By Spencer McBride, The Guard –
Warrant Officer Simon Paré works with the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces (CBCAF) both as the Operations Manager and a Musician playing the double bass, and yet he still jumped at the opportunity to compose a processional march celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Order of Canada. Commissioned by the Chancellery of Honours to be played as recipients of the Order enter Rideau Hall’s Ballroom at all future investiture ceremonies, the “Recipient’s March” is uplifting, exciting, and suitably momentous for the occasion.
The piece premiered on 12 May 2017, and WO Paré received a Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) Commendation last month for his achievement. We sat down with him to hear more about his work with the CBCAF and better understand his inspiration for the award-winning composition.
The Guard: Congratulations on receiving the CDS Commendation! You must be feeling very proud!
WO Simon Paré: Yes, thank you! I didn’t expect it. When the String Ensemble from Rideau Hall approached me, saying they needed a song, I was just thinking it would be a good challenge. It wasn’t a task, just something I wanted to do.
When it was done, and I was hearing it played at Rideau Hall, it already felt like a great achievement. So when I heard I was to be awarded a CDS Commendation, I was really surprised! It wasn’t something I was looking for, I was just doing my job, but having my job appreciated by the CDS was an honour. I have seen and met the CDS a few times at parades and major events, when I’m in the front row, and at mess dinners. I’ve talked to him a few times; he’s a real gentleman! In the end though, having people enjoy my music is all I look for.
G: The Recipient’s March was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Order of Canada, but could you tell us what inspired you emotionally?
WO P: When they approached me to compose something for the Order of Canada, for when the recipients walk down the aisle, we knew we wanted something joyful, inspiring, and solemn, something like Pomp and Circumstance by Elgar, that kind of vibe. We also needed something that had flexibility, because sometimes we had five recipients taking part in the ceremony, and sometimes we have fifteen. As a composer I like to have some basic specs to work from. I was thinking about marches we have, and military styles. I have a jazz background as well, and out of all these inspirations I tried to create something that was also an earworm; easy to recognize. I went with a basic melody, and made sure that you could sing it, working it out through a process of trial and error.
G: Would you say you like working within restrictions?
WO P: It can help with creativity. The needs of the ceremony set the pace as well, knowing they couldn’t use something like a waltz, they needed something that would help the recipient walk at the right pace. They also wanted something in the major key, which is more joyful. It was meant to be for our String Ensemble as well, a Serenade of Strings, who play often at Rideau Hall.
G: When you’re composing, is there a message you are trying to convey with your music?
WO P: I’m always thinking of who is listening to it and who is playing it. As a musician I’m aware of how some pieces go on, and on, and on, but I want to have fun playing something. So I always have the performer in mind. I want to see the musician having fun playing the song, and then whatever I’ve composed or arranged, my main focus is making sure it’s entertaining to play, whether it’s a simple children’s song, or something really musically complex. If the musician enjoys playing it, people will like it, and the audience will have fun too. I always try to challenge myself and the musician. I look at the logistics, when the easy parts are, when the challenging parts are, and I always make sure it’s fun, because the audience can tell when the musicians don’t enjoy it.
G: Does that approach also make it more fun to compose?
WO P: Sure! Mostly it adds to the challenge. I really want to make sure that it’s not the kind of song a musician sees and goes “Oh no, not THAT song again!” So it’s always fantastic to be involved in composing as a musician myself.
G: How did it feel to hear your piece performed for the first time in public?
WO P: Performances are always great. I’m always working with notes on computers, and sampling, so it doesn’t always feel real. It’s exciting to hear your music played by professional musicians. Even though I’m always writing out forte, and pianissimo, and crescendo, and all that, there is a deep human factor that obviously a computer cannot do. And the emotion from the player is always great to see, as is the reaction from the public. When I was at the premiere, hearing the various reactions was very emotional.
G: Where could people go to hear the Recipient’s March, or other works of yours?
WO P: The song is available on the Governor General’s website. Most of my other work is in writing and arranging pieces for the CBCAF. Right now we are recording an album at the Canadian Museum of History , so part of my team is working on that. I have also worked with PSP on the last CFSU(O) Holiday Concert. We are already planning for next year! So managing Operations is part of my job, but I also play the upright bass. The next performance is scheduled for 15 May, 2019 at the Bronson Centre for Music Fest Canada, where we will be on stage as guest performers. And of course we are also playing at mess dinners, ceremonies, and Guard of Honours in the NCR and the surrounding region!
G: Thank you for giving us some time in your busy schedule!
WO P: My pleasure!
The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces, under the direction of Captain John Fullerton, is one of six full-time Regular Force military bands in the Canadian Armed Forces. The band provides professional music support for a large number of Canadian Armed Forces, Department of National Defence and Government of Canada events throughout the National Capital Region. You can learn more about them here, or follow them on their Facebook Page.
Photo: CFSU(O) IMAGING SERVICES/Able Seaman Anne-Marie Brisson
This post is also available in: Français (French)