Welcome to 2017! So…what’s happening this year?

Just like every other Voices of Birralee year – 2017 is set to be huge! So…we thought we’d give you a bit of a preview of some of the major events!

VOICES FROM THE TRENCHES (MARCH, MAY, JULY) 

voices-from-the-trenches-logo18 March, Concert 1. Brisbane venue to be announced soon 

28 May, Concert 2. Empire Theatres Toowoomba (Tickets on sale 1 Feb)

2 July, Concert 3. QPAC, as part of the Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival 

The Voices from the Trenches Choral Festival will be a captivating musical tribute to the World War One soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in The Somme, France and those who came home.

Presented by Voices of Birralee, the festival will unite the community, involving Voices of Birralee ensembles and local school choirs to perform stunning music reflecting the WW1 era, with modern compositions.

This will include beautifully poignant and emotionally charged commissioned pieces,
ensuring the Anzac legacy is preserved.

This project is proudly supported by the Queensland Government.

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DVA COMMITMENT – APRIL AND SEPTEMBER  

2017 will involve two tours as part of our five-year commitment to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

In April, 30 choristers aged from 16 – 18 will embark on what’s bound to be a trip of a lifetime, performing at the Anzac Day services at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux and at the Australian ‘Digger’ Memorial, Bullecourt, as well as community services.

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Our second overseas trip for the year will be to Belgium to sing at the Polygon Wood Centenary Commemoration. From September 21 – 25, our choir will perform in the north of France and Belgium.

Make sure you follow the blog providing commentary during these tours.

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QUEENSLAND YOUTH MUSIC AWARDS (MAY) 

Voices of Birralee is again excited to manage Queensland Youth Music Awards from May 3! 2017 marks the competition’s 50th year of providing a supported environment for young people to explore their music.

Sections will be held throughout Brisbane, featuring schools from across south east Queensland with some of Voices of Birralee’s ensembles performing as guests.

Entries have opened and more information is available here.

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PEMULWUY! NATIONAL MALE VOICE FESTIVAL! (JUNE – JULY) 

Thursday 29 June – Sunday 2 July

This year’s Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival will feature some of the finest male voice ensembles from Australia and abroad.

This year it will adopt the theme ‘Voices from the Trenches’ to commemorate the World War 1 Centenary period and the sacrifices made by the Anzacs in the Battles of The Somme.

Our Birralee Blokes (our male young adult choir) and the Birralee Boys (with male choristers drawn from our children’s ensembles for this project) will play host at the festival.

Ensemble registrations have closed, but individual registrations will open soon. All information is available here.

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BIRRALEE SINGERS ON TOUR (SEPTEMBER) 

This year marks our touring year for our Birralee Singers and they are off to Tasmania for the Coastal Young Voices Festival 2017 from 24 – 30 September (dates and details to be confirmed in the coming months). This will be a fantastic trip for these young choristers and a great chance for development through working with other choirs.

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There will be more events announced throughout the year, so make sure you keep up-to-date via our Facebook page and subscribe to our eNewsletter Birralee Billboard.

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Voices of Birralee’s year that was!

From rehearsals to concerts to tours, 2016 was an awesome year – so let’s take a moment to discuss some of the highlights! If you have more to add, email marketing@birralee.org! 

Combined Choral Concert (March): The year kicked off with Voices of Birralee presenting the Combined Choral Concert featuring Marist College Ashgrove Choirs, Brisbane Birralee Voices and the Birralee Blokes.

Anzac Commemoration Choir tour (April): We entered the second stage of our five year commitment to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs with 30 of our choristers travelling to France to perform at the Anzac Day services at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux and at the Australian ‘Digger’ Memorial, Bullecourt, with a number of other performances across France. You can reflect on the trip via the blogs.

Birralee Blokes (March – May): As we strove to further grow this ensemble of young men, we launched a #beingabloke competition, with our blokes showcasing why they enjoyed being a part of this all male ensemble! While Joshua Clifford took home the top prize, Jack Woolrych and Hugo Richardson’s clip was also brilliant!

Cupcake & Cushion Concert (May): The annual Cupcake & Cushion Concert at The Old Museum was a great success, with Birralee’s youngest taking the stage and for some, the concert was their first public performance! We filmed this video to discover just how much our Kids and Piccolos love singing with Birralee:

Resonance of Birralee’s 10 Year Anniversary (June): In early June, we celebrated the success of our young adult choir, Resonance of Birralee with a stunning concert at All Hallow’s School. The choir now consists of more than 80 choristers, led by conductor Paul Holley OAM, accompanied by Brendan Murtagh.

Western Front Centenary Choir (July): The second overseas tour this year was when 15 of our choristers travelled to France to sing at the 100th Anniversaries of the Battles of Pozieres and Fromelles, while also being gifted the incredible opportunity to sing at the first commemoration service for the Australians who fought in the small village of Allonville. Catch up on this trip via this blog.

The Young Voices Festival (August): Voices of Birralee presented its 11th Young Voices Festival. It was a packed house with so many families supporting their young singers at Somerville House. The event featured 300 children from Eagle Junction State School, Redeemer Lutheran College, The Gap State School, Clayfield College, St Laurence’s College, with the Birralee Piccolos and Kids.

Birralee Recycled (August – September): This year, Voices of Birralee ventured into the unknown with the launch of a new give-it-a-go community choir, featuring the ‘older’ members of the Birralee and wider community. More than 60 members were led by conductor Peter Ingram, with accompanist Brendan Murtagh. The choir performed at The Young and the Recycled concert with Brisbane Birralee Voices (BBV) in September.

Birralee Trivia nights (June and September): We held two trivia nights this year, the first was themed ‘France meets Australia’ with the second, ‘Poppies in Spring’ encouraging a variety of wonderfully creative costumes. Both raised funds for our Western Front Anzac Centenary Choir touring project, with September’s also assisting BBV’s regional NSW tour. Overall we raised about $14,000 with a very special thank you to The Ashgrove – the Gap Lions Club for its support!

BBV Regional NSW tour (September): Voices of Birralee loves bringing choral music into regional communities and in 2016 this included BBV touring Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby and Hastings, culminating in performances at the Bellingen Music Festival.

Lions Club Meeting (October): Voices of Birralee was selected as a recipient by The Ashgrove – The Gap Lions Club to receive a $1,000 grant as part of the Lions Community 100 project. The funds will contribute to our Western Front Anzac Centenary Choir touring project. In October a group of our April and July choristers presented at the club’s meeting to discuss the touring program and say thank you for the club’s support. We met the editor of The Western Echo, Philippa Wightman, who ran a story on the front page of her newspaper (read it here).

Birralee Blokes’ Gold Coast tour (October): Our Birralee Blokes participated in the 2016 Gold Coast Schools Extravaganza as a great chance to work with other choirs, including in a massed choir setting.

Birralee Celebrates 2016 (November): To wrap up the year, Voices of Birralee held a two-part concert, with fantastic performances by all of our ensembles. It was wonderful to welcome back two of Birralee’s alumni, the Voices AU 2016 grand finalist Ellen Reed, with opera singer and founding member of the Birralee Blokes Matt Hirst.

WW1 Music Commission (November – December): Voices of Birralee launched its first crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to commission two choral pieces based upon the poetry of chorister Joshua Clifford, inspired by his trip in July with the Western Front Centenary Choir. Thanks to the generosity of the Birralee and wider community, we have exceeded our fundraising goal of $4,000!

The commissioned music will premiere at Voices of Birralee’s 2017 Voices from the Trenches Festival running from March – July. This festival will involve a number of school and community choirs from across Brisbane and Toowoomba and is proudly supported by the State Government. Read more about the commissioning project here, with a story about the project on ABC AM. Josh was also featured on radio programme 4MBS.

Christmas performances (December): In December, Voices of Birralee was involved in a  number of wonderful festive events. This included Resonance performing at the Christmas Care Concert at St John’s Cathedral, with Maggie, Katie and Tyrone Noonan and a number of other outstanding performers, to support the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation.

Other performances in December included our choristers performing at the Bardon Community Carols, the Lighting of the Christmas Tree, Carols in the City, with a number of choristers and alumni performing at QPAC’s Spirit of Christmas and Queensland Ballet’s The Nutcracker (more info about our performances here).

As you can see, 2016 has been huge and that of course isn’t all that happened!

We hope you’ve had a great year! If you’d like to share your Voices of Birralee highlights, email marketing@birralee.org.

A huge thank you for everyone’s contribution in 2016. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Preserving the Anzac Legacy through music! We invite you to get involved!

Music connects with people on many levels and that’s why we’ve chosen to launch a commissioning project to create some incredible choral music to preserve the Anzac legacy.

We have launched a campaign via crowdfunding platform, Pozible to commission two pieces which will be performed at the 2017 Voices from the Trenches Festival, uniting the Brisbane, Toowoomba and greater communities in commemorating our Anzacs, particularly those who fought on the Western Front, France in WW1.

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We have selected two beautiful poems written by chorister Joshua Clifford. Joshua was part of July’s Western Front Centenary Choir and performed at the 100th anniversaries of the Battles of Fromelles and Pozieres and at an Anzac commemorative service in Allonville.

Imagine Joshua’s stunning poetry incorporated into new compositions for choirs across the world to sing! Here are some snippets from his two pieces:

The Fields of Allonville

“….Here, in Allonville’s fragrant fields,
dotted with blood-red poppies blooming,
there are no guns, there are no shells,
no time for fighting, no time for brooding.

Silent are the screams of pain;
we’re far from the fight in the Somme.
A tree-bordered road leads the way
to a day where plays a new song.

Climb up the tress that border that road,
and reach up high to the sun,
soon you’ll be facing the battle, young digger,
and may not return when it’s done.” 

And Now, The War Is Ended

“…Though the horrors of war went on,
those boys, they didn’t letup.
They travelled across warzones far and wide,
performing for crowds on the brink of giving hope up;
they made it feel like the war had already ended.

Applauded for rare talents and individuality,
They were clever, well-balanced, but meant a great deal more:
that true-blue quality of not giving up
and staying true to your mates, that’s what the ‘Smart Set’ was for…
And Now, The War Is Ended.” 

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The Voices from the Trenches Choral Festival, will involve a number of school and community choirs, while drawing upon stories from the local communities about the local Anzacs who served. It will be an incredibly emotive event, with the commissioned pieces a highlight.

For more information about the festival, email marketing@birralee.org and to make a pledge or tax deductible donation to the WW1 Commissioning project, click here

(Voices from the Trenches is proudly supported by the Queensland Government)

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Our alumna & The Voice AU’s Ellen Reed gets set for Birralee Celebrates 2016!

Voices of Birralee will on 6 November celebrate a huge year, with Birralee Celebrates 2016!

ellenreedIn doing so, we’re so excited to welcome back Birralee alumna, Ellen Reed to sing with us. Like Birralee, she has also had a massive year – for a start, she achieved grand finalist status in The Voice AU!


We decided to check in with Ellen to find out about her seven years with Birralee, and The Voice experience!

What do you remember from your time at Voices of Birralee? 

I remember always looking forward to going to BBV every week and seeing my friends and being able to be around a bunch of kids who loved music as much as I did. The choir taught me that I could work hard at what I loved and have an amazing time too.
 
I was afforded so many brilliant opportunities to sing with incredible people at huge events like the Goodwill Games, and The Commonwealth Games, travel the world and even sing for an ex President.

What is your favourite choral piece from your time at Birralee? 

“Mother Earth” by Harley Mead always stands out in my mind. The piece is beautiful and I was so excited to be given the solo in it.

What is your goal over the next 12 months? 

I want to record my debut album in the next 12 months and keep singing and performing as much as I can!

Tell us about The Voice experience? 

The Voice was the hardest and most brilliant experience ever. Learning from and singing with Jessie J on a weekly basis was beyond ridiculous. I had an amazing time with her, and got to know the normal Essex girl behind the crazy persona. She is such a maternal figure and would always make sure we were fed, rested, had tea waiting for us in rehearsal. If someone got sick she’d turn up with vitamins and all her secret weapons. She expects so much from herself, so she expects a lot from everyone that is around her too.

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The unsung heroes of that show, were 100% the crew. Our coaches got all the thanks, but the producers, assistants, wardrobe, hair and make up, the music team, our drivers, everyone that worked with us, were beautiful and kind to us at all times.
 
Even on hour 16 of a performance day, they were still kind and happy to be there and helping. They made the entire experience even better by just being so happy to be there.

I worked harder than I ever have before but I had the most fun I have ever had on that show too.

What is your advice for those who might be interested in chasing a solo career? 

Be determined, work hard, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t (but listen to constructive criticism from those you trust), and above all, be kind to everyone that you come across.

(See Ellen perform with Voices of Birralee on Sunday 6 November when Birralee Celebrates 2016! Information here.)

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Why Birralee ventures regionally!

As our Brisbane Birralee Voices (BBV) ensemble gets set for its tour to regional New South Wales next week, we thought we’d talk about why tours into regional Australian towns are so important, while reflecting on some of the highlights over the years.

Next week 50 choristers aged from 12 – 17, will perform in towns including Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby and Hastings Point, en route to the Bellingen Music Festival. The concerts will include joining with local choirs in various communities, with some busking in the streets of Bellingen.

 

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and a great chance for our young choristers to further their musical development through working with other choirs, such as the Murwillumbah Philharmonic Choir and the Chillingham Voices, while performing alongside the Bellingen Youth Orchestra and the Acacia Quartet. We’ll also get to work with Paul Jarman who is the festival’s Composer-in-Residence.

The concerts are from 20 – 24 September, and you can check out the details via our Facebook event page.

For BBV, the regional tours over the years have taken the choir to many locations in the eastern states of Australia, including Port Macquarie for the 2010 ANCA National Choralfest, to various regional centres of QLD for Q150 Songbridge and Queensland Songbridge in 2009 and 2008, while in 2006 and 2010, the choir participated in the Maryborough Music Conference.

(This clip is from the Queensland Songbridge 2008, where Voices of Birralee, along with other participating choirs, sing ‘When Our Voices Join Together’ by Harley Mead.) 

Venturing into these regional towns provides our choristers a break from ‘city life’ to discover the beauty of the regional communities, and we always find the locals incredibly welcoming.

These tours also give our choristers insight into what choirs of their age group are doing, from the repertoire to their quality of performance, while at times we’re bringing some great music to some towns which might not get much of an opportunity to experience the joy of choral music.

Our Birralee Blokes ensemble has also participated in a great deal of regional touring over the years. This time last year they were heading to Western Australia to participate in the Men of Song Festival, Bunbury.

As invited guests, the Blokes worked with the various participating choirs, all the while improving their own performance.

In all of our tours, we ensure we fit in some sight-seeing, as this great clip from Pip Suschinsky shows.

Our younger choir, Birralee Singers (aged 10 – 13) have also had the chance to visit some great locations in Australia. A highlight was last year’s trip to Tasmania where they sang in various cities including Launceston, Hobart and Davenport.

Our choirs have had some wonderful experiences touring Australia, and there are many fantastic tours to come as we continue to provide our choristers opportunities to explore their music as we like to say, ‘beyond the concert hall’.

All the very best to our BBV choristers as they head to NSW and we look forward to sharing the news of their travels!

Do you have a great regional touring memory? Tell us by commenting on this blog, or send us an email with info and pictures to marketing@birralee.org.

Celebrating our children’s choirs!

Since Voices of Birralee began, it has pursued the goal of providing children and young adults with rewarding singing experiences both onstage and beyond the concert hall.

Over the years, more than 2,000 people have benefited from the joy of singing with Birralee, and this includes the huge number of young children who have found their voices in our younger choirs, the Birralee Piccolos and Kids! 

In this month’s blog, we celebrate the growth of our children’s choirs, and the opportunities provided to our young people! 

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For Claire Preston, our Birralee Kids conductor, she constantly sees the benefits that singing in a choir offers to children. 

“Singing in a choir further develops children’s self-confidence, they make new friends, they learn how to be part of a team, they learn how to listen and they have the opportunity to perform in the safety of a group,” she said. 

Anyone who has worked with children will know the challenges that come with keeping kids alert throughout an afternoon rehearsal. Ms Preston says it’s all about choosing appropriate songs and ensuring the rehearsal is fast paced. 

“It’s important to choose songs that the children enjoy learning and fun warm-up activities that help the group feel happy about coming to choir; including using movement and physical gestures in songs. I ensure rehearsals are kept at a fast pace to keep them on their toes and probably the most important tip is to talk as little as possible!”   
 
Repertoire is chosen that is best suited for the Piccolos and Kids’ young voices. 

“Unison songs at the beginning of the year are best for developing the young voice; working on creating a singing line,  healthy vocal placement and even tone and flexibility across the vocal range,” Ms Preston said.

“Repertoire includes a good variety of slow and fast songs, rhythmical and legato, with age appropriate texts to enjoy the story telling of each song. Canons and partner songs are a great introduction to simple two-part repertoire.” 

It certainly takes a great deal of energy to conduct a children’s choir, but Ms Preston loves it! 

“I find it very rewarding teaching young children to develop artistry and to be expressive. I also love to empower children to read music. Once they realise they are actually reading the music it’s a magical moment! When they discover that they CAN do it, the confidence and independence it affords them is a real milestone,” she said. 

“I have lots of parents tell me that Birralee is their child’s favourite time of the week and that their school grades have improved because of all they learn at choir!!  What an endorsement!! Bring it on,  I say!!” 

The rehearsals during the year for our Birralee Kids and Piccolos provide valuable learning opportunities, while Voices of Birralee ensures the children also experience performances. 

Earlier this year, the Birralee Kids and Piccolos performed in the Cupcake and Cushion Concert. Here’s a video about the joy the choristers experienced during this concert, and their adorable comments about what they get out of singing in a choir. 

Coming up next for these youngsters is the Young Voices Festival on Sunday 28 August, which will involve a number of Brisbane’s school based choirs.

Voices of Birralee Artistic Director and Founder Julie Christiansen OAM said these concerts were further opportunities for growth. 

“For most of the children these concerts will mark their first public performance opportunity and to do it with their choir friends, in a supportive environment is such a wonderful debut,” Ms Christiansen said.

“Performing with other choirs from across Brisbane is also a lovely way for young singers to observe what other choirs are doing and to be part of something collectively exciting with our massed choir finale.” 

“It’s great for children to engage with songs written for children, with appropriate lyrics and tunes, as a good change from just singing along to radio or TV music – more appropriate to the adult voice.”

The Young Voices Festival will be held on Sunday 28 August from 3pm at Valmai Pidgeon PAC, Somerville House. 

Flyer - YVF 2016The concert will feature the Birralee Piccolos, Birralee Kids and guest choirs from Eagle Junction State School, Redeemer Lutheran College, The Gap State School, Clayfield College and St Laurence’s College. 

Tickets are $10 for adults and concession, with school-aged children free. Bookings can be made here

If your child is interested in singing with our Birralee Piccolos or Kids, we invite them to participate in a no-obligation trial lesson.

For more information contact 07 3367 1001 or email contact@birralee.org, or visit http://www.birralee.org. 

Day 10 – A fitting farewell

Our choristers’ last official day of tour began with a special surprise for their conductor and Voices of Birralee’s Artistic Director and Founder, Julie Christiansen OAM.

Julie was led to Amiens Cathedral where the choir sang Notre Pere, a beautiful gift resonating throughout the cathedral, which Julie described as “soul filling, sublime and tranquil”.

Soon after, the choir left Amiens for their final performance, singing at the commemoration service for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Pozieres. The service held at the First Australian Division Memorial can be watched on ABC iView here.

The service was beautiful, beginning with the marching in of the colours of 12 current serving units holding direct lineage to those who fought.

A number of stories were told of the bravery of the soldiers in what was a fierce battle, with 23,000 casualties between 23 July and 4 September 1916, with more than 6,700 killed (more here).

The horrific events of the first battle of the Somme, led historian Charles Bean to note the fields surrounding this site as being ‘more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other spot on earth’. (Referenced here in ‘Australians on the Western Front 1914 – 1918′).

Stories were told of the events which led to troops receiving Victoria and Military Cross medals, while also noting the dedication of the Australian Army Nursing Service.

Hon Dan Tehan, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac, noted how the efforts of the Anzacs were even more impressive given their involvement wasn’t by conscription.

“Unlike other forces, our soldiers were not forced to March, but chose to walk – an army of volunteers…They volunteered to serve, despite the risk, the greatest risk, of them all.” 

 

Our choristers performed beautifully, each with a different reason for being a part of it all. Sarah Morton, noted her pride:

“It was very special to be wearing my grandfather’s medals alongside my great great uncle Cecil’s sovereign case yesterday at Pozieres. Cecil fought on the Western Front in France before going to Belgium where he was killed in battle and now lies. It is such a privilege to be able to honour him and those men who fought beside him and those who subsequently and continue to put everything on the line in order to afford us the wonderful life we live.”

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Upon returning to Amiens, we had a special dinner before our choristers went their separate ways – some to pursue further travel, with others returning to Australia.

This was a lovely way to debrief after a massive and emotionally charged week. It was so much fun, with lots of singing by the canal.

A lovely moment was when some talented local buskers approached our table – They might have got more than what they had bargained for!

Each chorister and AP will have different highlights from the week, and one of these came from AP / musician / dad Peter Francis. He noted the tour highlight was in Allonville with five family members involved in the performances. Peter played percussion, Heather Francis played the Flute, choristers Margie and Andy sang, while their brother (and former Birralee chorister) Tim played the trumpet.

Over the week our choristers bonded and sang at such a high standard. Most choristers were from Resonance of Birralee, and some were from Birralee Blokes, coming together to form this unique Western Front Centenary Choir.

Claire Preston who assisted Julie with conducting, shared her gratitude with Resonance of Birralee and Blokes’ conductor Paul Holley OAM, while noting the incredible opportunity.

“It was such a pleasure working with your Resonance and Blokes singers – They welcomed me warmly and were fabulous ambassadors. Every performance they gave everything they had to make it their best and they were a very fun loving tour family.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and have too many highlights to list. I’ve left a piece of my heart in Allonville and have promised to return. It was a privilege to tour the battlefields and an honour to sing for our fallen. Lifetime memories!” 

All of the choristers will cherish the lifetime memories taken from this trip, with some very special thank yous to those who have made it possible! A huge thank you to:

  • Vicki Munday and Robert Knight, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
  • Eric Brisse from the Somme Region for his wonderful support and organisation.
  • Kim Sutherland and Paul Jarman, Hunter Singers.
  • Allan Turner and Neil Phillips of the Ashgrove – The Gap Lions Club, and the club for its ongoing support and assistance in our fundraising efforts.
  • The Mayor of Fromelles, Jean-Gabriel Masson.
  • The Mayor, Patrick Simon, and Deputy-Mayor, Benoit Decottegnie, of Villers-Brettoneux and the community for their ongoing support and hospitality.
  • The Mayor, Mr Joël Delrue, and Deputy-Mayor, Mr Lemaire, of Allonville and the community for their warm hospitality.
  • Matthieu for his wonderful assistance and the AV team for making the choir sound fabulous.

AND a big thanks to our families and friends back home for following our journey! We appreciate your support!

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(Keep up to date with our centenary tours via our Facebook group)