Camlachie musician headed to Vimy ceremonies in France

Sarah Robertson is one of about 60 Canadian Forces musicians performing at events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in France. Submitted Photo

Troy Shantz

Saxophonist Sarah Robertson hopes her experience with the Canadian Armed Forces musical regiment in France during Vimy Ridge ceremonies will resonate with her future students.

“I’ve always found that the teachers that’ve been inspirational to me and inspirational to others, they’ve always had a repertoire of experiences,” said the former Camlachie resident, who hopes to become a music educator herself.

“They’ve had a lot of background to themselves, and I thought that being a part of the military and the music would be a great learning step for me.”

The Northern Collegiate grad is one of 60 musicians taking part in a series of ceremonies at Vimy Ridge in France on the battle’s 100th anniversary April 9.

Robertson’s band, the Royal 22nd Regiment Band, and another Canadian Forces ensemble from Edmonton, will spend two weeks in Europe participating in events marking the historic battle.

Four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first time on April 9, 1917, resulting in one of the most important Western Front victories of the First World War.

Vimy has become known as “the battle that forged a nation,” and saw four Sarnians killed in action: Frederick Johnson, David Kerr, Roy Lumley and David Montgomery.

“It’s going to be a really big honour. I know you see it on the movies and you hear about, but it’s a different thing to see it there,” Robertson said. “It’s going to be surreal.”

She’s been with Canadian Forces the past year living and working on CFB Valcartier in Quebec City.

Prior to that Robertson was a familiar face locally gracing stages and concert halls. Versed in alto, baritone and tenor sax, she has performed at Lambton County Music Festivals, Music Fest Canada, and was part of the popular jazz band the Dominant 7. That group drew from four area high schools and played at Art Walk, Ups and Downs, Jazz and Blues in the Village, and First Fridays.

Robertson played with the ceremonial guard at Western University and was one of 13 saxophonists to audition for the Canadian Forces position.

She took the compulsory training of all Canadian recruits including leadership, fitness and weapons handling.

“I never thought it was something I would be doing, but to have the opportunity to play saxophone and to be getting paid for it, it’s not a very common thing. That’s why I was excited about doing it.”

The Forces band plays at parades and ceremonies and stages regular concerts through the winter.

“Our band is very versatile. W can split up into stage bands, we can split up into a brass quintet or a wind quintet, or a jazz band.”