As we wish Voices of Birralee’s Western Front Centenary Choir all the best for its upcoming tour (28 June – 5 July), we invite you to follow the choir’s journey via this blog, as they perform to many communities from Paris to Hamel, sharing beautiful music, while discovering the significance of the Battle of Hamel in the First World War.
These tours, which are a part of Voices of Birralee’s five-year commitment to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, are incredible opportunities for choristers to share their music with the world, while discovering the Anzac journey during the First World War and the relationships forged, particularly with France.
Earlier this month, at the Western Front Centenary Choir’s Dedication Service & Concert, a former tourer, Amirah Farrell presented a beautiful speech about her experience, wishing the choristers well on their journey.
“I have been fortunate enough to attend three centenary services on the Western Front – one as an audience member and two as a chorister. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the experiences I have had over this time.
“We understand Australia’s coming of age in the context of Gallipoli – yet the Anzac Spirit lives on, along the Western Front – not in an abstract sense, but in a very concrete way.
“The first service I attended on the Western Front was as an audience member at the 2016 Anzac day ceremony. I had been travelling for 10 months and this was my final stop. When I exited the train station at Amiens I was met with a puzzling and overwhelming sight – murals bearing images of Australian soldiers, metres high, that read ‘Merci’ on one side, ‘Thanks’ on the other. Every shop in Amiens has flags that welcome those from Australia and New Zealand and at night, the town hall is illuminated with our flags. I remember feeling safe, and overwhelmed at the prospect of being in a place that somehow, unexpectedly, honoured Australians. Every community that I have visited there has been invested in extending a hand of friendship to us, young Australians who have never known conflict of the scale that has left scars on the French countryside.
“When the people in France and Belgium have extended the hand of friendship, when they have preserved the memories of Anzacs in their towns for 100 years, I have sometimes felt at a loss at to what I have to offer them in return. What I have learned through performing for the communities of Fromelles, Allonville, Villers-Bretonneux, Lille and Kortrijk and what I know others have experienced in Vignacourt and Bailleul is that music is what we can offer them as our token of friendship and remembrance. Every time I have sung in France, I have been moved by the people that are moved by us. Music is a great unifier – it can be enjoyed regardless of the language you speak or the beliefs you hold because it evokes different emotions in everyone who hears it and when we sing we share a new experience with everyone listening, and each other.
“The battlefields of the Western Front today are peaceful and terribly beautiful. Commonwealth cemeteries have been maintained immaculately and trees planted a century ago stand tall and graceful, watching over row upon row of headstones. What I have learned from being there and from being part of the services, is that Anzac Day and war commemorations are not about glorifying war or conflict, condemning the ‘other’ or honouring death.
“When you are there in the blaring summer sun, commemorating the Battle of Hamel which was one of Australia’s most definitive and efficient victories, you will be remembering both those who were lost and those who lived on. Honouring those who made the best out of a dire situation, those who were afraid and persevered nonetheless. And, you will be preserving a friendship with communities who just like us have moved on from the war. We remember the First World War because we want peace and though we share a mutual gratitude with these people, our relationship 100 years on is different. I have relished the opportunity to not just remember and be thankful, but to just be people, sharing music and stories, and I know you will too.”
No doubt our choristers will have an incredible week of performance and discovery, led by a talented artistic team, their conductor Voices of Birralee Founder & Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM, Assistant Conductor Brendan Murtagh and accompanists, Jenni Flemming (piano) and Gwyn Roberts (cello).
If you’re in France, we’d love to see you at the some (or all) of the following:
6.30pm Thursday 28 June 2018: Ravivage de la Flame sous l’Arc de, Triomphe, Paris (nightly remembrance ceremony).
7pm Saturday 30 June 2018: Choral Concert, Eglise Saint Vaast, Bailleul (free entry)
6pm Sunday 1 July 2018: Choral Concert, Église Saint-Quentin, Halloy-Lès-Pernois, Halloy-les Pernois (free entry)
5.30pm Monday 2 July 2018: Choral Concert, Cathédrale Notre Dame, Amiens (free entry)
We invite you to follow our touring choir’s journey via this blog by hovering your mouse on the bottom right hand corner of this page and entering your email address.
We also invite you to join the “Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours” Facebook page.