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Drummers of the Canadian Forces Ceremonial Guard march past spectators on Parliament Hill during the 13th annual Fortissimo in Ottawa, Canada, Aug. 12. Members of the Ceremonial Guard performed alongside the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band for four consecutive nights of the Fortissimo.

Photo by Cpl. Rashaun X. James

Fortissimo:2nd MAW, Canadian Forces bands celebrate musical heritage

18 Aug 2010 | Cpl. Rashaun X. James

It is a beautiful summer evening in Canada’s capitol city of Ottawa. On Parliament Hill thousands of onlookers eagerly await the arrival of the various bands representing branches of the Canadian Forces and one U.S. military band, both of which will play in the 13th annual Fortissimo.

The leathernecks of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band joined with their brothers and sisters in arms in the great white North to put on the tremendous musical spectacle. Since 1997, when Canada’s ceremonial guard began the Fortissimo, members of Canada’s military have met to put on a free evening concert on Parliament Hill for all who wish to attend. For the Marines of the 2nd MAW Band, excitement and anticipation were ever-present from the moment they crossed the border.

“This is my first time out of the country,” said 2nd MAW clarinetist Cpl. Benny Valenzuela. “This is a very important event considering this is the first time a U.S. military band stationed in the states has performed outside the United States in seven years.”

After arriving on Aug. 8 at Ottawa’s Carleton University dormitories, the Marines endured a heavy training schedule each day leading up to the first of four actual performances beginning Aug. 12. The Marines quickly learned Canadian drill movements, which are different from their own.

“Conforming to the way the Canadians march was a challenge because their marching style is not as sharp as what we’re used to,” said Cpl. Zackery L. Otto, a euphonium player with the 2nd MAW band. “The conductor also had a different way of conducting.”

Otto added that despite the subtle differences between the bands, there was plenty of common ground to build rapport. “One thing I will take away from this trip is the camaraderie we experienced with the Canadians,” Otto said. “It was pretty awesome.”

Along with performing in the Fortissimo, the Marines of the 2nd MAW Band participated in a changing of the guard ceremony with the Canadian Forces Ceremonial Guard and performed a small concert at the American Embassy in Ottawa. “For me, being here is important because it shows the public what military bands are all about,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Moore, the band’s platoon sergeant.

“It gave us all an opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women who served before us in both the Canadian Forces and our own.” For others, like Cpl. Caleb J. Hasenburg, a saxophonist with the band, the pride felt while performing for the Canadian crowds was worth the arduous practice sessions and adjustments to fit the Canadian style.

“It was refreshing marching down the streets of Ottawa playing the Marines Hymn after each concert,” Hasenburg said. “The way the Canadian military and civilians reacted to what we’re used to doing every day was amazing. It was nice to see people get excited about all the simple things.”

One Canadian in particular was left impressed by the Marines of the 2nd MAW Band.

“I have a special place in my heart for the Marines,” said Maj. Greg Miller, the ceremonial guard’s commanding officer. “Without them, this ceremony would have definitely been a lot different.”


Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point