Monday, October 3, 2022

Rest in peace Your Majesty

By Dave Babbitt – Special to the Sydenham Current

Every other week I submit my Arts column to both the Courier Press and Sydenham Current.

In between deadlines, I toss ideas around in my head about what my next topic will be.

Some topics come more easily than others, particularly if a time-sensitive event comes up.

I had started working on an idea last week when the events on September 8 unfolded.

I will do my best to link it to the Arts, but I’m compelled to write about the passing of of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Like everyone else 70 years old and younger, Queen Elizabeth has been the only monarch I’ve known.

Today the world seems much, much smaller.

I’ve watched television all day today and when I wasn’t home, listened to coverage of Her Majesty’s passing on the radio.

There is no way I could even begin to describe what she brought to our world but I don’t need to, we’ve all experienced it.

While I’ve never had an audience with the Queen nor even seen her drive by in a procession on one of the many times she’s visited Canada, for some crazy reason, I’ve always felt some sort of a connection.

Not long after picking-up the trumpet, one of the first pieces of music we received was an arrangement of “O Canada” and just below that was “God Save the Queen” or the “Royal Anthem”.

It was a different era, and both pieces were inevitably a part of most any public gathering.

It was customary to open an event with O Canada and close it with God Save the Queen.

I always felt so patriotic playing O Canada in the band, but God Save the Queen was extra special to me for some reason.

I can’t even provide an estimate of how many times I’ve played the Royal Anthem, but had I kept track, the number would be significant.

Playing God Save the Queen at the conclusion of an event was always moving because as loud as the band was, the audience could usually be heard above the band.

It was sung with gusto and honour.

Unfortunately, in recent years I think that the only place I’ve heard God Save the Queen was at Rotary meetings and at the conclusion of the Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph.

Whether singing or playing the Royal Anthem, in some small way I felt that I was doing something special for Her Majesty.

In 1975 I began a two year stint at the Post Office here in Wallaceburg.

In order to work there, I had to be fingerprinted because I was going to be handling “Her Majesty’s mail.”

As silly as it sounds, I felt that it gave me at least a remote connection to the Queen.

Many years later, I felt even a little bit closer to Her Majesty when I was asked to provide a trumpet trio to play for Governor General Lincoln Alexander on his visit to Walpole Island.

A Governor General however doesn’t get the entire song.

A GG is only entitled to the first six bars of the Royal Anthem, but they were the most memorable and important six bars of music I’ve ever played!

What an honour it was.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Lincoln Alexander was an incredibly kind man and an exemplary representative of the Queen on this side of the pond.

In 1991, I spent an entire month in England and the highlight for me was without question, standing outside Buckingham Palace.

While I can’t explain it and it sounds silly perhaps, I was mesmerized.

I’d hoped to see the Queen in-person but unfortunately, the Queen wasn’t in residence at the time as she historically has spent her summers at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the place where she passed away.

They didn’t offer any tours of Buckingham Palace at the time but have since opened portions of it up for public tours at certain times.

I’d love to return one day if only to tour the Palace.

I’ve seen photos of the décor and artwork and it’s stunning.

In cleaning out my mom and dad’s house when she passed away two years ago, I found a tumbler that once belonged to my Aunt Kay.

The tumbler was of course made right here in Wallaceburg and commemorated the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953 and was presented to each school student in Wallaceburg.

I treasure this memento.

I tell this next part extremely humbly and while I won’t tell anyone why, two weeks ago, I was presented with a medallion by our MP Lianne Rood in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.

This same medallion was also presented to Wallaceburg residents James Platjow, Mark Childs, and Bill Wolsing.

The medallion is absolutely stunning and is now my closest connection to Queen Elizabeth.

At the ceremony in Thedford two weeks ago, Bill and I sat directly under the flag and picture of Her Majesty joking that it was the closest we’d probably ever get to her.

And it was.

I now have my most treasured reminder of Queen Elizabeth, and it came just in time.

Most appropriately, the ceremony closed with a moving singing of “God Save the Queen”.

Sadly, it was the last time I’ll ever sing it.

Rest in peace Your Majesty.

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