the greatness of people like Winston Churchill, who he admires for his “tough, articulate” leadership, who got the world to where we are and where we celebrate.
But he laments a lack of an equally powerful political force on the global scene.
But there is hope, say both Barlow and Harvey who will also be playing trumpet Nov. 11 in the Gravenhurst Bifocal Band at the Gravenhurst Royal Canadian Legion at 11 a.m.
It comes with these concerts, both annual events in Gravenhurst.
Harvey has put together a moving and joyful program, with the Elderberries singing some of their own selections and combined efforts of both musical talents.
The MCB program includes Voice of the Guns, Exodus, As Time Goes By, Hymn To Freedom, Freedom Overture, Homeward Bound, Black Granite (a nod to the U.S. Vietnam War Memorial) and of course Nightfall in Camp, with Barlow and Cory Wilson in a duet of the Last Post.
A free-will collection will be taken up during the performance.
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