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Interview: Captain Bain, Commanding Officer of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band

In October 2021 The Royal Canadian Artillery Band travelled across to London from Edmonton, Canada to take part in the Changing of the Guard in London supporting The Royal Canadian Horse Artillery who were privileged to mount the Queen's Guard as part of celebrations for The Royal Canadian Artillery's 150th anniversary. Military Bands Everywhere was fortunate enough to capture the band in London on Sunday 17th October and also to interview Captain Bain, the Director of Music and Commanding Officer of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. Please enjoy this interview on his thoughts on performing in London...

What has been your most favourite or memorable engagement with The Royal Canadian Artillery Band?

Doing the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle was an interesting day because it was on a Tuesday where the castle was closed to the public. Performing in the castle courtyard was a very special and intimate experience with only the castle guard and VIP guests in attendance. It gave us the chance to perform something that was really musical such as ‘Going Home’, the largo from Dvorak's New World Symphony and it was just beautiful, something that I’m never ever going to forget!

Do you ever get nervous before big events and how can you combat this?

I actually get nervous before nearly every event but what I have done over the course of my musical career is that I try to allow the nervousness to create a bit of stress. I think instead of all the things that could go wrong but instead actually letting it raise your level that little bit extra to be on top of things, whether that’s doing drill or being really confident in the music that your going to play. It’s important to channel those nerves into something that could be really special.

How has the band had to adapt during the last year and a half due to covid?

The band has done a really good job and much of what we have done has became virtual. However what I think it has done is that it’s really opened up the unique door for us to engage with large audiences all over the world. For example, we could go to a beautiful concert hall and play for 1200 people which is an experience that can only be shared by those 1,200 people but now with the opportunity to use the virtual world, which should never replace live music but it lets us collaborate using technology and reach out to other musicians all over the world with the finished product being published on social media and often reaching thousands and thousands of people that might have not otherwise experienced the Royal Canadian Artillery Band!

In 3 words how would you describe leading your band during the Changing of the guard here in London?

An Honour, A Privilege and Exciting

How do you go about selecting the music for such a prestigious event and one in different country to that you're used to performing in?

Picking music for this occasion has actually been a really fun and unique experience! It does help that the band has been fortunate to take part in the Changing of the Guard in the past so we had some previous repertoire and expereince to draw on. However, one of the things that is amazing about music is that it is international and can translate no matter where you are in the world and connect different cultures. Therefore, when we select music for a trip like this it is important to bring along music that’s Canadian, traditional military music (much of which is British such as music by Vaughn Williams, Holst or Kenneth J Alford). But it is also to bring some more contemporary music from not just Britain or Canada but even the United States that is popular across the world resulting in audience members leaving the performance feeling connected in someway.

As a member of the Canadian Armed Forces how does it feel to be invited to musically support the changing of Her Majesty’s Guard?

This is my first time experiencing it and I think I understand how I feel more when I go back and have the chance to digest everything we have had the chance to do here. What I do know is that it is not very often that foreign band’s of the commonwealth are given the opportunity to play on the forecourts at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle and it is a responsibility that you can’t take lightly! Even though our band has been lucky to come across to do this before, this time is with our own regiment we are attached to - The Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and together celebrating our 150th anniversary which is a real honour and privilege which makes the feeling extra special!

What are the biggest cultural similarities and differences you have noticed when working with the guards musicians of the Household Division?

In a ceremony like the changing the guard we obviously work with the British band’s but not that closely like we would in a ‘massed bands’ situation but thing’s we have noticed from this trip and previous ones is that our instrumentation is very similar and so are our selections of music that we play. When we have had the opportunity to combine with British bands in the past one of the things we had to learn in a hurry was that ‘Counter Marches’ happen in the opposite direction to what we are used too!!

What does a ‘normal’ day consist for you when in Canada?

We actually do have a fairly normal routine when we are in Canada. Generally the band would be involved in a Physical Training session first thing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning’s. That is usually followed by full band rehearsals. Tuesday and Thursday’s are usually then focussed on smaller ensembles but also on administration tasks. One of the unique things about the Canadian Armed Forces Bands is that they are responsible for all of their own administration. For example, if we are travelling and people need money for meals or arranging transport we need to organise it ourselves which makes us entirely self contained as a unit. Of course there would then be modifications to our daily and weekly routines around engagements to get uniform prepared and music organised etc. We can sometimes undertake up to 200 engagements a year which means we are a very busy band and there is always something going on for all of our musicians!

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