Stadacona Band at Invictus Games

Sarah McLachlan performs with the combined forces of the Stadacona and Naden Bands of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Photo: Cpl Jean-Roch Chabot

Stadacona Band performs at 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto

By LS Emily Bellman,
Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy

On Saturday September 23, 2017, the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, under the baton and direction of Commanding Officer Lt(N) Patrice Arsenault, performed at the opening ceremonies of the Invictus Games hosted in Toronto, ON. This year marks the third annual games, founded by His Royal Highness Prince Harry in 2014. There were 17 countries represented, with Canada having one of the larger representations of 91 athletes out of a total of 550.

Along with the Stadacona Band, there were three additional Regular Force bands: the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy from Victoria, BC, The Royal 22nd Regiment Band of the CAF from Valcartier, QC, and the Central Band of the CAF from Ottawa, ON. Other dignitaries and Canadian icons were present, such as the Prime Minister of Canada; The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, His Excellency the Governor General David Johnson with his wife Sharon Johnson, the Three Tenors vocal group, Canadian actor Mike Myers, and singer Sarah McLachlan.

The Stadacona Band arrived in Toronto, ON on a Hercules C-130 J model on September 21. As we made our way to our transport, many Invictus athletes were also arriving from other countries at the same time from the United States, France, Germany and Australia. Even just two days before the opening ceremonies, it was evident that the excitement and camaraderie in Toronto was high. On the morning and afternoon of September 23, the Stad Band had intensive rehearsals for the opening ceremonies. The Central Band and the Royal 22nd Regiment Band performed at the beginning of the ceremony as the different countries were introduced, and the Naden and Stadacona Bands performed near the end of the ceremony accompanying Canadian (fellow Haligonian) artist Sarah McLachlan.

The Invictus Games were established to promote hope, spirit and community for service members with injuries both visible and invisible. The opening ceremonies included speeches by “Man in Motion” Rick Hanson, and Capt (ret’d) Trevor Greene, a former Officer with the Seaforth Highlanders. Capt Greene’s presence alone was an inspiration to everyone in attendance as he shared his experiences overseas and his own personal challenges he faced every day. He spoke about the incredible importance of family and the role they play, and ended with a powerful message to the athletes: “All of you were faced with the same choice and you all made the same decision. You chose to believe in yourself – and I believe in you.”

The sense of community was shared with all four of the six Regular Force bands that took part. With the high demand of the Regular Force bands in their respective bases across the country, there is rarely any performance overlap and limited opportunities to work with musicians outside of the respective bands.

The Stadacona Band thoroughly enjoyed being able to meet and reconnect with fellow military musicians and old colleagues, some after many years. Each band took part in different parts of the ceremony, so we had the opportunity to listen to the other performances. It is not often that a musician experiences a performance from outside of the band, and only reinforced the notion of being in the presence of some of the best musicians in Canada.

The Stadacona Band also received some great feedback from other bands watching from the audience. Having musicians giving fellow musicians goosebumps was an unforgettable experience that is not likely happen again for some time. The high calibre live performances only seemed to heighten the positivity of the games. With emotional video clips and powerful speeches, the opening ceremonies were a highlight of Canada’s sesquicentennial year of celebration, and of the incredible legacy of the Invictus Games.