‘It touches the spirit of people’: Halifax trumpeter’s 40 years of playing the Last Post

Sue Mantin has been performing at Remembrance Day services since she was 19

The week of Remembrance Day is always busy for Sue Mantin.

The 59-year-old has been playing the Last Post, the honorary tune for fallen soldiers, since she was 19.

“I would start playing from the 6th to the 11th (of November) and maybe play it seven times,” she said. “That would be a busy year.”

On Sunday, Mantin played at a Remembrance Day service at St. Mark’s Anglican Church where she has performed every year for the last decade. The congregation stood in solemn contemplation as her trumpet pierced the silence.

“What’s special about these performances is that the song is haunting,” Mantin said. “It touches the spirit of people.”

Rev. Vivien Hannon of St. Mark’s said it’s been a pleasure having Mantin back year after year to play in the church’s services. Mantin often performs at the ceremonies with the reverend’s grandson, Trevor Hannon, who plays the tuba.

“They have a wonderful time,” the reverend said. “It’s great for people because it just adds that really special something to our big celebration services, and she’s just so happy about doing it. It’s just really lovely to have her here.”

Holly Arsenault met Mantin in jazz school at St. Francis Xavier University in 1980 and remains one of her closest friends.

“She’s musical even in the way she expresses herself. That struck me right away when I first met Sue,” Arsenault said. “She just has a way of seeing the world and expressing herself that is so unique to her, that she can’t help but be a good musician.”

Sue Mantin stands with her trumpet outside a St. Mark's Anglican church. She wears a black jacket and a red poppy.
Sue Mantin with her trumpet outside St. Mark’s Anglican church. She has been playing at Remembrance Day services for 40 years.   Victoria Welland

Mantin grew up in Truro and learned to play the trumpet in sixth grade when she joined her school band. She was a band teacher with the Halifax Regional School Board for 26 years and played the Last Post for her students.

“It’s a wonderful thing to do with schoolchildren because it teaches them about history.”

Arsenault once did a workshop with Mantin’s music students and was able to see how she worked.

“She loves (music) with every fibre of her being, and I saw her with those kids and I remember thinking, ‘I wish I’d had Sue Mantin as a school band teacher.’ ”

Mantin said the Last Post can be difficult to play because the piece was originally written on a bugle, which has no valves, as opposed to the modern-day trumpet, which has three. The player doesn’t press any of the valves down when performing the song.

“It takes a few years to be able to play correctly,” she said. “All the players that you see playing it have been a few years on their instrument.”

Mantin enjoys being able to play such an important and symbolic song every year during the week of Remembrance Day.

“The Last Post is made for a spirit of respect and growth and honouring positively the people who fought, but I also think of it as honouring the past with a positive look to the future of not repeating our past mistakes.”

Inspiring and uniting people on Remembrance Day brings her a sense of satisfaction, Mantin said.

“It feels good to be to be able to play it because it’s delivering a message of peace,” she said. “So, it feels good, it feels calming and uplifting and feels like a connection to spirit.”

Victoria Welland

Victoria is a journalist with The Signal at the University of King's College. She is also a member of the news team at CKDU 88.1 FM. Originally from Saskatoon, SK, Victoria did her Bachelor's of Humanities degree at Carleton University. She now lives in Halifax.

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