A ceremony that not only honours retired and serving members of the Canadian Armed Force (CAF) but brings military history to life, the eight annual Festival of Remembrance will be held Nov. 1 at the Holy Heart Theatre in St. John’s, N.L.
The Festival of Remembrance commemorates and celebrates the women and men of the CAF through music, prose, dramatic presentations and a Remembrance service. The cast of the show is an ensemble of members from civilian and military bands. Some of the featured performers for this year are the Holy Heart Alumni Choir, the CLB Regimental Band, the 1 Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band and the city of St. John’s Pipe Band. The Royal Canadian Navy, Air Force and Army will have a presence. All cast members perform on a volunteer basis.
“The idea behind the Festival of Remembrance…we have a service and sing hymns and have the commemoration part but addition to that we have musical entertainment that can be uplifting or reflective. We have a cross section of people performing,” said David Smith producer and director of the Festival of Remembrance.
The performance is mapped out in scenes like a play. The opening scene, characterized as “respectful and somber,” starts out with the anthems of Canada and the U.K. Some of this year’s scenes pay homage to the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign of World War One, with voice overs, unique musical pieces talk about naval involvement and the importance of the campaign.
This year, the performance is also commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The Festival will feature a veteran from the Second World War, who will speak of his experiences. Smith says attendees should expect the spectacle to be “inspiration and educational.”
Smith jumps in the last half of the show to direct the bands. The show consists of 13 scenes each uniquely presenting their tribute to Canada’s military.
“It gives people more of a background on the events, there’s more of an idea what happened in those campaigns and as such is quite an addition to just to saying a prayer,” said Smith.
The community comes out in large numbers to support the event. This year Smith is expecting close to 800 people in attendance. The event is also attended by the Lt. Gov of Newfoundland, Frank Fagan.
Smith, who served in the military for more than 40 years, initiated the Festival of Remembrance in 2007 feeling there was a need for something more than just a ceremony on Remembrance Day to honour serving members of the CAF and veterans. He hopes the event is a way to keep Remembrance Day on the mind of the everyday citizen.
“One of the effects of the show, with all the advertising and the show happening a couple of weeks before Nov.11, is it gives the common man an opportunity to realize that Nov. 11 is coming up. It’s just another event for people to realize its importance so it doesn’t get forgotten and there’s a good turnout on the Remembrance Day ceremonies,” said Smith.
The event is also televised on NVT, Newfoundland’s local channel, on the days leading up to Remembrance Day. Smith says it’s one last push to help “jog people’s memories that Remembrance Day is around the corner.”
Personnel in uniform can book their free tickets for the Festival of Remembrance by calling the Holy Heart Theatre. Members of the community can purchase their tickets on their website.