Cast away from home, but by only about 40 Km/ 25 miles, we stumbled into a unique situation. We could enjoy camping at a waterfront site which was really the home to our friends, Terry and Joan. Yes, we had our well-used motor home, driven down from town, but were offered their house and the beautiful setting of the cabin placed on a calm stretch of the Pacific. Our benefactors had embarked with their own motor home on a trip to Alaska, leaving us, possibly, in charge. As we intended to stay in our own coach, we set about to hook up our satellite TV service. The tall trees about us imparted a wonderful ambiance but did nothing for the TV signals from space, so we gave up on that, so for times spent in our rig, we simply listened to FM radio. From these broadcasts we learned of an upcoming activity to be held on our local beach back in our town, about 20 miles away but not far from our own residence.
As this special concert grew near the weather began to turn, away from the fine weather we’d been enjoying at the beach, and we decided to move back home and attend the event. We were not dispointed! We ventured down with our lawn chairs and first heard the orchestra as they played O Canada. Marguerite had gone into the gathering crowd, for food, but everyone up, of course, then the most melodious strains came to my ears and turned into what I’m sure the composer had exactly envisioned, a very stirring rendition. I thought to myself, this was just the best playing of our national anthem that I had ever heard.
The food was simple but tasty, and the dignitaries spoke and were welcomed to town. The local chief of the First Nations, the Member of Parliament’s stand-in, the Queen’s representative, now a lady herself, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, a diplomat from the Dutch Consulate in Vancouver, the local Member of the B.C Legislative Assembly, and even our Mayor. With all these dignitaries on hand, what was going on?
Besides being a great musical event for the town, and with our esteemed visiting Maestro, whose regular “job” being conductor of the Moscow Symphony, he was a Dutch national, and a proud one, and this blended into the event before us, which was a 70th commemoration of the freeing of the Netherlands from German occupation. With Canadian soldiers at the forefront of this battle, with a loss of 7,600 of them, the Dutch have never forgotten Canada after the bitter occupation. Special seating nearest the front of the crowd was held for residents with Dutch heritage, and in among them was a Canadian soldier who had served in the Liberation. Pointed out by our MLA, Nicolas Simon, he was helped to the front during a rousing, standing ovation by Conductor Arnold himself and the Mayor. Once seated near the microphones, the applause continued, the audience still standing.
Once the speeches were over, Conductor Anthony Arnold again put his charges into beautiful musical action, with a piece called “Land of Hope and Glory.” As the music came through, and soon blending with the faraway sounds of airplane engines, the crowd turned away from the musicians, outward to the water-and above, to the sky. The airobatic team of four Navion airplanes, with the look of those that flew during WW ll, put on a great show. The coordinator of the show was a long time pilot who did the same for the first Canadian Snowbirds shows. These planes were slower, but it was actually very nice to see the planes make their movements at a slower pace. I recalled the fly-by of a single F-18 over Vancouver during an Molson Indy Vancouver auto race. That plane was visible for all of five or ten seconds. This slow-paced show lasted several minutes, each airplane trailing smoke as they flew in intricate formations then finally tipping a wing and disappearing. All the while, Marguerite was singing low the words to “Land of Hope and Glory.”
The piece de resistance came next. With the Canadian warship HMCS Whitehorse laying two or three hundred yards offshore, the orchestra began the “1812 Overature”. In his introduction to it, Maestro had underscored the composer’s original writings had included the words “canon shots.” These would be done by the Navy using signals given by a knowledgable musician from shore, actually on board.
With appropriately timed blasts, and clouds of gun smoke around the ship, It all worked out splendidly to cheering from over a thousand who had come down to the beach. A fabulous end to a wonderful, and very moving, evening. For this post, many thanks to Darlene Williams for the photos!