MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga -- Thirty-five members of the Albany Marine Band recently traveled to Canada's capital city to participate in a series of concert and marching events. The band teamed up with the Canadian Ceremonial Guard Band, Royal Canadian Air Force Band, Royal Canadian Artillery Band and others for the Fortissimo 2004 ceremony.
The origin of the ceremony lies in two evening routines formerly carried out by soldiers everyday. The first occurred at sunset when soldiers fired evening guns and withdrew into fortified camps and cities and lowered the flag for the night. This was known as the retreat. The calls that originally ordered this routine were played on the drums and to this day the ceremony is called "beating retreat." The second routine followed at or near dusk, when the night watch was set. Drum and Bugle calls indicated when the first post and last post were reached and drums beat a warning for all soldiers to return to their barracks.
During this routine the band often played popular tunes, the evening hymn, and finally, the national anthem.
Prior to their Aug. 15 departure, Col. John Lopez, commanding officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, wished the band a safe voyage and reiterated the importance of Marines watching out for each other.
"I'm jealous of your opportunity to go on this trip," Lopez said. "Take pride in yourselves and remember to look out for your fellow Marines. You're representatives for the Marine Corps and for the United States. I know you're going to make us look good."
According to Fortissimo organizers, more than 6000 ticket-holding spectators as well as curious onlookers packed into the square surrounding the Canadian Parliament lawn where the event was held.
The overwhelming turnout prompted officials to erect makeshift blockades around the parade field where people along the street could watch without interfering with the performance.
LtCol. Mary Eileen Earl, Marine Corps Attache, U.S. Embassy, Ottawa, Canada, was on hand for the opening performance and said the Albany Marine Band made the previously lackluster ceremony an exciting and triumphant event.
"I was here last year and it wasn't as good as it was tonight with the Marine Corps Band," Earl said. "It's a big deal for the Canadians. They have a real affinity for Marines because they have such a small military force."
Aside from their joint performance with Canadian military bands at the parliament, the Marine band put on a special solo concert in the grand courtyard of the Canadian War Museum.
"The performance was amazing. I've been here since the museum opened and a lot of bands have played here, but this one was the best," exclaimed Cpl. Fanny St. Amour, medical assistant, Canadian Army. "The crowd usually just sits in their seats but when the Marine Band played they got up and participated. The way your Dixieland band came up and interacted with the crowd made us feel more like friends than spectators."
Members of the Albany Marine Band's Dixieland ensemble had an opportunity to ply their wares again later that week during a performance at the United States Embassy.
Marines stationed at the embassy were grateful for the impromptu performance, and said they relished the change of pace.
"This is the most fun we've had at this detachment since... I don't know how long," Sgt. Garry Osborne, assistant Marine Security Guard detachment commander, Embassy Canada, said. "I really enjoyed the Dixieland band performance."
Paul Celluci, American Ambassador to Canada, took a break from his hectic diplomatic schedule to attend the performance, saying after the show that he was truly impressed with the Marines' musical ability and honored that they stopped at the embassy.
"You represent the music of America" Celluci said. "I can't express how much I appreciate your visit and your continued service to our country."