Saturday was an amazing day for our choristers, as they get closer to Anzac Day.
And please mark it in your calendar – The Anzac Day Dawn Service will be broadcast on the ABC from 1.30pm – 2.45pm this Tuesday 25 April.
Saturday began with a rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial in the morning, was followed by a battlefield tour, before the town concert at the Covered Market, Villers-Bretonneux.
The tour included a visit to the 1st Australian Division Memorial, Pozieres (our Western Front Centenary Choir performed at the 100th anniversary here in July last year), along with Thiepval Memorial, Lochnagar Crater and The Somme 1916 Museum, Albert, which documents artefacts and stories of WW1, in a WW2 air raid tunnel.
Our choir took the time to explore Theipval Memorial which was an emphatic reminder that WW1 didn’t just claim a massive toll on Australian and New Zealand soldiers. This memorial is for the missing in the Somme, mainly featuring the names of British and South African soldiers.
The cemetery behind this memorial is built right next to what were the front lines in WW1. On 1 July, 1916 two British battalions advanced to the front line thinking that the Germans who had been defending this line were dead, but they were wrong. As the British approached, the Germans responded with machine gunfire. Australians on the Western Front 1914 – 1918 states that 20,000 British soldiers were killed and 40,000 wounded on this one day (read more here).
In honouring these soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir sang two songs at the memorial, In Flanders Fields (Music. John Jacobson, Text. Dr John McCrae, Arr. Roger Emerson) and We Will Remember Them (Text. Laurence Binyon, Music. Christopher Wilcock).
In the evening our choir was warmly welcomed by the Villers-Bretonneux community and were so proud to see the Aussie paraphernalia displayed throughout the small village in recognition of this French village’s appreciation of Australians. This included animals in the front lawn of the Villers-Bretonneux Town Hall.
Our choir put on a beautiful concert for the locals, many of whom had arrived in WW1 themed costumes!
It was lovely for our choristers to meet the locals, as well as one special audience member, Australian composer from Canberra, Heather Percy.
Heather composed Ne Les Oublions Jamais (We Will Never Forget) which is a favourite in our choir’s repertoire. The piece was commissioned as part of Voices of Birralee’s Voices from the Trenches Choral Festival. Heather was moved to tears by our choir’s beautiful rendition of her song and it was such a wonderful opportunity for our choristers to meet her.
As always, it was such a great opportunity to perform in Villers-Bretonneux and a big thank you to M. Eric Brisse from the Somme Region, and the Villers-Bretonneux Mayor, M. Patrick Simon, and Deputy-Mayor, M. Benoit Decottegnie and the community for having us and also for preparing a wonderful meal for our choristers and APs!
Sunday will include another rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial, with just a few days left until Anzac Day! Our choristers are getting very excited, and as you can tell by the snippets of beautiful music they are making – we already know they’ll do us proud!
#vobanzacdaychoir #lestweforget #ww1