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.” 


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 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)


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.

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.)


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

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! 


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, or visit 

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.”


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!


(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!


(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).


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!


(Follow our Western Front tours via our Facebook group)