Some serious history: Gala to mark Royal Newfoundland Regiment's 225th anniversary

·3 min read
Capt. Chris Miller says the fall is typically the busiest season for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band.  (Submitted by Chris Miller - image credit)
Capt. Chris Miller says the fall is typically the busiest season for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band. (Submitted by Chris Miller - image credit)
Submitted by Chris Miller
Submitted by Chris Miller

The COVID-19 pandemic may have delayed plans to mark a milestone for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, but the curtain is about to rise on a gala concert to celebrate a military unit that has played a key role through provincial history.

The Ennis Sisters and singer-songwriter Matthew Byrne will join the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band on the Holy Heart Theatre stage on Nov. 27 to celebrate the regiment and those who have served in it.

The event will also debut the regiment's band's first album in 26 years.

The title — The Arms of Home — is a nod to a song written by Alan Doyle and Cory Tetford, said Capt. Chris Miller, who is the 35-piece band's director.

"Two weeks before the pandemic hit, we recorded an album to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the regiment. And the concert was supposed to be last fall, really, and obviously COVID-19 messed that up," said Miller.

"But we recorded an album featuring military music and featuring folk music, but also featuring some well-known Newfoundland and Labrador musicians on the album as well."

Included in the $55 ticket is a copy of the new album.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment, one of the oldest regiments in Canada, was officially formed in 1795, so last year marked its 225th anniversary. Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum chair Frank Gogos said the pandemic forced some changes — and downsizing of expectations.

The event was also originally planned to be a much bigger celebration but now they're having a gala, which they launched only two weeks ago, he said.

Elizabeth Whitten/CBC
Elizabeth Whitten/CBC

"Right now we're pushing hard and we'll continue to push hard, up until showtime," said Gogos.

Gogos also noted that while the Royal Newfoundland Regiment can trace its official start to 1795, it has not consistently existed up until the present. There was even a century when there was no regiment, so the anniversary is really more of a birthday.

Still, the regiment has a long history.

"There are some that will have a longer continual presence but the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at 1795 is one of the oldest — or one of the oldest birthdays, I should say."

Band releases new CD

The band is a sub-unit of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and includes brass, reed and percussion instruments.

"All the instruments you'd typically see in a concert band," said Miller.

It hasn't put out an album in more than 20 years because it takes a lot of co-ordination, time and support to pull together a new album, said Miller. This time they got the needed support from the regimental advisory council and the regiment museum.

Submitted by Chris Miller
Submitted by Chris Miller

"It's kind of something that's been in the works for a while, and this was the occasion to kind of bring it forward."

The gala is also raising funds for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum, which is housed in the lobby of the Surgeon Lt.-Cmdr. W. Anthony Paddon Building.

"It takes money to maintain the collections, acquisitions, preservation, promotion. And to employ students," said Gogos. "To put it bluntly, museums like us need money to continue, and so we look for interesting ways in which we can engage people to come be involved."

Gogos said the museum was founded in the late 1970s as a way to preserve history of the regiment and artifacts.

It moved to its current home in 2016 and is open to visitors by appointment.

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