Battle of the Atlantic Concert

The Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy performs at the Battle of the Atlantic concert at the Halifax Central Library on April 30.
Photo:Corporal J.W.S. Houck/FIS Halifax

Stadacona Band concert commemorates the longest battle

By Virginia Beaton,
Trident Staff

Through music, song and dance, the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy honoured the veterans who participated in the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest battle of the Second World War.

During the concert, held on Sunday, April 30 in the Paul O’Regan Hall of the Halifax Central Library, Miller noted in his opening remarks that the event marked the 72nd anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic, and was sponsored by HMCS Sackville, Canada’s Naval Memorial.

Sharing master of ceremonies duties with Olga Milosevich, Miller introduced a musical program that ranged from pieces with a strong maritime feel, such as Parade of the Tall Ships, through wartime favourite songs such as A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

The concert began with Lt(N) Patrice Arsenault, Commanding Officer and Director of Music, directing the band in Fanfare for the First Sea Lord, composed by Capt David Cole of the Royal Marines Band, followed by The Seafarer, by Haydn Wood. Next was the Commodore Pullen March, for which Miller gave detailed program notes.

The late RAdm Pullen, Commodore of Stadacona from 1951-53, heard the story of a Stadacona bandmember named Miloslavitch, who had been a bandsman in his native Yugoslavia before coming to Canada as a refugee after the war. Learning that Miloslavitch’s wife and daughter were still in Yugoslavia, Commodore Pullen contacted RAdm Bidwell, then Flag Officer Atlantic Coast, and through diplomatic channels, Miloslavitch’s wife and daughter were able to come to Canada. In gratitude for his family being reunited, Miloslavitch composed the Commodore Pullen March.

At least 18 members of the Pullen family were present for the concert, and they were warmly applauded and recognized by the audience.

PO1 Charmaine Chaddock took the podium to conduct the band in three selections from Scenes from the Louvre, composed by Norman Dello Joio.

Miller warned the audience that the PowerPoint presentation accompanying the next piece, a pop song titled Roads, was very emotional. “In rehearsal, by the end, Olga and Liz [Rigney] and I were all in tears.” PO2 Brad Davidge stepped out front to sing solo on this song, in an arrangement by bandmember LS Jack Brownell, and dedicated to “all the brave men and women who served in the Battle of the Atlantic, and to the families at home hoping for their safe return.” Sure enough, the powerpoint depicted the excitement and danger of life at sea during the battle, the losses and the eventual victory.

The first half of the concert concluded with Miller’s rendition of I’ve Got a Little List, one of the best-known songs from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta The Mikado. Miller, noted for his ability to write as well as to sing a witty lyric, wrote several new verses updating his little list of irritating people (think Donald Trump), concluding, “They’d none of ‘em be missed.”

Following the intermission, RAdm Newton spoke to the audience, and also presented two Canadian Decorations to members of the band. He praised the band, noting that some members had been part of the RCN’s diplomatic tour to Cuba, and Mexico last year. Recalling how the musicians had played the national anthems of several of the host countries, RAdm Newton, commented, “And when people there sing their anthem, they sing it loudly.” The band’s musical skill contributed to the success of the diplomatic visits, according to RAdm Newton.

The Stadacona Big Band opened the second half of the concert, playing The Way You Look Tonight, with vocal soloist PO2 Davidge, and with a swing dance demonstration by four members of the Dalhousie Swing Dance Society. Then it was on to some of the best dance music ever; the ultimate swing dance tune, In the Mood.

After the full band reassembled, band chief CPO2 Catherine Norris conducted them in Songs of Sailor and Sea, composed by Robert Smith, after which guest vocalist Liz Rigney sang A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

It wouldn’t be a Battle of the Atlantic concert without a singalong, and the medley of wartime hits included Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree; Quartermaster’s Store; Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant Major; White Cliffs of Dover; and Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye.

The concert concluded with a trio of military marches, starting with Heart of Oak, to Great Little Army, and finally, the RCAF Marchpast.