Excited to send our next ensemble of choristers to the Western Front for Anzac Day, we took a moment at our Anzac Commemoration Choir’s Dedication Service and Concert in early April to reflect on what this opportunity means to us all at Birralee.
“Last year I was honoured to be chosen for this special opportunity to represent our country. It has left me with many memories, new friendships and new experiences. The team that we formed last year was something I will never forget; overcoming many challenges during a rainy, cold Anzac Day service – I have to say I have never been so cold in my life. It felt like we were experiencing just a glimpse of what our Anzacs would have gone through 100 years ago in the trenches on the Western Front on that very cold day.
“I enjoyed the concerts we held in small towns throughout the tour with many audiences enjoying our sound – music certainly overcame our language barrier. It was certainly apparent how much these small towns respected and loved Australians for their service to France during these concerts. We were well received and I hope this year’s choir will receive that same welcome.
“…on behalf of the 2015 tour and all of Resonance of Birralee, we wish you well on your tour. Safe travels and enjoy every moment and we can’t wait to hear the stories upon your return.”
-Isabelle Fassbind, 2015 Anzac Commemoration Choir Chorister
“While I was still at school, the sacrifice made by the many soldiers who fought for our freedom became personal as I researched the army records of both my paternal grandfather and my maternal great-grandfather. I met neither of these wonderful men, but I am in awe of them. My grandfather, Frederick Heywood, served in the army for the duration of WWII, while my great-grandfather, Joseph Steele, was wounded in the Gallipoli campaign during WWI. Both were lucky enough to return home, but true to the stoic nature of that generation, spoke very little of their experience. History tells us just something of the horrors they endured, and, in a very small way, I feel that singing at the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux is just a small tribute I can pay to them and their comrades. I am so looking forward to being able to do that.
“I have had the joy of singing with Birralee for 18 years, and it has provided me with some amazing opportunities and memories for which I will be forever grateful. However, I think that this trip is going to be one of the best experiences of my time with the choir. I love to sing, and it is a privilege to be able to do it with such a wonderful group of people at sites and services with a solemn significance to both my family and my country. To say I am grateful for the opportunity is something of an understatement.”
-Lucy Heywood, 2016 Anzac Commemoration Choir Chorister
Ever since we were chosen by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide choral services to the Western Front WW1 Centenary Commemorations from 2015 – 2019, we’ve appreciated how significant this commitment would be for each chorister involved, while also marking an important chapter of Birralee’s history.
More importantly, we are extremely honoured to be able to play a small part in ensuring the Anzac spirit lives on for years to come, which we can help perpetuate through what we do best – singing.
We have 30 choristers representing Birralee and Australia in France this year, with our first stop to meet up in Paris this Sunday night.
The ensemble will have its first overseas concert on Tuesday afternoon at L’église de la Madeleine, Paris. On Wednesday they will head north for Amiens, with the next concert in Villers-Bretonneux.
Performing at the Covered Market in Villers-Bretonneux next Wednesday night is set to be a memorable occasion. Our choristers will get a glimpse of the significance of Australia to this town, following our country’s efforts to keep the villagers safe in a number of battles during WW1; such as in March 1918, when our troops were commanded to protect Dernancourt and Villers-Bretonneux from German capture.
The next concert will be an incredible community effort; the Grand Anzac Concert, Cathedral Notre Dame, Amiens on Friday 22 April.
Other days in the tour will be consumed by rehearsals for the Anzac Day Dawn Service on Monday 25 April at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, and for the service later in the day at The Digger Memorial, Bullecourt.
It’s going to be an exceptional week for our choristers and we invite you to follow the journey back home through our blogs.
We also invite you to be involved through joining our new Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours Facebook group. This group is for past, current and future Birralee tourers, those we meet in Europe along the way over the next few years, the parents and community supporters, and anyone who would like to share any WW1 stories relevant to our trips. We’re excited to see this group grow as our touring commitment is fulfilled, and look forward to all the incredible experiences we will share together.
Next time you read this blog, we’ll be in France! See you then.
(On another note, a special mention to Nathan from Sports Apparel Australia for helping our choristers both last year and this year look smart in their touring shirts!)