They have been friends for many years: the firemen-musicians of Grömitz on the Baltic Sea in northeast Germany and their counterparts in Ottawa (The Ottawa Fire Department Band) have visited one another's cities and have often marched and played for the people there. The German and Canadian bands have processed along the Grömitz sea front promenade together ...
This afternoon, in Ottawa, both bands played at the German Ambassador's residence in Rockcliffe Park. Jörn Rosenberg, the Ambassador's deputy, was their host. I was invited along because his wife is a friend of mine in our German conversation group. In fact she and Jörn came flying with Chris in our aeroplane last week.
It was a cold afternoon in the garden; the chill comes as rather a shock after Monday's temperature of 24°C or thereabouts. The music had to be performed outside because it would have been absolutely deafening indoors! As the bands played their respective national anthems, flurries of snow began to fall. A lady wrapped shawls round the two young girls who were part of the German band and Cristina F. lent me her gloves because I was shivering too. From the Canadian band of elderly gentlemen──one, whom I recognised, has never been a fireman, but usually plays his trumpet in a jazz band (he told me afterwards that he was there to swell the ranks, today)──similarly uniformed and be-medalled, we had a medley of Canadian tunes, The Maple Leaf Forever and the like. Consider yourself at home / Consider yourself one of the family was another old-fashioned favourite, aptly chosen. Each band leader introduced his part of the programme and when we repaired to the reception room indoors, spoke respectfully about his partner from the other side of the ocean.
I liked the friendly atmosphere at this event. In spite of the ceremony, appreciated by the bandsmen, I think, this was not such a stiff occasion as some diplomatic receptions can be. The oompah music may have had something to do with it, or the presence of several children. In the house we were served wine, or beer, tea or coffee, with salty or sugary snacks. A bandsman from Ottawa told me they'll be taking the German party to see the Niagara Falls next week. When the Ottawa band had been in Germany they'd visited the Kiel canal and the Belgian battlefields. I told him about my dad's choir exchanges with Germany in the '60s. I talked to the military attaché's family and some other German-speaking acquaintances and to a Swiss lady from the management team at the Chateau Laurier who was another of our hostess's friends.