Veterans’ Week concert pays homage to service and diversity
By Joanie Veitch,
The Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy presented When Duty Called on Sunday, November 7 at the Spatz Theatre in Halifax — marking the 20th iteration of the Veterans’ Week concert and the band’s first live concert since the pandemic shut down all public gatherings last year.
Playing to a full house of more than 600 attendees, with more tuning in via Facebook live, the performance offered a new take on the traditional ‘Til We Meet Again concert.
“After last year’s concert needed to be virtual, we are so thrilled to be able to return here today, in person, and we are excited for the band’s newly re-imagined vision for the concert,” said Heather White, director at Camp Hill Veterans’ Services. The concert is presented each year in partnership with the Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building.
With special guests DeeDee Austin, a young singer-songwriter from Fall River, NS, and Irene Nash, a Second World War veteran, this year’s concert honoured the many Canadians who have served their country, in particular highlighting the service of those who have not always received the recognition they deserved — Indigenous veterans, African Canadians and the many women who took on critical roles — both on the front lines of war, in peacekeeping missions and at home in Canada on domestic operations.
“This 20-year milestone is an appropriate time to witness a re-imagining of the concert, which — thanks to the Stadacona Band’s vision and creativity — maintains the essence of the original show, while incorporating new and diverse music and perspectives,” said Captain (Navy) Sean Williams, Base Commander of CFB Halifax in his remarks to the audience.
Capt(N) Williams also took a moment to acknowledge the person who first envisioned an annual concert during Remembrance Week, LCdr (Ret’d) Pat Jessup, who was in the audience. “Many thanks for your efforts in dreaming up this well-loved concert two decades ago.”
Before the performance began, Honorary Captain (Navy) Debbie Eisan, who spent 36 years in the RCN, held a smudging and prayer ceremony, taking the time to explain its significance in purifying and cleansing the space and offering a blessing to the people within it.
DeeDee Austin, accompanied by the Stadacona Band and Mi’kmaq Drummers, performed two of her own pieces: a moving rendition of Buried Truth, a song she wrote in homage to her great-grandmother about the trauma caused by the residential school system, and a debut performance of Call of Duty, commemorating the service of all veterans. Both pieces were arranged by S1 Jack Brownell, a member of the Stadacona Band.
Through music and video projections on a large screen above the stage, the event paid tribute to veterans — both of the past and in recent years — highlighting the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS, also known as the Wrens) for their efforts during the Second World War and the contributions of Black Canadians who served in the the No. 2 Construction Battalion in the First World War, as well as honouring military members who have died in service in recent decades.
When Duty Called is available for viewing on the CFB Halifax Facebook page at facebook.com/BaseHalifax