Monday marked our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir’s debut overseas performance, and what a way to begin being a part of the Ravivage de la Flame (the rekindling of the flame) under the Arc de Triomphe.
Our choristers did us proud with a stunning performance as part of the evening ceremony at the Eternal Flame.
The Arc de Triomphe might just seem like a massive structure at the centre of a very busy round-a-bout, but the actual history behind this monument makes singing below it an incredibly humbling experience.
The monument was built (with completion in 1836) to honour those who have fought for France, particularly in the Napoleonic Wars (led by Napoleon 1). The memorial is inscribed with the names of victories and the generals involved. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WW1 is under the arch, where the Eternal Flame burns (read more about the history here).
So, for our choristers, the honour of singing at this site was immense.
Eloise Dutton: “On Monday 17 April we were fortunate to have the privilege to sing at the lighting of the flame ceremony under the Arc de Triomphe. The police and army officials momenteraly stopped the traffic around the monument for our choir and the army veterans – some carrying the French flag – to cross the Champs-Élysées. The highlight of the performance was when we sang during the time of reflection and our sound resonated throughout the monument. There were some choristers including me who had tears in their eyes throughout the commemoration due to how beautiful we sounded. We were all dressed in our trench coats and performance uniforms when we walked around before and after the ceremony which looked a little funny to the people in the public. There were some hilarious expressions on the Parisians’ faces that were priceless. They did, however, love and appreciate our performance and thanked us extensively.”
Avril Hocking: “Being involved in such a major event last night was so exciting for the whole group. The traffic was stopped on a section of the Champs Élysées and around the Arc de Triomphe. We all walked behind French military personnel to the Arc de Triomphe and performed the French National Anthem, Amazing Grace, We Will Remember Them, La vie en Rose, Danny Boy and Waltzing Matilda in front of the general public and the French military personnel! The cold weather just made it all the better! This experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for me so far…”
Tara Elvery: “The highlight for me, was standing opposite the veterans of France. They were both proud to have done something on this scale for their country but they were also reminded of the trying times during war. It was beautiful to watch them during the ceremony – when we weren’t singing of course! The Parisians participating in the ceremony were incredibly welcoming towards us, despite the language difference. They were so appreciative of our performance and they took the time to tell each one of us. I think that our choir is something they haven’t experienced before and so it was so nice to see the veterans and dignitaries filming us with smiles on their faces.
…In Brisbane, our buildings don’t date back anywhere near as far as that of the buildings in Paris. So we would never have the opportunity to sing under a monument of such history and meaning. Also the feeling of being able to represent my country overseas was so enriching and made me proud to be Australian.The ceremony of the Eternal Flame was something that was obviously very sacred to the French. Mrs C was lucky enough to partake in this ceremony, holding the sword as they placed it over the eternal flame.”
The next few days will be equally exciting with a performance today (Tuesday) at the British Embassy, before the choir on Wednesday sets off to the Western Front to begin preparations for next Tuesday, with a number of very exciting community concerts planned.