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!

#vobwfchoir

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

Day 9: Paying tribute, and Allonville hospitality

Day 9 (Friday) was such a wonderful day for our choristers, and we are all looking forward to tomorrow, where we will perform at the commemoration service for the Battle of Pozieres.

Those at home can can watch the service on ABC 24 at midnight (12am, Sunday 24 July) with the programme, Australia Remembers: Pozieres Centenary Commemorations.

Today began with a rehearsal at Pozieres, and the sky was so blue and picturesque!

Between rehearsals, we took some time to explore the site’s surrounds, and adjacent is the Gibraltar Blockhouse. This is the remains of a German bunker, the Australian 1st Division took when it first attacked to take control of Pozieres village, from 23 July 1916 (more here).

You can still see the trenches and a round plaque points out the direction of regions or monuments such as Dernancourt, Albert, Pozieres Windmill, Bullecourt, Fromelles, Mouquet Farm, Beaumont-Hamel and others. It is such a good way of knowing the proximity to where some of the key moments of WW1 took place on the Western Front.

After rehearsal, we returned to Amiens for a brief rest (some decided to fit in some last minute cosmetic purchases – as you do in France!) before heading for Allonville, a beautiful village about 10 minutes drive north-east of Amiens.

Here the choir participated in the first formal commemoration service for the Australian WW1 soldiers buried in the Allonville Communal Cemetery.

Our friend, Eric Brisse, was the master of ceremony and a local historian provided a brief history on how important the Australians were to the village.

We discovered Allonville was a place of fun and rest for the Australians during WW1, where they provided entertainment at the local theatre, and had horse races.

Sadly, on 31 May 1918 (just months before the war ended) the barn where the Aussies were sleeping was shelled by the Germans.

At the service, chorister, Emma Nicol delivered a beautiful speech in French, and we’ve included the English translation here:

“I have two brothers. They are young in body and spirit. They are filled with hopes and dreams and ambitions of an exciting future.

“They have their whole adult life ahead of them. They are 25 and 23 years old – both older than many of those who fought and died here.

“Words cannot describe my sisterly love for them – the fun of their companionship, the care they take of me and my pride in their achievements big and small.  Nothing can compare with knowing they are there.

“My brothers are loyal, tough and determined young men. I know my brothers stand up for what they believe in but I cannot imagine them having to do so with machine guns 100 meters away aimed in their direction.

“I know how hard and anxiously they prepare to fight the everyday battles of modern daily life, yet I cannot imagine them preparing to fight knowing that death could come at any moment. I know they have courage and determination but I cannot imagine them having to keep up that spirit whilst their comrades die around them.  

“No one should have to endure these things. However in July, 1916, there were many many sisters of my age, of men now at rest here at Allonville Communal Cemetery, anxiously awaiting news of their family.

“I’m sure they were just like me, filled with unconditional love for their brothers and pride in their honour, loyalty and determination, with very good reason.  I’m sure they could not imagine the horrors being endured by the people they held most dear – and yet this is the reality they were faced with.

“Today we are here to pay tribute not just to those who suffered the unimaginable, who endured the impossible, who experienced agonising/unconquerable fear but also to pay tribute to their sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends who knew both pride, and pain at their sacrifice.

“I thank you for being here today to honour these men who never returned to their families. Through services such as this, commemorating the sacrifices of war, and through sharing the stories such as those we have heard today, we must strive to ensure that the young men who fought and fell in 1916 did not suffer in vain. Instead we must ensure that brothers and sisters of all future generations may live in peace and prosperity, knowing they will always be there for each other.”

The choir paid a fitting tribute with Laurence playing the bagpipes and Tim Francis (Andy and Margie’s older brother and former Birralee chorister) trumpeted The Last Post. 

After the service, Birralee presented their last concert for the tour to the people of Allonville. What an audience! It was a packed house and the choir was rewarded with two standing ovations!

The community was so warm and welcoming and hosted a lovely post concert dinner on long trestle tables, with lots of lovely food and wine from the region – absolutely divine!

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The past week has been incredible for our choristers and APs, with many moments of discovery to really enhance the reason why we are over here and the importance of honouring the sacrifices of WW1.

An example includes how one of our APs, Tony, with his daughter, Shelby, visited the grave of Reuben John Rule (Shelby’s great-great-uncle).

Reuben, of the 5th Battalion AIF, 4th Reinforcement, was killed in the battle of Pozieres on 25 July 1916, age 19. He had survived the Gallipoli campaign TWICE (after being wounded, and returned to active duty) and was then mobilised with the rest of the 1st Division, to the Western Front in mid 1916. He survived only two days in this battle and is laid to rest at the Pozieres British Cemetery Ovillers-La Boisselle.

Tony and Shelby decided it would be fitting to drape the Australian flag over the headstone, while honouring Reuben with some poppies – A beautiful tribute.

It is stories like these that have made the week special, as we’ve forged such personal connections to the soldiers who fought in WW1.

Our choristers have done such a wonderful job in fulfilling their duty to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and have bonded so well as an ensemble.

Completing the team we have been fortunate to have our talented APs join us – Matthew Farrell on cello, Heather Francis on flute, Peter Francis on percussion and Tony Forbes being our photo, video and sound guru.

Our other APs have also been awesome, and a wonderful and enthusiastic support crew – Fiona Marshall, Kym Boon, Lyn Chappell and Robyn Wood.

And it’s not over yet! We have our performance at the service tomorrow. The final ‘official day’ of the trip and we can’t wait.

More soon!

#vobwfchoir

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

Day 8: Exploring the Somme, and a warm VB welcome!

On this tour, we are getting very good at packing as much into our days as possible!

Having arrived in Amiens yesterday, we took the morning to explore this picturesque town, with such evidence of its ongoing appreciation for Australia’s efforts 100 years’ ago!

Matthew and Fiona visited the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, also known as Notre Dame Amiens. It is such a massive and stunning cathedral, and possibly grander than its Paris counterpart!

The pair visited one of the little chapels in the cathedral, which displays all the flags of the allies. The original Australian flag that was given to the city in 1918, hangs high, with the words:

“The Australian flag is a gift to the city of Amiens from the Government of Australia and commemorates the brotherhood in arms of the sons of Australia with those of France in the defence of the city in the year 1918.” 

The choristers in the afternoon had their rehearsal at the First Australian Division Memorial, Pozieres in preparation for the service on Saturday. The weather has cooled down a bit, which is great!

This site acknowledges the toll on the soldiers in the Battle of Pozieres, from 23 July – 7 August, 1916.

The 1st Australian Division were first on the line, and captured the town of Pozieres from the Germans on 23 July 1916. When relieved on 27 July, by the 2nd Division, they had suffered 5,285 casualties. The 2nd Division gained more German positions, with the 4th next to the line. Despite all divisions suffering an incredible number of casualties, the Germans were defeated in their final attempt to take the village, on 7 August (read more here).

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After a great rehearsal, we were dismissed early so took it as a chance to visit Thiepval Memorial, which honours the missing of the Somme, including the 72,000 officers and troops of the United Kingdom and South African forces killed before 20 March 1918.

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The site also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial honouring the joint nature of the 1916 offensive. At the base of the memorial is a small cemetery with equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves. (More here)

It was such a chilling place, bringing home how this war didn’t just have a massive impact on Australia, but a great deal of the Commonwealth, including the UK and South Africa.

The choristers were incredibly moved by this site, and sang an emotionally charged In Flanders Fields.

Also visiting the the museum, the choristers sang, Notre Père (The Lord’s Prayer) as a tribute to the missing of the Somme.

A lady who had guided one of our April tour groups through the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert,  happened to be at this memorial.

She told us that she didn’t recognise our shirts or our names, but she recognised our sound! What a beautiful coincidence, and interesting compliment, considering it’s the first centenary tour for the majority of our choristers!

In the evening we visited the beautiful village of Villers-Bretonneux to perform a concert to the community who were a modest, but enthusiastic crowd. This was our third occasion performing in this village, and just like in April 2015 and 2016, we were welcomed so warmly!

The French songs were a big hit again, and a number of audience members were invited to sing with our choristers!

A huge thank you to Villers-Bretonneux for their kind hospitality which included a delicious dinner for us all to enjoy!

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Upon heading back to Amiens, some decided to enjoy a drink by the canal before visiting the cathedral for the son et lumière (light show)  and thank goodness we did – it was glorious!

The display showed how the cathedral was originally painted, and how it has changed over the years.

We couldn’t understand the narrative as it was in French, but it didn’t matter – it was captivating.

We encouraged everyone to then have a reasonably early night as Day 9 will include more rehearsals in Pozieres, with our final town concert in Allonville.

We can’t wait to let you know how we get on!

#vobwfchoir

(Follow our Western Front tours via our Facebook group)

Day 7 – A tour of the battlefields

Today was our ‘day off’ from our official duties, so we took it as a chance to discover the battlefields as we headed from Lille to Amiens.

We had a special battlefield tour guide, Victor Piuk, providing us so much insight into the region’s history- and it was so interesting.

First stop was the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. This site is dedicated to the Canadians who fought in WW1. During 1914 – 1918, 60,000 Canadians were killed, and over 11,000 were killed in France, with no remains found, or were not identified (further reading here).

This site was an absolutely beautiful tribute to the fallen sons of Canada.

 

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Canadian National Vimy Memorial – Image by Tony 

As part of the tour of this memorial, we learnt about the trenches and tunnels on the front line.

It was so fascinating to learn of all the stories of trench and tunnel warfare. Sometimes when digging your own tunnels, you would dig into the enemy’s tunnel and hand-to-hand combat would break out.

The landscape around the memorial will be forever changed by the trenches, tunnels and bombing that occurred.

Next stop was Albert, for lunch. Our choristers took this as an opportunity to sing in the local church.

Such a beautiful moment!

Our next stop was Lochnagar Crater – a massive hole in the ground, and what is the remains from when the allies bombed the Germans in the area to mount their offensive.

Robyn, one of our APs, explained the history:

‘Close to the towns of Albert and Pozieres lies the Lochnagar Crater. It is an enormous hole in the ground – 91m wide and 21m deep.

“On July 1, 1916, over 27,000 tonnes of explosives were exploded beneath enemy lines. The battle of the Somme had begun and the next five weeks were a living hell, resulting in the loss of a million lives between the allies and the Germans.

“The crater is privately owned and managed by a group of passionate volunteers who fund-raise and look after the area. Our tour guide was one of them.” 

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Lochnagar Crater, image by Robyn

We then visited Caterpillar Valley Memorial, with 125 New Zealand graves, and a memorial for the 1,205 troops of the New Zealand Division, who died in the Battles of the Somme, and whose bodies were never found (more here).

We wanted to stop here so chorister, Belinda and her mum could visit one of their relations and place  a poppy at his name on the wall. It was such a lovely, peaceful place , and so hard to imagine the devastation here around 100 years ago.

Next, we headed to the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

This memorial is where our Anzac choirs performed in 2015 and 2016 at the Anzac Day Dawn Services.

There was such a different feeling being there without the site being prepared for Anzac Day commemorations. Again, such a very peaceful place and a fitting tribute to our fallen Aussies on the Western Front.

The memorial is set on top of a hill with stunning vast fields from each vantage point.

 

Belinda notes her experience of visiting the two memorials here:

‘Today on our battlefields tour, I was fortunate to be able to remember and pay my respects to three different men who lost their lives on the Somme.

“First was a distant relative of mine from New Zealand, Private Leonard Jack Watson at the Caterpillar Valley Memorial. Leonard’s brother also died during the Battle of the Somme, along with two cousins.

“At the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, I visited the headstone for my Adopt a Digger from the 2015 Anzac day tour, Sergeant Walter William Dumbrell. I then also visited a name on the wall of Australian soldier lost in action, Private Frank Edmund Clark. He is the father of a close family friend who is a 99 year-old WW2 veteran.

“Today was an amazing experience, seeing different battlefields and being able to acknowledge the fallen. What made it even more special was, Laurence’s bag pipe playing at the memorials.” 

We learnt so much today about the history of the Western Front. It  was truly amazing!

As we explored, the question came to mind of – why did Australia get involved in a war thousands of miles away and really, it’s simple.

Back then England was our ‘mother country’ and when she was threatened and called for help, Australia responded.

This is part of a famous election speech speech by Opposition Leader Andrew Fisher (ALP), given on 31 July 1914, when only days later war was declared.

‘Should the worst happen, after everything has been done that honour will permit, Australians will stand beside the mother country to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling…” 

Australia, as such a young nation, answered the call, and the decision, and sacrifice certainly played a massive part in shaping our country.

The choir is now in Amiens, and will fit in some touring of this quiet and picturesque town.

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Tomorrow (Thursday), we will start preparing for the Pozieres Service, with a technical rehearsal. In the evening we will have a community concert in Villers-Bretonneux’s covered market.

We can’t wait to meet the VB community, knowing they have welcomed us so warmly on the previous two tours.

More soon!

#vobwfchoir

(Follow our Western Front Centenary Tours via our Facebook group).

Day 6: The tragic 24 hours in our history

What a day! 

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who is supporting us from home. This has been a life-changing trip for our choristers and we’re humbled for so many people to be following our journey back in Australia!

Day 6 included our choristers performing at two very moving ceremonies. For those watching from home, you would have seen how beautifully sunny it was, and that beauty brought extreme heat!

….but when you think about what it would have been like for our Anzacs 100 years ago – a bit of heat isn’t bad at all!

Our choristers were tasked with performing at the Pheasant Wood Cemetery and VC Corner services.

And what an atmosphere! Everyone, including the crowds at both events, were focused on the common goal of honouring our fallen!

During the day, the choristers showed a real team effort – they shared jokes, some tears, and got through the day knowing we were surrounded by friends to support us! Perhaps we were channeling just a little bit of how the Aussies got through all those years ago.

The speeches and prayers throughout the services were thoughtful tributes to those that will forever remain young, with the crowds watching on with such respect.

It was constantly noted how the Battle of Fromelles was the darkest day in Australia’s military history.

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Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, image by Tony. 

By way of example, of the 887 officers and men from the 60th battalion who went into battle on 19 July, 1916, only one officer and 106 men answered the roll call the following afternoon.

The battle had intended to stop the Germans from heading south to the Somme, however, it was a failed and devastating result, and across the 24 hours, 5,533 Australian and 1,400 British troops were casualties (further reading here).

Lieutenant Ronald McInnis, 53rd Battalion, summed up the horrific day in his diary on 19 July 1916, which was referenced in the Pheasant Wood service:

“We thought we knew something of the horrors of war, but we were mere recruits, and have had our full education in one day.” (Quoted in Bill Gammage, The Broken Years, 1990, p175, referenced here

We wondered if there should be a Fromelles Remembrance Day every year in Australia to remember this darkest day in our country’s history – another day to give thanks to those that serve, both past and present.

Between waiting to sing, we listened to some great speeches acknowledging the wonderful, brave young men who now rest in the gentle care of the French people to which we, as Australians, are extremely grateful.

And on the French side, they will be forever grateful for Australia’s effort, in a land so far away from home.

At the Pheasant Wood service, a poignant moment displaying this gratitude, was when Jean-Marc Todeschini, State Secretary to the Minister of Defence, noted how the Australian troops were “distinguished by their absence of fear and their bravery”.

“We owe it to the Australian people who offered their children during the first and second World War to liberate Europe. 

“…History reminds us that even if our two nations are 150,000 kms apart, their destiny is united. 

“…May we also cherish for many, many years to come, the long-lasting alliance between our two countries. 

“…Long live the Australian-French friendship!” 

 

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The choir sang beautifully at both services, as wonderful ambassadors for Voices of Birralee and Australia, adding so much to this significant day through what they do best – singing.

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Another proud moment was the choir meeting His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland. 

Those watching at home were able to see quite a few images of the choir singing, with In Flanders Fields ringing loud and clear at the start of the Pheasant Wood wreath laying ceremony.

Chorister Joshua Clifford performed a stunning solo at the beginning of this piece, as the rest of the choristers joined in, providing a haunting, yet incredibly moving sound.

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The choir at Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, image by Tony. 

Overall, it was an exceptional day, and it isn’t the end for us…

Tomorrow (Day 7) we will say goodbye to Lille and Fromelles as we head off to Amiens for the final stage of our centenary commemorations tour.

We’ll be preparing for Saturday’s service in Pozieres, in the Somme, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Pozieres.

If you missed any of the Fromelle’s services, these can be viewed on ABC iView.

More soon!

#vobwfchoir

(If you’d like to keep up-to-date with our tours, join our Facebook group).

Day 5 – One more sleep!

Day five was massive!

Our Western Front Centenary Choir choristers woke early to arrive to a full day’s rehearsal at Pheasant Wood Cemetery, Fromelles.

It was a rather hot day (even for us Aussies!) but an interesting day as the choir watched how the service was coming together, orchestrated by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Our singers, of course, showed great professionalism while they hurried into position and then waited while the other components of the service were worked through, to ensure a smooth event day for the anniversary service for the Battle of Fromelles.

It was a great chance to absorb the setting further, while acknowledging just how important the role is that our 15 choristers will be playing!

The services at Pheasant Wood Cemetery and VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial are going to be incredibly moving for our choristers, and we invite you to tune in from home to support them in this significant event…or at least record the late ones to watch at a more reasonable hour (Tuesday 19 July).

Here’s the programme:

ABC News 24
8.30pm. Australia Remembers: Fromelles Preview

9.00pm Service from Fromelles – Pheasant Wood

ABC
11.10pm. Service from Fromelles – Pheasant Wood. (Delayed telecast)

12.50am (Wed) service from VC Corner

 

The next stage of the day was to sing at a combined concert with Newcastle’s the Hunter Singers, at Fromelles Church.

Avoiding sites that weren’t touched by WW1 in this region proves difficult! Fromelles Church was destroyed in WW1, with the current church built upon the previous church’s foundations, from 1924. The village church, featuring a neo-roman style sits just near Pheasant Wood Cemetery.

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Isy and Margie outside Fromelles Church, Pic by Chris

 

It was such a lovely setting for our choristers to perform in, and you can hear them practise here.

Our chorister Laurence Nicol greeted the attendees, playing the bagpipes to get them ready for an evening of stunning music presented by both choirs.

Our Western Front Centenary Choir’s conductor Julie Christiansen OAM had selected repertoire which she hoped would appeal to the French audiences and appeal it did – the audience loved hearing the choir sing pieces in French. They were absolutely wowed by the performances, and what we’ve discovered on all of our three centenary tours, so far, is how the locals love that we can achieve songs in their language.

A highlight of the concert was the Hunter Singers premiering their tribute to WWI, a song titled Fromelles, composed by Paul Jarman. It was such a special tribute to our Anzacs and their sacrifices here, 100 years ago. There weren’t many dry eyes during this piece, and a number of the other stunning songs of the programme.

There were so many special moments, but a standing ovation and encore was another highlight, where the audience showed how much they were impressed.

After the concert, we encouraged our choristers to have an early night, although the excitement for Day 6 was tricky to suppress!

Tuesday will begin with an early start to get to Pheasant Wood Cemetery before the crowds, with our choristers to sing in the late morning at the pre-service and service.

We’ll have a break to check our some of the festivities happening around the site, as part of the town’s anniversary programme, before arriving to VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial for the afternoon’s service.

It’s bound to be an awesome day for our choristers, and one we are so proud to be involved in!

More soon!

#vobwfchoir

(Keep up-to-date with our tours via our Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours Facebook group).