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CAF musicians share their favourite moments on playing with the Central Band

By WO Simon Paré, Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces –

With the 7th annual Holidays with the Central Band concert set to take place from 11-12 December 2018, the organizing committee has taken the time to interview both the special musical guest, Mme Patsy Gallant, as well as noteworthy members of the Central Band itself. Warrant Officer Simon Paré was able to speak with members who are brand new to the Central Band, and those whose tenure is coming to an end.  Sgt Scott Poll, who has been a member of the Central Band since 1990, as well as Cpl Hanna Williamson and Cpl Janika Boutin who have been members since 2017 and 2018 respectively.

How long have you been with the Central Band? And under what capacity have you been with the band?

Sgt Poll: I started with the Central Band in 1990 as a Private.  Other than a two-year posting in Calgary (’92 –’94), and spending one year in Borden at the School of Music (1989), I’ve spent my entire career in Ottawa with the Central Band.  Over the years I have played clarinet in the Concert Band, Parade Band, Woodwind Quintet, ten-piece, clarinet quartet and I played the tenor sax in the stage band and jazz combo.  I have worked in Finance, Library, Public Relations, OR, and Ops. I have also spent many years helping out in the social club in various capacities.

Cpl Williamson: I joined in July 2018 after completing basic training in St. Jean. I am one of two violinists that work with the Serenade of Strings, a five-member piano quintet that performs often at Rideau Hall, for mess dinners, for graduation ceremonies and other military events around the area.

Cpl Boutin: I have been working with the Central Band for a year. I was a musician on the reserve for five years before moving to the regular force as a Corporal.


What has your experience been like participating in the many high-profile events that the Central Band supports in the NCR, and abroad?

Sgt Poll: I’ve always felt proud and honoured to be a part of the military, representing the Canadian Armed Forces and the nation at countless high-profile and significant events both in Canada and overseas.  I’ve always noticed that the general public holds our military in very high esteem and being a part of this organization has given me a strong sense of pride and accomplishment.

Cpl Williamson: One day we’re playing for a graduating course, the next for foreign royalty, the next for veterans and cadets, the next for honours and awards at Rideau Hall. It’s an honour to play for each group and I love it when we get the chance to meet members of the audience and chat.

Cpl Boutin: It’s always rewarding to participate in different events with the Central Band. One day, we can be playing on a parade for a president or a king coming to Canada and the next day, doing a concert for young people in a high school or seniors in a residence. We do a very diverse work that brings us multiple challenges.


What are some of the challenges or opportunities of in being involved with such a large and diverse group?

Sgt Poll: As with most careers that involve working with others, dealing with difficult, oppositional or unusual personalities has always been a huge challenge.  I have had the opportunity, however, to work with extremely talented musicians from diverse backgrounds who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the band Branch. It’s also been quite interesting to work with musicians from all parts of Canada.

Cpl Williamson: There could be different challenges working closely with a small group of people constantly but we’re very fortunate that everyone in the group gets along very well. Each player brings a unique set of skills and interests to the table and the group chemistry is great!

Cpl Boutin: We had the opportunity to travel to Latvia this past summer and to participate in the Riga Song and Dance Festival. This is a huge event that happens every five years, bringing together citizens from all over the country. We participated in incredible performances bringing together thousands of musicians and singers. It was a real honour to be part of it.


Do you have a favourite event or type of event to be a part of?

Sgt Poll: Although I recognize the importance in our participation in both parades and mess dinners, my most fulfilling type of performances have always been concerts.  Spending hours of time rehearsing and working on music and then being able to perform to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience has been a highlight of my career.

Cpl Williamson: As a new member, I enjoy all the events we play at. All events pose different challenges, but it gives us a chance to try new and varied repertoires.

Cpl Boutin: The holiday concert is one of my favourite events. This is one of my favourite times of the year because I really love Christmas music and the festivities that surround it!


How does it feel to be new to the Central Band? / How does it feel to be soon retiring from the Central Band?

Sgt Poll: After a thirty-year career, I would be lying if I claimed it would an easy transition into civilian life.  I have had so many wonderful opportunities over the years (great trips, performances, social activities etc.) Also, I will miss the privilege to work and perform with so many gifted and talented musicians that I am proud to call my friends and co-workers.

Cpl Williamson: I’ve been so warmly and kindly welcomed to the Central Band!! I don’t think I could have asked for a better first couple months on the job.

Cpl Boutin: It is an incredible opportunity to be a member of the Central Band. As a musician, there is not much employment opportunities like it. As a new member of the CBCAF, I look forward to all the experiences forthcoming.


How does partnering with vocalist Patsy Gallant affect your preparations for this event?

Sgt Poll: I was a teenager in the 70s when she was a huge deal in Canadian pop music!  I still remember some of her big hits like “From New York to LA” It will be a thrill to back up her wonderful vocal stylings!

Cpl Boutin: It’s exciting to put together a concert with Mrs. Gallant. She has been part of my parents’ youth. Having a reknowned artist by our side always increases our desire to perform well.


Do you have a favourite piece to perform?

Sgt Poll: I believe we’ll be doing a swinging arrangement of “Jingle Bells” arranged by a former CO of the Central Band (Captain Peter Archibald).  There is a clarinet solo in this piece which I am looking forward to playing (this could be my last solo with the band)

Cpl Williamson: Beethoven quartets! Also, John William’s “Hymn to the Fallen”

Cpl Boutin: As I am fond of Christmas music, I could not choose. We have several various pieces that make the concert loveable in its entirety.


What can the audience expect at this year’s Holiday concert?

Sgt Poll: A great variety of seasonal favorites, outstanding musicianship, an exciting guest vocalist & (hopefully) leaving the show with a warm and fuzzy feeling!

Cpl Williamson: The band sounds amazing right now under Capt. John Fullerton. Expect a great performance and great music!

Cpl Boutin: Nostalgia for the fans of Patsy Gallant and a concert that will bring everyone a smile and into the holiday spirit!


For more information please visit CAFConnection.

This post is also available in: Français (French)

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