Day four was busy, marked by two rehearsals, one at VC Corner, and the second at Pheasant Wood Cemetery.
Our choristers did a remarkable job singing with the Australian Army Band, while being amazed at how the events are coming together, with everyone’s role to play in making the services a success.
The services in Fromelles; at Pheasant Wood and VC Corner, will be absolutely incredible, paying particular reference to the 24 hours in 1916 that were so tragic in Australia’s military history.
Between rehearsals, our choristers were moved by the stories they heard at VC Corner, while witnessing a beautiful activation currently being pieced together near the memorial. As part of the 5000 Poppies project, 26,500 poppies have been handcrafted by people across the world to be planted, honouring the tragic toll in the Somme.
While each poppy is different, they will all contribute to a sensational and incredible scene; a sea of red poppies. This activation was previously completed for the Chelsea Flower Show, which warranted a visit from the Royal Family. Our choristers were delighted to give the designers a hand to plant some of the stunning poppies.
The site was beautiful, and hard to believe the turmoil that would have existed 100 years ago. Our Western Front Centenary Choir decided to perform for the 5,000 Poppies creators, by singing In Flanders Fields.
Another rehearsal was held at Pheasant Wood Cemetery. This site is where a mass grave was discovered in 2009, with the remains of 250 British and Australian soldiers who died in the battle of Fromelles. The grave was dug by the German forces in July 1916.
On Tuesday, 3,500 people will watch the commemoration service here, and then stay on to watch the live stream of the VC Corner service.
(For those playing at home, Tuesday’s services will be broadcast on ABC 24 from 8.30pm).
The infrastructure at this site was amazing – how they have designed the area, without encroaching upon the sacredness, has been done so respectfully and effectively.
The rehearsals were very successful, allowing the choir to feel confident for the days ahead.
In other news, while the choir was busy rehearsing and exploring, some of our APs (accompanying people) visited a neighbouring country…as you can in Europe!
Lyn, Kym and Robyn had an eventful day travelling to Brugge, although the journey was a bit tricky, changing three trains along the way – but it was worth the effort!
They discovered Brugge, in North West Belgium, is a charming, canal town with many beautiful medieval buildings – an extremely easy town to spend wandering around.
The trio took a canal cruise – imagine 40 people in an open boat zipping up and down – with the guide providing commentary translation in English so the points of interest could be known.
Some of the buildings date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, with the unique step style roof lines typical of the Brugge area.
Lunch was a sandwich in a tiny little shop with the all important free wi-fi, then it was time to explore again. This included stopping by some lovely shops filled with handmade lace and tapestries, with sightseeing around town, while locating the all important Belgian chocolate and nougat! (Some of the choir had given Lyn, Kym and Robyn strict instructions to return with chocolate, so it had to be obliged!)
The evening included Robyn stopping by the Picasso exhibition full of wonderful etchings and prints, while Kym and Lyn went to buy yet more chocolate, some lace and visited the Begijnhof, an abbey type establishment run by a group of Benedictine nuns. The area is heritage listed as there are so few of them left in Belgium.
The return home was eventful, being left on a deserted train platform in the middle of nowhere, but the intended connection eventually arrived and they got home to Lille safely.
And Lille is proving to be a great base for our choristers and APs. A lovely cultural town with dancing in the town square in the evening, as well as some delicious cuisines…with crepes being a highlight!
It’s going to be a busy couple of days for our choristers, with tomorrow (Monday), a full day of rehearsals at Pheasant Wood, with a concert at Fromelles Church with the Hunter Singers in the evening.
We’ll let you know how it all goes!
(To keep up to date with these WW1 Centenary tours, join our Facebook group – Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours here).