The choir was on the bus at 7.45am ready to begin the day by heading to a nearby hall to rehearse music with the Australian Army Band for two services.
The choir will perform at Menin Gate, Ypres again on Monday night, at a service with the band, while they also rehearsed for Tuesday morning’s Dawn Service for the Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood.
The choristers then headed to Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke where the centenary service will be held. It was a hive of activity, with everything being set up for the significant event, including lighting, staging, chairs for attendees and lots more.
We were told by the DVA they chose for this service to be at Polygon Wood because the battle within the Third Battle of Ypres is lesser known than others, despite it claiming some of the most Australian casualties (5,770).
The Dawn Service on Tuesday morning will be an incredibly moving event for both the choristers and audience. The audience will walk through the wood before getting to the cemetery and along the way will view installations showing what the site would have looked like 100 years ago.
Our choir will perform at the Spirit of Place service (live-streamed on YouTube – we’ll share a link soon!) and then the Dawn Service broadcast via the ABC at 1.30pm Australian time.
While the choir was rehearsing, the APs were off exploring In Flanders Fields Museum and other sites of Ypres, before joining the choir again after rehearsals to visit Tyne Cot Cemetery for the afternoon.
This cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world. Located in Zonnebeke, it lays to rest 11,954 soldiers, with over 8,300 unknown. Over 1300 soldiers buried here are Australian.
In most war cemeteries in Europe, the white headstones are usually lined up perfectly, however (as we were told by the DVA earlier in the day), when the headstones are close together, or positioned in isolation, it means the soldier/s were buried where they fell.
The sobering sight showcased the emphatic impact of WW1 and the massive toll on life.
After this visit, the crew headed to Christ Church, Lille in France for a concert with local choir, The International Singers.
It was such a fun concert where we performed a number of songs from our repertoire, with two pieces sung with The International Singers to conclude the concert.
The International Singers welcomed us so warmly, as did the community who came to watch and it was wonderful to see just how much these choristers loved sharing music as much as we do.
A huge thank you to The International Singers for having us, including Simon, Rowan and Nick. Also thank you to Vicar Canon Debbie Flach and Ms Rosemary Uylett.
Today our choir is ready for another day of rehearsals at Buttes New British Cemetery, before heading to our next accommodation in Kortrijk.
#belvob2017 #ww1 #wewillrememberthem