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Parliament Hill sets the stage for Fortissimo

This year’s annual Fortissimo event kicks off tonight on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and will repeat July 24 and July 25.

This military and musical spectacular created for the lawns of Parliament Hill features massed military bands, pipes and drums, guest performers and the soldiers of the Ceremonial Guard is a showcase event that has drawn thousands of spectators since it began in 1997.

Fortissimo showcases two-evening routines soldiers once carried out every day.

“It is a great honour for the Canadian Army to share its military heritage and traditions with Canadians on the lawn of Parliament Hill. The Fortissimo sunset ceremony is the Army’s way of remembering past traditions, when the night watch would prove their weapons prior to assuming their duties. Fortissimo allows our soldiers to showcase their professionalism and expertise, proving themselves strong, proud and ready,” Commander of the Canadian Army Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse.

The first routine, The Retreat, occurred at sunset, when soldiers fired evening guns, withdrew into fortified camps and cities, locked the gates, and as the sun set and darkness approached, lowered the flag for the night. Originally the calls that ordered this routine were beaten on drums. The routine is still commonly called Beating Retreat.

“Fortissimo 2015 will be an outstanding event. This is a chance to see and hear some of the finest musicians in the Canadian Armed Forces do what they do best and enjoy a spectacular display of military pageantry.  Events like Fortissimo are another way we are able to engage Canadians and celebrate our military traditions, said Brigadier-General Lowell Thomas, Commander, 4th Canadian Division.

The second routine followed at or near dusk when the night watch was set. Rounds were made to check the sentries with drum or bugle calls to indicate when the first post and been checked and when the last post had been reached. During this period, the drums beat a warning for all to return to barracks. Often the band played popular tunes, an evening hymn and finally the national anthem. This became known as Tattoo.

According to The Canadian Army website, “the word Tattoo is said to have derived from the Dutch “die den tap toe,” which is translated as “turn off the taps.” It probably originated from campaigns in the Low Countries in Europe in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is associated with the practice of a drummer being detailed to beat an order to the tavern and innkeepers to stop serving ale, and for the soldiers to stop drinking and parade for a final muster before returning to quarters.”

Along with featuring the Ceremonial Guard, Fortissimo 2015 will include members from the Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton)(Brampton), 48th Highlanders of Canada (Toronto), The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada (Montreal), Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada (Kitchener), The Calgary Highlanders (Calgary), The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) (Victoria), The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces (Ottawa), The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada (Vancouver), The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) (Hamilton) and 30th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA (Ottawa).

This year’s event will also feature musical support from the Eastern Region Cadet Band and the Dominion Carillon playing the bells of the Peace Tower.

The spectacular begins at 7:30 p.m. and takes place on Parliament Hill July 23, July 24, July 25.

Admission is free and lawn chairs or blankets for seating are recommended.

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