We’re in France! It’s beautiful, it’s freezing – and it’s brilliant. We are ready for an epic week as our Anzac Commemoration Choir gets ready to fulfil its commitment to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for next Monday’s Anzac Day services on the Western Front.
But for now, we have some time for a little bit of sight-seeing between the rehearsals and concerts in the lead up to the big day!
All arriving in Europe at different times over the past few weeks, we met in France by Sunday night.
Some of us decided to sight-see on Sunday morning. Somewhat fresh faced and bracing for the jet-lag, this group, led by our conductor Paul Holley, with tour manager Sue, made the first stop (well second stop if you count the patisserie for a croissant and hot chocolate), the Sacre Coeur as part of the initiation to France.
In the misty morning, the Eiffel Tower still looked pretty special when viewing it from the Sacre Coeur, while taking in the other icons from the great vantage point. We then participated in a mass, which helped test our French language sight-singing. We must have succeeded, as no local parishioners seemed stirred.
That done, we headed outside, only to be caught in what seemed like rain – and then sleet. We didn’t expect it to be this freezing and escaped down the mountain to warmth and a deliciously French lunch (huge pieces of quiche!).
Once fed, we got back to being tourists and checked out another stunning site, Notre Dame de Paris. And of course there was time for a jumping shot!
Today (Monday – which was officially ‘day one’ of the trip) we woke up to enjoy breakfast as a group at the hotel, before heading for our first rehearsal of the week. Strolling through Montmarte, we arrived in Église Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre, a beautiful church built from 1894 – 1904. The set-up of this rehearsal was thanks to Hernan from Ensemble Mangata, a friend of Voices of Birralee from last year’s trip when he hosted the 2015 ensemble (he seemed to enjoy listening in to our rehearsal, as did a number of tourists and locals).
It was great for the choir to come together for this rehearsal, in the lead up to tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) performance in L’église de la Madeleine.
After the rehearsal, and just as the church was becoming extremely chilly, Paul decided we should head outside into the sunlight and create a ‘flash mob.’ Most of the people in the outside square were enjoying their coffees alfresco style, so we treated them to The Beetles’ Blackbird as a crowd gathered around.
The choristers then headed off to enjoy the day in Paris. Taking advantage of the blue sky, one group enjoyed a picnic under the Eiffel Tower, while others checked out The Louvre and Sacre Coeur, or planned their evening trip to the Moulin Rouge.
The same group who had enjoyed the picnic strolled on to check out the craziness of the Arc de Triomphe round-a-bout, before heading to the Eternal Flame, at the arch’s centre. The choristers caught the daily service at the flame, which sits at the centre of the monument, above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Veterans laid wreaths to honour those who died in WW1, before singing La Marseillaise (French National anthem),which was great practice for our choristers as they will be singing this on Anzac Day!
We’re looking forward to another great day tomorrow which will include our first concert – performing at the L’église de la Madeleine to locals and tourists stopping by the church.