Day 5: On site rehearsals begin at Le Hamel

Today the choristers began their day with a visit to the Sir John Monash Centre, which sits behind the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux.

The site presented a phenomenal recount of the stories, horror and fate of Australian soldiers who fought in WWI and the many battles fought on the Western Front.

There were two quotes that stood out to the choristers the most:

“When the Australians came to France, the French people expected a great deal of you… We knew that you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the very beginning you would astonish the whole continent with your valour.” Spoken by French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau to the Australian troops after the war was won. 

Chorister Sally Christiansen said the group was inspired to hear about Monash’s theory on warfare which ultimately led Australian troops to reclaim the French villages and never loose ground. Resonating well with the choristers, Monash equated the organisation of troops to music.

Monash said: “A perfected modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases.”

The group’s AP and translator, Michael Murtagh said the centre was an overwhelming experience.

“Everyone follows a trail with an app and earphones in so it becomes a very private affair with only occasional glances exchanged with fellow visitors. It culminates in a multi-media screen show complete with a smoke machine, strobe lighting, machine gun fire and bombs exploding all around!” he said. 

 

While at the Australian National Memorial, the group observed the wall which hosts the names of 11,000 troops recorded as missing.

Choristers Maddie and Mark, who toured in Voices of Birralee’s first choir as part of the DVA commitment in 2015, relished the chance to find their ancestors’ names on the wall, once again.

“Myself and fellow chorister and friend, Mark had great uncles that fought with the 26th battalion on the Western Front,” Maddie said.

“We placed a bunch of wildflowers in the shadow of the remembrance wall that holds their names and wondered what they would think of our presence and if they were friends.” 

The group then headed to Le Hamel, Australian Corps Memorial for the rehearsal on-site for Wednesday’s performance.

The weather continued to be hot, but the choristers ran their music smoothly with the Australian Army Band.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

Julie and the choir in the shade at the memorial (pic by Sally)

After, the group ventured back to Amiens for the next element of the day, a performance.

“A highlight of the day was our late afternoon performance at the acclaimed original ‘Notre Dame Cathedral’ in Amiens. It was a once in a life time experience and a beautiful concert,” Sally said.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

The choir at Amiens Cathedral (pic by Rhonda)

Michael added, “The vastness was in stark contrast to other intimate venues and offered a very different acoustic which could have challenged our chorale. It was a beautiful concert and we must have done something right as the recteur/curé invited us behind the locked gates into the choir stalls dating from 1501 – 1508. It contained 3,000 intricate carvings in the solid wood retelling biblical stories in great detail.”

A special moment was the Australian Army Band soloist Tanya joining the choir to sing Amazing Grace.

Some of the crew came back to the cathedral later in the evening for the light show which was spectacular – so bright and colourful.

Today (on Tuesday) our choristers will participate in another rehearsal at Le Hamel, before visiting more historical sites including Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial and Thiepval Memorial.

More soon!

EDIT ON WAYS TO TUNE INTO THE CENTENARY OF THE BATTLE OF HAMEL SERVICE ON WEDNESDAY 4 JULY 2018: 

6pm. The ABC will now be broadcasting the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel live. (It will be repeated at 10am Thursday)
6pm. Live via the Anzac Centenary Facebook page
6pm. Via the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs​’s Youtube channel here.
(Times listed above are AEST) 

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#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

 

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