By Martin Zeilig
A concert by the RCAF Band is always a treat regardless of the occasion.
That was especially evident at the free annual RCAF Holiday Concert, “Home for the Holidays,” on December 3 at the Burton Cummings Theatre.
Such holiday standards as Joy To the World, Sleigh Ride, Jingle Bells, Joyeux Noel, It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, among many other seasonal songs, sounded joyously throughout the theatre.
The 450 people in attendance showed their appreciation with loud cheers, sustained clapping and a standing ovation at the finale, as well as after various songs. The concert was also livestreamed on Facebook.
Among the dignitaries in attendance at the concert were Colonel Aaron Spott, 17 Wing Commander, and Scott Gillingham, Mayor of the City of Winnipeg.
The forty-five musicians on stage, including a few from the Central Band of the Canadian Forces, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and HMCS Chippawa, plus civilian musicians, were into the holiday spirit too with smiles and applause for solo numbers by fellow musicians. They even donned droopy red Santa Claus hats during one number.
Besides the band’s regular conductor, Captain Devin Sloos, band members Master Warrant Officer Curtis Bamford, Warrant Officer Kenneth Pearce and Warrant Officer Richard Monzon also took their turn conducting various numbers.
“It was amazing to see so many members of Winnipeg’s military and civilian communities out tonight to treat themselves to another tremendous performance by the RCAF Band, and at the same time, support the United Way of Winnipeg,” Colonel Spott said, in an email to The Voxair following the concert.
“The RCAF Band continues to be one of Winnipeg’s hidden gems, and through our collaboration with the United Way of Winnipeg, their Holiday performances have been generating thousands of dollars in donations to support the more than 125 programs the United Way assists in the city. I continue to be awe-struck by the versatility, professionalism and sheer excellence of the RCAF Band – they never disappoint.”
Kristie Pearson and Doug Pollard United Way Winnipeg’s 2023 volunteer Campaign Co-Chairs gave brief on stage presentations prior to the start of the second half of the concert.
“Right now is a really important time for us to come together and be together, for many reasons,” Mr. Pollard said.
“Our city is facing a number of challenges — challenges not unique to Winnipeg, but we know they’re out there. For those of you here with us tonight who would like to give, we have a donation station set up in the front lobby.”
With the skyrocketing cost of living, more Winnipeggers “are being pushed” toward homelessness, hunger, and poverty, he emphasized.
“We’re honoured to be here tonight to celebrate the beautiful music of the season with all of you, and we are grateful for the continued support of the RCAF family,” Ms. Pearson said.
“By giving united, you help protect United Way Winnipeg’s life-changing network of over 125 local agencies, programs, and services so they will be there to help when Winnipeggers need it most.”
Every dollar donated makes a significant difference to someone in our community, she added.
“We’ve been preparing for this concert since Remembrance Day (November 11),” vocalist Sergeant Cindy Hawchuk said, following the concert.
“I thought it was great. The length was perfect. The weather outside was awesome. It couldn’t be better than that. In the past when we’ve had this concert there’s been a snowstorm, but tonight it still felt like fall.”
Mayor Gillingham remarked that the RCAF Band “hit it out of the park” with their music.
“It’s always a highlight for me and my family,” he said, during an interview in the theatre lobby at the concert’s conclusion.
“The fact that they do this for the community and raise funds for the United Way is so important.”
Happy Holidays to all.