When Aaron Vopni started playing The Last Post as a preteen trumpet player for Remembrance Day ceremonies many years ago, he never envisioned he’d get the chance to play it on an instrument older than the First World War.
“I was really excited to see it,” he said. “When I played it for the first time and it actually worked, it was a great feeling.”
Thanks to the support of the local groups that help organize the large, annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the SaskTel Centre each year, Vopni was loaned a special instrument this year in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War: A bugle stamped with the year 1913 that would have been used in the war.
The original instrument was loaned out from the Nutana Legion Museum in Saskatoon, where a number of Canadian artifacts from prior wars are on display. Brent Wignes, chair of the Remembrance Day ceremony organizing committee, said they got the idea to give Vopni the horn during one of their planning meetings.
“All of a sudden, this was an opportunity,” Wignes said. “It’s not quite as fancy as a regular trumpet … but Aaron was willing to give it a try if it was okay with the committee.”
Afterwards, Wignes said it was simply a matter of determining if the bugle was still playable more than a century after it was built. The organizers made arrangements to get the bugle to Vopni to see if he could make it work. When he confirmed that it could, Wignes said there was plenty of excitement among the organizers.
“When you’re talking about World War I … you don’t always have a lot of artifacts, period,” Wignes said. “And (the bugle) would be present, something physical, and it would be something that’s probably never been done, at least not in Saskatoon.”
The bugle is one of a handful of artifacts that will be featured in some capacity at the SaskTel Centre ceremony, along with a bicycle also on loan from the museum that was used by a bicycle regiment in the First World War.
Vopni, who’s the commanding officer for the 702 Lynx Squadron Royal Air Cadets in the city, said he was thrilled when he realized the bugle was still in working condition. It’s certainly a different instrument to get used to after years of playing The Last Post on the trumpet. A bugle has no valves, is wielded with only one hand, and has a differently-shaped mouthpiece, but Vopni said he’s been practising diligently since he was given the instrument to try out in October.
Some of the notes can get a little squeaky, but he also said he’d be ready to put the bugle on display at the ceremony.
Vopni noted music technology has definitely improved in the 100-plus years since the bugle was made, but he also called it a “great piece of history” for Saskatoon to experience at this year’s ceremony.
“Anything we can do as people in the community to give back to our veterans is fantastic,” he said. “For me, it’s playing the bugle.”
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