2020-01-29

MODL commits funds to Bridgewater Fire Department Band’s Belgium performance

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>File photo</p><p>Wendall Eisener, Captain, musical director of the BFD Band.</p>

The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg Council (MODL) will provide $2,500 this year and is considering giving the same amount out of next year's budget toward the cost of sending the Bridgewater Fire Department Band to perform at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, as well as at other European centres.

In July, 2018 the Belgium Last Post Society invited the band to perform at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate on August 20 of this year.

"I've seen you perform on many different stages. And to have the honour of being asked to Belgium, France, to these countries to perform is definitely, speaks volumes to yourself as director of the band and all your band members that you currently have," MODL's Mayor Carolyn Bolivar-Getson told the band's captain and music director Wendall Eisener.

Eisener presented to MODL council members at their meeting on January 13, during which he indicated travel and accommodation for 30 band members will cost $66,000.

"Through our ongoing international partnership with the band of the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service in England, this has developed into a 10-day international working tour, ie. not a holiday," said Eisener.

The band is expected to perform at a number of sites of historical significance to Canada and Nova Scotia in England, France and Belgium , including Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, St. Julien Canadian Memorial, and at the Menin Gate in Ypres.

The Menin Gate monument was dedicated in 1929 in memory of British Commonwealth war dead, including many thousands of Canadians.

According to Eisener, no federal or provincial grant money is forthcoming for the band's trip, however the Town of Bridgewater has committed $5,000.

The band began fundraising in January, 2019 with various concerts, parades and other events, but were left with a shortfall of $15,500, which would be required by June 1.

In his presentation, Eisener noted band members range in age "from pre-teen to octogenarian and represent all walks of life."

Although they hail from six counties, including Lunenburg, Shelburne, Annapolis, Kings, Hants and Halifax, he said the greatest percentage -60.6 per cent - reside in MODL.

The council members voted unanimously to support the Ypres trip with $2,500 in funding from its Remembrance Day Grant, Community Event Grand and Contingency Fund, and to refer consideration of the additional $2,500 from the next budget to the finance committee.

Eisener visited the Menin Gate in September, 2015. He explained the 54,000 names on the monument are dedicated to young soldiers "who were so blown to bits there was nothing left to bury."

The last post has sounded every night in Ypres at 8 p.m. since 2019, he noted.

"There's always a Commonwealth band, or choir, or something there. And you could have knocked us over with a feather when we were asked to play. So it's a huge honour and we hope to be able to fulfill that commitment on behalf of Nova Scotians," said Eisener.

Councillor Michael Ernst suggested he would like to see a video of the performance. Eisener replied that the plan is to prepare an audio visual presentation from still photographs and videos to take to local schools, cadet corps, legions and church groups.

"So, really, we're travelling in August. But the project end date will be just before Remembrance Day this year," added Eisener.

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