The RMC Official March “Precision”

From the Archives -The RMC Official March “Precision”

 Researched by E3161 Victoria Edwards

It may seem rather strange that the Royal Military College should have waited almost sixty years for its own official march. Because of its many parades and ceremonials, this College, more than any other college in Canada, has had need for its own march, one composed especially for it and not borrowed from any other military organization. Certainly no more inspiring marching tunes could be found than the traditional airs of the British Army, airs that cause those of us who hear to lift our heads and square our shoulders, but it is good that the R.M.C. should have its own march to add to the British and Canadian regimental tunes. We now have such a march in “Precision”. The composer of the march is Denise Chabot, wife of Major C. A. Chabot, R.C.A., of the College Staff. It may be of interest to set out how the melody came into her mind. Major and Mrs. Chabot lived for some years in one of the staff quarters on the college grounds, and daily throughout the college year Mrs. Chabot could hear, as she went about her household duties, the rhythmic sound of marching feet and the shrill whistling, not always in tune, of popular songs as classes marched from the College, past the staff quarters, to the Riding School and back. The favourite song of the then First Class was “Madelon”. They hummed it and whistled it and sang it. Denise Chabot would often sit at her piano and extemporize variations to the melody of the whistling and the time of the marching feet as Jim Carr, Judd Kennedy, Paul Davoud, John Bigelow, et al, went by to ride.

“Precision” is thus the direct outcome of an incident of college life. There is in it the rhythm of cadets on the march, of young hearts carefree and happy, of supple bodies in step swinging forward. One may detect in the strains of it an occasional measure of “Madelon”, the favourite of the graduating class of 1932. A lyric was needed to complete the work and Professor T. F. Gelley, also of the College Staff, was asked to add words to fit the spirit and measure of the music. He composed “Heads Up”. This title was a favourite hockey expression of his that many classes of cadets knew well. In writing the verses Professor Gelley attempted to restrict the application of the meaning of the words to the spirit expressed in the College motto, “Truth, Duty, Valour”. The work was completed in the early spring of 1932 and was presented to the College through the then B.S.M., J. G. Carr, and was accepted by the then Commandant, Major-General W. H. P. Elkins. It became the official R.M.C. March on the understanding that it would become the property of the College and would never be commercialized.

The music was immediately orchestrated for a. military band by Capt. F. W. Coleman, R.C.H.A., but it was too late to use it for the Graduation Exercises of 1932. It came into official use that autumn. As yet the R.M.C. March had no name. It happened that in the fall of 1933 the Associated Screen News made a full length feature film of gentlemen cadets on parade in which was emphasized the steadiness, the masterly synchronization of foot and arm movements, the precision of the cadets’ drill. Because the name “Precision” given the film so well fitted it, and because the musical theme of the picture was the R.M.C. March, Denise Chabot decided to call her composition by the same title. The value of any work is tested by time. Though “Precision” is only nine years old, already it has merged itself into College tradition.” Source: Royal Military College of Canada – Review Yearbook (Kingston, Ontario Canada) – Class of 1942 pg. 76

“Precision” today:

3572 MGen (Ret’d) Frank Norman, RMC Commandant 1982-5 comments: “Might it be useful to add the customs of today WRT its use? – on parades for march pasts, on Ex Cadet Weekends for the parade to the Arch, and on the return, the Cadet Wing is supposed to sing Tom Gelley’s words to welcome the Ex Cadets to the Square”

Also see:

Marches – Museum of RMCC http://www.rmc.ca/cam/mus/marches-eng.php

“Precision” (1933) by The Associated Screen News Ltd., film ISN 223792 in the Library and Archives Canada collection, is described as “A sample look at discipline at the Royal Military College. The emphasis is on precision gymnastics displays, ceremonial battalion marches in full uniform, and the changing of the sentry demonstrated by gentlemen cadets of the College. Seen is the exterior of the RMC buildings (the Stone Frigate). http://data4.collectionscanada.ca/netacgi/nph-brs?s2=(F.C910.)%20AND%20((223792%20.ALL.))&r=0&d=NAAV&Sect2=THESOFF&l=20&u=http%3a%2f%2fwww%2ecollectionscanada%2egc%2eca%2farchivianet%2f02011402%5fe%2ehtml&p=1&Sect1=IMAGE&Sect5=NAAVPEN&Sect6=HITOFF&f=S

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