By Richard Lawrence
Fortissimo has completed another year of performances on Parliament Hill to the applause of thousands of each of the three shows from the 19th-21st July, 2018. Fortissimo is a free show of martial music, precision marching, and historical re-enactments sponsored by the Department of National Defence and highlights two military functions: the Retreat and the Tattoo.
The Retreat first occurred at sunset with the firing of evening guns telling the troops to move back into the fort and lock the gates before darkness descended. The Tattoo (possibly derived from the Dutch “die den tap toe” (turn off the taps)) followed at or near dusk when the pickets were set and rounds made to check the sentries. Bands beat drums as a warning for all to return and played popular music, and evening hymn and the national anthem. The drums were also a warning for tavern keepers to stop serving ale and for the soldiers to stop drinking and parade for final muster before returning to quarters.
Friday evening was warm, having been a 32-degree day and at show time (1900 hours) the crowd was bathed in blinding light from the northwest although half the front lawn of Parliament Hill was already in shadow. As the show went on, it got progressively darker until the whole show area was in shadow and the temperatures were quite moderate with a slight breeze. I would estimate a couple of thousand people in the audience, from those sitting on the bleachers to those who had brought chairs to sit by the barriers and those who stood behind them.
On Friday night, the newly minted Vice Chief of Defence Staff, LGen. Paul Wynnyk, started the show when he took to the podium to accept the salute. Once completed, the massed Pipes and Drums of the Canadian Armed Forces took to the field and the performance was on. This year music was provided by the Ceremonial Guard on Parliament Hill and the massed Pipes and Drums of the Canadian Armed Forces, with special performances by the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drums Corps (in period costume), Highland dancers, and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) re-enactors. During the playing of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, the Dominion Carilloneur, Dr. Andrea McCrady, contributed to the music and the 30th Field Regiment – Royal Canadian Artillery provided real cannon fire where it was required by the music.
The show concluded about 2030 hours with march-pasts and then everyone was free to leave or stay for the Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill.