26 September 2018

A PCO’s Journal: Two weeks in Canada with over 60 ‘strangers’

Band in Canada

By Khairunnisa Abdul Jabbar (Photos: Public Affairs Department)

As someone who loves music and grabs any chance to watch my favourite bands and artists perform live, I was beyond ecstatic when I was offered the opportunity to accompany the Singapore Police Force Combined Band to Canada for the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo 2018 – lauded as the world’s largest indoor show featuring bagpipes, military and innovative performances such as acrobatics, dances and displays – held between 26 June 2018 to 2 July 2018. I relished in the idea of touring with the combined band and being their publicist while they were making the Force and the country proud. No fixed desk, music all day, and meeting other similar bands what could be better!

SPF Band in Canada

Preparations for the event were in full swing the moment the approval was received for a Public Communications Officer (PCO) to be the publicist for the band. Anxious to be spending two weeks with more than 60 strangers, I knew it was important to quickly break the ice and get to know these officers. Also, I needed to get a clear picture of their preparations before their performance in Canada.

I met the team for the first time in the Home Team Academy’s Harmony Hall when they were in the midst of their full-dress rehearsal. Director of Music, Superintendent of Police Amri Amin, was sharpening the choreography from the second level overlooking the main hall, and I was trying to figure out the story that was being presented. It was when I managed to catch the full performance that I was convinced this was a set that the no one should miss. So fittingly titled ‘The Little Red Dot’, the storytelling of Singapore’s history, the carefully thought-out formations, the music, transitioning from sombre to fast-paced, was executed so perfectly that it made my hair stand!

SPF Band in Canada

SPF Band in Canada
Before we knew it, we were already at the airport in the early morning of 21 June, bidding farewell to our families. Despite the long journey to Halifax, it was heartening to see our officers taking the opportunity to practise at any chance they got – the pipers (with only their recorders of course!) and the dancers with their formation.

What amazed me during the trip was the band’s tenacity and professionalism. With less than five hours of rest upon arrival at our accommodation, we made it to Scotiabank Centre bright and early the same day to begin rehearsals. The day unfolded with a quick safety drill, followed by a short recce of the performance stage. Then, it was down to housekeeping where instruments and uniforms were quickly unpacked, followed by a full, four days of tightly-planned rehearsals in between locations.

In addition to our own performance, the combined band was also involved in various other segments in the tattoo. For example, the Women’s Police Pipes and Drums (WPPD) and the Gurkha Contingent Pipes and Drums (GCPD) were involved in three mass pipe segments with other countries’ pipes and drums groups, as well as the tattoo’s military dancers. As for the band itself, they provided instrumental support together with other military bands for three other segments in the show – titled Women in Service, Battle of the Atlantic and the finale. Surely, that was a lot of scoresheets to memorise for the officers!

SPF Band in Canada

What followed the intense rehearsals was six days’ worth of performances. To make the experience particularly meaningful and exciting, the band also had the chance to entertain the audience during Canada Day on 1 July 2018.

Although the band comprised officers with varying experiences, from full-time national servicemen to regulars who have joined the band since the 80s (with this performance likely to be their last), there was something that is similar among them. It is none other than that sparkle in their eyes when they spoke of their various experiences and the non-hesitance at doing this all over again. It was somewhat inspirational.

What I took back from this experience with the band was – the importance of passion and the love for your craft. Regardless of the situation; be it working on tight schedules, adapting to time zones or being away from their families for two weeks, the officers never failed to greet me with a gleaming smile on their faces when we meet for breakfast at 8am, and on bus rides back to our hostel at 10pm. I was informed that they were used to it. Despite the numerous overseas trips, what was refreshing for me was how it seemed that their love for the band does not seem to dip. Their strong camaraderie was hard to miss, and their energy was so infectious that it was easy to feel back at home. The numerous pins and badges which were exchanged and attached on their lanyards marked new friendships formed with other countries’ bands. This was also a testament to their passion for the job, putting SPF’s name on the international stage.

It was a strenuous two weeks for an officer who is not attuned to the pace of work while overseas. But, likewise for the band, it was a two weeks experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat. It has been an absolute pleasure to be with and to get to know the SPF Combined Band at a much closer level, and to appreciate the work they do. Thank you for the wonderful time and being so accommodating!

Last Updated on 26 September 2018