The gracious walled city of Quebec, with its colourful history stretching back hundreds of years, is also the earliest home of military music in Canada, and an appropriate setting for the International Military Music Festival. The winding narrow streets inside the looming fortified walls and gates lead down to the baronial Chateau Frontenac Hotel and its bandstand overlooking the mighty St. Lawrence River. The Chateau is fronted by the boardwalk which stretches along the cliff top to the historic Plains of Abraham where General Wolfe defeated General Montcalm in the battle which decided French Canada’s future in 1760.
A hundred steps below in Lower Town, a restoration of the first settlement, the intriguing narrow streets and alleys are lined with lively sidewalk cafes, intimate local bistros and restaurants offering a variety of cuisine including French Canadian. This year, the central Place Royale will ring to the sound of martial music as the grand old city hosts the visiting musicians.
The city will be the gathering point for a dozen bands representing the military of Canada, the United States and Europe. They will perform at nine historic sites offering a full weekend of entertainment. The opening ceremony will mark the start of the Festival with a dazzling display of instruments and dress uniforms as all units parade for the assembled. The customary speeches will alternate with a stirring medley of the marches, military music, national anthems and the massed band works that will be showcased throughout the Festival.
Québec was one of the most important military strongholds in the Americas. Its fortifications started by the French in 1608, and reconstructed by the British in 1823-32, are as imposing today as when they were first built. After the withdrawal of the British garrison in 1871, the fort was taken over by the Canadian military, and on the Plains of Abraham at Battlefields Park, the historic Quebec Citadel provides a backdrop for the Band of the resident Royal 22nd Regiment, which will change the guard each morning. The ceremony will be followed by a concert in the Citadel with further concerts throughout the weekend at other Festival sites.
The featured guest band is the Musique Royale des Guides de Belgique. Also, there will be groups from France and the Netherlands, as well as, the US Army 10th Mountain Division Band from Fort Drum, New York along with several Canadian military band.
Featured image: Jean Gagnon