Category Archives: Anzac Day 2017

The AP experience – What our accompanying people remember from our tours

Since our tours began as part of the WW1 Western Front Centenary Choir project, we’ve always shared experiences from our choristers’ perspectives.

So, for this post, we’ve taken a different approach, asking our APs (those non-choristers who have accompanied our tours) to share their memories.

Tour 1: 2015 Anzac Day Commemoration Choir (Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux and Service at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt) 

Philip and Sally Willington toured in support of their daughter Jane Murtagh and her husband, Brendan. The trip was especially relevant to the Willingtons having an ancestor who served on the Western Front from 1916 – 18.

2015 Anzac Day Commemoration Choir

The 2015 Anzac Day Commemoration Choir, taken by the Willingtons at the Victoria School.

“We had the great pleasure of accompanying the choir on the tour to Villers-Bretonneux for the Anzac Day Dawn Service and each of the other performances in the various battlefield towns around the area of the Somme.

“The afternoon service on Anzac Day at Bullecourt was very inspirational in beautiful spring afternoon weather. There seemed to be a great sense of relief that came over the members of the choir once they had finished their formal performance commitments after several days of touring. This relief culminated in some drinks in the main road of Bullecourt, and an impromptu performance of The Parting Glass as a show of thanks to the organiser of their tour. I understand it was the favourite song amongst the choir members and it was very emotional and inspirational.

“The members of the choir spent some time experiencing the history of the war at local museums and other displays and seemed to be quite affected by the tragedy. They were wonderful ambassadors for Australia, delicately balancing the celebration of the Anzac landing centenary and also demonstrating great respect for the tens of thousands of Australians who were killed or wounded in the area of the Somme.

“I am sure they impressed everyone who had the pleasure of seeing them perform with both their singing ability as a choir and also as young Australian ambassadors to an area of France that holds Australia in such high esteem.

“One highlight was the choir’s performance in the Villers-Bretonneux Covered Market with some of the local primary school children singing Waltzing Matilda which resulted in a rousing standing ovation and was very moving. It was a fitting end to an evening in the town which proudly displays the sign ‘Do Not Forget Australia’ in the nearby primary school playground, with local students apparently sings the Australian National Anthem every day.”

Tour 2: 2016 Anzac Day Centenary Choir (Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux and Service at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt) 

Miree Le Roy supported her daughter Isabelle Fielding on this tour.

“The Dawn Service was very organised but somewhat sterile (not to mention freezing), however, the service at Bullecourt was much more intimate and meaningful. The rain during the service seemed very fitting,” she said.

“I would highly recommend the experience. The visiting to the various memorial sites and museums is not something you would typically do except on a trip such as this.

“It gave me a greater understanding of a terrible time in history that we tend not to consider here in Australia.”

Tour 3: 2016 Western Front Centenary Choir (Centenary of the Battle of Fromelles and Pozieres) 

Kym Boon toured as an AP in support of Sarah Morton.

“The beauty and solemnity of the ceremonies was a highlight. It was great to be a part of it all and witness it in person.”

Other highlights included being able to “… share in some small way the choristers’ experience of this special event, to experience the beauty and magic of what the Birralee choirs can do in such an emotional tour, to learn in a more intimate way about what happened to those who defended our country during WW1.

“Observing the obvious bonds between the choristers and seeing them further develop during the tour was another highlight. The impromptu performances in Amiens and Albert cathedrals were intimate and beautiful and reflected the emotional investment of the choristers in the overall experience.”

Tour 4: 2017 Anzac Day Commemoration Choir (Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux and Service at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt) 

Brigitte Deeb accompanied her son Anthony, while being a manager of the tour. While she didn’t have a family member who served in WW1, she was grateful to learn so much and enjoyed hearing family stories from others.

Reflecting upon the services she attended, she noted:

“It was an almost sombre, eerie feeling, and I had to pinch myself a few times. It was a wonderful experience and one I would highly recommend to anyone considering being a part of such an event and tour,” she said.

For those future APs, Brigitte offered the following advice:

“Do some research on your family prior to tour to make it more memorable. There is quite a lot of free time for APs, particularly in Paris so make the most of this amazing city and make some plans.”

Claire Grebert supported Tilly Lawson on the same tour, with the family having two distant relatives remembered at The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux. She laid a wreath at the Anzac Day Dawn Service in their honour.

Reflecting on the service, she noted:

“It was very cold – the conditions 100 years ago must have been horrific, I also wondered about the experience of the locals and their interaction with the troops,” she said.

Experiences that will stay with Claire include “… the choir’s performances in the churches. The sound was magnificent. Also, the war graves were sobering.”

“Overall, the tour was excellent – the care taken at the beginning of the trip when we received our envelope of metro tickets and other items touched me with the thoughtfulness of it.”


The APs! Michael, Phil, Steve, Robyn and Sandra.

Tour 5: 2017 Western Front Centenary Choir (Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood, Belgium) 

Steven and Robyn Davey, parents of chorister, Georgia, attended the tour where our Western Front Centenary Choir performed at the Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood.

“It was so memorable to have the opportunity to join with members of the choir representing our county at these important events. On many occasions the emotions were overwhelming for the choristers and personally for us. It was extremely well organised in terms of performances, visits to cemeteries and memorials, museums, as well as accomodation. The Birralee tour organisers were amazing too. It was a very happy tour group as well.”

For the Daveys, there were many highlights including the choir singing at Menin Gate on two occasions, meeting the locals for choral performances, impromptu performances upon visits to various cemeteries, along with the Dawn Service at Polygon Wood.


Steve and Robyn Davey.

“As dawn broke, a mist rolled in on us. After entering via the impressive re-enactments during the Reflective Trail we experienced the haunting sound of a didgeridoo and later the bagpipes were played.

“It was a chilling reminder of what it might have been like for the young men who sacrificed all for their country over 100 years ago. The Australian Memorial sits high on the butte as a reminder of the sacrifices made.

“There are rows and rows of headstones as reminders of what occurred here and how significant it was. It was special to be a part of the commemoration with the choir, the Australian Army Band, Crown Princess of Belgium- Princess Astrid and our Governor General. It was great to be an Australian overseas.”


Thanks to all of the APs who have been involved in each tour and have added so much to the experience through supporting our choirs as a cheer squad and providing support during emotional experiences.

Are you a past AP? Tell us about your experience by commenting below, or email

Post 10 – Singing for our Anzacs

It has been an incredible week for our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir choristers, along with the management team and accompanying people.

On Monday, our choristers were given a rest day from rehearsals and snuck into the stunning Amiens Cathedral for a sneaky sing to test out the impressive acoustics, before heading on a battlefield tour, this time to Vimy Ridge. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was in April 1917, mainly involving the Canadian Corps.

This battlefield tour, among others, continued to build the choristers’ knowledge of WW1 and the importance of commemorating events in Australian and New Zealand’s history, while recognising the impact of this war, and others, on the rest of the world.


These tours and all the rehearsals were counting down to why our choir was in France; Anzac Day. And our choristers knew they were in for something incredible!

At 11pm Monday night our choristers were on the bus from Amiens, keen and ready to get to the grounds of the Australian National Memorial before the crowds. With lots of layers to brace for the onset of dawn, our choir warmed up in their greenroom marquee before providing pre-dawn entertainment.

All their preparation paid off – the choir sang beautifully. You can hear some of the pre-dawn performance here (thanks to Great War Centenary in the Somme for sharing via Facebook Live).

Tour manager / chorister Kate Thompson described what she was feeling between the dawn sets: “It’s quite hard to explain how it feels to be here. I remember learning about the war at school and hearing the stories when Birralee began its commemoration tours, but actually being here is like nothing else. Suddenly everything seems more real. More raw. The hardest thing is reading the remarks inscribed on the gravestones. Words from mothers to their lost sons, from wives to their husbands. When you hear of the vast numbers of lives lost, it’s easy to forget that each one of those boys had a mother, a father, a family, friends and a community who mourned for each and every individual. Singing with these young people has been an honour and I feel more privileged than ever to be a part of the Birralee family. It’s truly been an experience I shall never forget.” 


The Anzac Day Commemoration Choir performing at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day (Pic from Peta) 


The Villers-Bretonneux Millitary Cemetery by night (pic supplied by Susan). 


The choir’s professionalism and beautiful sound was recognised by a number of people yesterday, including Councillor for The Gap Ward Steve Toomey who shared the below after meeting the choir.

Along with the coverage on the ABC, the choir was featured on Channel 7 with a snippet of the stunning Amazing Grace. A huge thank you to Birralee mum Melanie for organising this.

Anzac Day Commemoration Choir Conductor Jenny Moon noted: The singers were exceptional at the Dawn Service and at Bullecourt in honouring all those who served and continue to do so. They have been fine ambassadors for Birralee and Australia and I want to thank each of them for their commitment and dedication to this choir and congratulate them on the truly beautiful music they have made together. Well done guys.” 

Each chorister will have their own highlight from the day, but for Anthony Deeb, his is rather unique. The choristers have met a number of incredibly talented people during the past week off rehearsals and this included didgeridoo player David Hudson.

At the end of the Dawn Service, in a beautiful gesture, David gifted his didgeridoo to Anthony.

Chorister Anthony Deeb: “It was a pleasure to meet Dave whilst rehearsing at the Australian National Memorial. After the Anzac Day Dawn Service I was completely overwhelmed when Dave presented me with his didgeridoo which he played during the service. Dave also signed it for me. I’m really looking forward to trying it out when we are back home. This is a wonderful gift which will be shared with the Birralee community.” 

After the Anzac Day Dawn Service, our choristers had a rest before participating in the afternoon’s commitments. Their first duty was unofficial as they observed and participated as the audience in the Bullecourt Town Service.

Straight after though, it was back to performance-mode as the choir walked with the crowd up the road to the Digger Memorial for the centenary service.


Participating in the Bullecourt Town Service (pic supplied by Peta). 


Walking with the crowd to the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt (pic supplied by Peta).


Performance ready at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt, with Jenny leading (pic supplied by Peta).

All in all, it was a very special day for our choristers and they sung beautifully, honouring the Anzacs through song. The day was massive, as choristers sung in a completely different environment to what they had ever done in the past. Voices of Birralee Founder and Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM said the choristers’ efforts were exemplary.

“The challenges of extreme low temperatures was overcome by a gallant effort on behalf of all the musicians. It was a moment that no one will ever forget. The camaraderie of the group is another wonderful outcome with friendships that have deepened. Sincere thanks to Justine and Jenny for their wonderful talents, to Brigitte and Peta for constantly being on call and to Stu and Kate who got a taste of parenting 30 adolescents for a fortnight! The accompanying parents were a pleasure to have involved and also made our job easier. And finally a huge thank you to the tour management team back home, Rochelle, Amirah, Margie, Maree and Paul… your support made this amazing experience possible. Thank you.” 

Anzac Day and the week surrounding it is sure to stay in our choristers’ minds well into the future. The tour has been successful with the help of a number of individuals and groups. Thank you to:

– The Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Thank you in particular to Director Shaun Carroll and Assistant Director Paul Richardson CSC OAM of the Western Front Section Commemorations Branch and Sue Edwards from Definitive Events.

– Eric Brisse and the various communities of Paris, Vignacourt, Villers-Bretonneux and Allonville for welcoming our choir so warmly.

– Brisbane City Council, along with a number of community groups at home for lending our choristers support, including local RSLs, the Ashgrove – The Gap Lions Club (through the Lions Community 100 Project and via other projects) and Link Vision for their support of Anthony.

– Major Jeff Cocks, conductor of Australian Army Band and ADF soloist Dave Andrews for working with our choir so beautifully.

– And to Linda Stemp for her bespoke poppies our choristers wore with pride.

Finally, to everyone following the journey from home, including the families and schools of the choristers – thank you for your ongoing support!

#vobanzacdaychoir #lestweforget #wewillrememberthem

Post 9: A full day of rehearsals as we get closer

Sunday was another day of rehearsals for our choristers at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux. Conductor Jenny Moon said the choristers are singing very well, but the significance of the occasion has well and truly set in.

Our choristers are having a well deserved break from rehearsals today (Monday) prior to Tuesday.

Chorister, Lauren Woolrych: “I would love to say that working with all of the people at Villers-Bretonneux in preparation for Anzac Day has been a pleasure. I am really excited for Anzac Day as I get the opportunity to pay respect to my past relatives and also other Australians that have given so much to protect us.”


The Australian National Memorial (pic supplied by Lauren). 

Chorister Caitlin Freeman: “Yesterday was a great, but exhausting day. We had rehearsals at Villers-Bretonneux where we ran through the service and the program. I came prepared for the cold by wearing nine layers all together but after lunch it warmed up and we ended up not needing them anyway. It was pretty tiring because it was a lot of sitting around and waiting. I am so excited for Anzac Day and I can’t wait to represent all those fallen soldiers and my country. After all of the memorials we have visited and the museums we have seen, I think we all have a bit more of an understanding as to what it was like. This makes the experience so much more worthwhile and memorable. I can’t wait to do my family proud and wear my relatives’ medals. I am so proud of them and their sacrifice.”

While the choristers were working hard rehearsing, some of our choristers’ parents checked out the local sites. Margaret Warren found Jules Verne, the French novelist’s house Sunday afternoon in Amiens. This is a picture of the five floor spiral staircase to the attic which she climbed!


Jules Vern’s House, Amiens (Pic supplied by Margaret Warren)

Today, Monday, has included more exploring, with a visit to Vimy Ridge. We’ve also been told that the choir snuck into the acoustically and visually stunning The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens to perform a few songs.

And just a reminder for those in Australia, the Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux will be broadcast from 1.30pm – 2.45pm on the ABC tomorrow (25 April).

All the best to our choristers for the big day tomorrow. They will perform at the Anzac Day Dawn Service, followed by the centenary service of the Battle of Bullecourt, later in the afternoon.

We know they’ll do us proud!

#vobanzacdaychoir #ww1 #lestweforget

Post 8: Battlefield tour & meeting the people of Villers-Bretonneux

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Jenny Moon - IMG_8941

Our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir outside the Villers-Bretonneux Town Hall (pic supplied Jenny)

Jenny Moon - IMG_8949

Our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir in Villers-Bretonneux with Deputy Mayor M. Benoit Decottegnie (pic supplied by Jenny)


Our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir at the Victoria School (pic supplied by John W)

Our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir at the Victoria School, Villers-Bretonneux (pic supplied by John W)

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.

Julie Christiansen - IMG_0688

Our choristers meet Heather Percy, composer of Ne Les Oublions Jamais (We Will Never Forget). (pic by Julie C)

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

More soon.

#vobanzacdaychoir #lestweforget #ww1

Post 7: Arriving to ANM, Villers-Bretonneux

A lot has happened since our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir met up last Friday in Paris!

And yesterday our choir had another busy day of rehearsals, beginning with the Australian Army Band in Amiens, before heading for the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux.

The photos below were taken at 10.30am…and as you can see our choristers were really enjoying the views during the morning bus ride through lovely French villages and the countryside.

They’ve had a big week!

Our choristers were amazed when they set foot at the Australian National Memorial for the first time. The memorial lists the names of some 11,000 Australians missing in France, with a number of graves where soldiers remain unidentified and the tombstones note, ‘known unto God’.

The memorial is in Villers-Bretonneux, a town where our Anzacs had one of their greatest victories of WW1. Two Australian brigades were assigned by the British to take back Villers-Bretonneux from the Germans. It was believed that had the Germans advanced to Amiens, they would have won the war (there’s a story here by the ABC which is a good summary of the event on 24 – 25 April, 1918).

On Friday, our choristers were able to explore the sacred site of the memorial between rehearsals.

Brigitte Deeb - IMG_0682

The Australian National Memorial (pic by Brigitte)

Chorister Rachel Bond: “Our first official day of rehearsal on site at the Australian National Memorial was amazing. As we arrived, it was almost impossible to believe we were finally there after all the counting down and hard work we had done to prepare. While we were rehearsing songs with the band such as Danny Boy, We Will Remember Them and Requiem for a Soldier and looking out over rows of graves and endless plains of fields in the distance, it felt as if we were singing directly to the soldiers who each made a selfless sacrifice for their nation. The experience was incredibly moving and many choristers shed a tear as the harsh reality of the tragedy of war set in.

Brigitte Deeb - IMG_0677

Choristers Jody Hurdial, Anthony Deeb and Louis Backstrom (pic by Brigitte)

Chorister Anthony Deeb: “Today the realisation of what we are here for hit me. Rehearsing with the Australian Army Band and being out at the ANM was incredible. We climbed to the top of the tower and I was told of what lay before me. I’m really looking forward to performing on Anzac Day.” 

Brigitte Deeb - IMG_0675

Preparations are underway for Anzac Day with the chairs set for the audience, along with greenrooms for the various VIPs and groups participating, including our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir (pic by Brigitte)

Choristers Ellie Minto and Libby Lynch have been working on a short poem together to express the importance of this trip. Seeing wording on a gravestone at the Australian National Memorial inspired this beautiful poem.

Dawn’s Tale – by Ellie Minto and Libby Lynch

Dawn tells no tale greater than war
And shines light upon our fields and shores
With hearts of pride and bravery
Our men left home for king and country

The spoils of war were all but none
And yet our men fought as one
A heart, a soul, a country, a kin,
A band of brothers without and within

The letters home were streaked with ink
As soldiers stood armed at the brink
Of death and war. They hoped and feared
And from every sacrifice we revered

Dawn tells no tale greater than war
And shines light upon heaven’s door
The arms of angels, weighted with sorrow,
carried our men unto tomorrow

And now we walk the fields of green
With white stone columns laced with wreaths
It’s our hearts now that break from the loss
Of men whose stones shall bare no cross

No names, no grave, no sign of place
But for the tears left on our face
The home they left so long ago
Shall now be protected from the foe

Dawn tells no tale greater than war
And shines light on our ANZACS, forever more.
“Not goodbye, but goodnight.
We shall all meet in the morning light.”

Brigitte Deeb - IMG_0686

Our choristers rehearse for the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial (pic by Brigitte)

A note from Voices of Birralee Founder & Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM: It has been so lovely working with Major Jeff Cocks , conductor of Australian Army Band. Jeff and his wife Simone, who is also an ADF soloist, lived in Brisbane for many years with their two sons. Jeff is one of those rare band conductors who understands how to change his gesture for singers. His musicality is making our job so much more enjoyable and the music is expressive. The ADF soloist for this Anzac Day service is Dave Andrews from Ferny Hills. (He runs the gymnastics club at Ferny Hills in his spare time!) He is such a lovely guy and his singing is just perfect for this occasion.

Also Jenny Moon (Anzac Day Commemoration Choir conductor) is doing a wonderful job! The kids are sounding great! Jenny was enjoying herself so much yesterday at the ANM, that you might have caught a glimpse of her adding some sassy choreography to her conducting of La Vien en Rose! Much to the amusement of the DVA staff.” 

Today (Saturday) our choristers will take part in another rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial, before heading on a battlefield to Pozieres, Thiepval Memorial and  Lochnagar.

Tonight they will meet the people of Villers-Bretonneux for a town concert.

More soon!

#vobanzacdaychoir #lestweforget #ww1


Post 6: The Digger Memorial and Vignacourt hospitality


Two incredible experiences were packed into Thursday for our choristers.

Enjoying some down time in the morning to check out the town of Amiens, the Anzac Day Commemoration Choir then attended the first of the official rehearsals, this time at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt.


The Digger Memorial commemorates the lives lost in WW1, while honouring the bravery of our Australian soldiers during the two Battles of Bullecourt, the first beginning on 11 April 1917 which was considered a disaster. In the second from 3 May, the Australians took back part of the Hindenburg Line (a German defensive position), however, it was never considered a strategic win. Through both battles, the AIF lost 10,000 soldiers (read more here).

Thursday was a good chance to get a sense of what our choristers can expect in the centenary service of the Battle of Bullecourt on Anzac Day afternoon. This included rehearsing with the Australian Army Band.


Jenny Moon - IMG_8856

The Digger Memorial, Bullecourt (pic by Jenny)

The ‘Digger” which overlooks the town of Bullecourt and surrounding fields was sculptured by Melbourne’s Peter Corlett for Anzac Day 1993. Corlett was instructed that the digger should reflect the WW1 Australian soldier. Soon after he began the process, he discovered his father had actually served in Bullecourt in WW1.

“I stood in the field and touched the cairn upon which my sculpture will eventually rest and felt a wave of emotion run through me. I felt my dad’s presence and everything went quiet.”  – Peter Corlett, ‘Sculptor captures his father’s spirit’, unsourced and undated newspaper article, Office of Australian War Graves file (as seen – The Bullecourt Digger – Bullecourt, France, Australians on the Western Front, link to article).

After rehearsals, the choristers and APs visited the museum – Maison des Australiens in Vignacourt to discover the history of this town and the stories of our Anzacs being here 100 years ago.

Vignacourt, a small town in the Somme was behind the front lines during WW1 and often used as a refuge. It is here where local Louis Thuillier and his wife turned their home into a photography studio capturing images of the many Australian and other soldiers passing through (more info Australian War Memorial Yahoo 7 – Sunday Night)

Thursday evening, our choristers performed their second town concert at the beautiful church, Eglise Saint-Firmin.

Chorister Pepper Churchill: “The locals were lovely, and went out of their way to overcome the language barrier, and made us feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. We sang a large portion of our repertoire. My favourite song that we sang was Danny Boy, because we dedicated it to the town doctor who had passed away a few days ago, adding an extra layer of emotion, and establishing a connection between the choir and the local people. 

Gai Woolrych - IMG_5957

Outside the beautiful Eglise Saint-Firmin, Vignacourt. (pic by Gai)

Chorister Avril Hocking: “The Vignacourt locals last night were such a cheerful bunch. During the concert, we performed a number of pieces including some of our favourites being The Ground, Ne Les Oublions Jamais and Danny Boy… after a number of standing ovations from the audience, we all made our way to the village hall to enjoy a beautiful dinner created by the children from the local youth club.” 

Brigitte Deeb - IMG_0649

Dinner in Vignacourt was prepared by the local youth – such a lovely sentiment! (pic by Brigitte).

And it’s not just the choristers who are soaking up the history of these wonderful towns and meeting the friendly locals. Our Accompanying People (APs) are along for the ride, while of course being our choir’s groupies at the local concerts.

AP Gai Woolrych: “Us APs are living the highlife, getting to see all these wonderful places and enjoying amazing concerts put together by Julie, Jenny, Justine, the choir and the team. The choir was incredible last night (in Vignacourt) and I don’t think the locals wanted it to ever finish. In Flanders Fields and The Ground were standouts for me, although all the songs were brilliant. The concert was held in an amazing church Eglise Saint-Firmin and was followed by a wonderful dinner held in the local community hall. These small villages are really special. Some APs managed to visit the war museum at Albert earlier in the day which is sited underground in an old bomb shelter. It was really worth the visit.”

A special thank you again to M. Eric Brisse for helping to set up the town concerts and a number of other activities for our choristers, along with the Mayor of Vignacourt, M. Stéphane Ducrotoy and the Vignacourt community for welcoming our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir so warmly!

Today (Friday) our choristers will partake in an important rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux as the countdown begins for Anzac Day.

More soon.

#vobanzacdaychoir #ww1 #lestweforget

Post 5: En route to the Somme and meeting the people of Allonville

What a wonderful Wednesday our choristers had – travelling from Paris to Amiens and then performing for the wonderful people of Allonville!


Getting out of the city (from Jack)


View from the accommodation in Amiens (by Jack)

The trip to Amiens included stopping at Musee de l’Armistice, Compiègne to observe WW1 artefacts, with particular reference to Armistice Day. This was a good chance for our choristers to brush up on their knowledge of WW1 for the days ahead.



Musee de l’Armistice, Compiègne (pic by Gai)

But the highlight of the day was exploring the town of Allonville. Our choristers visited the Allonville Communal Cemetery which has 78 Commonwealth burials from WW1 (more here).

The choristers were in awe of the beautiful church, Saint-Jean Baptiste Church of Allonville,  they would perform in that evening, while being so appreciative of the reception from the local townspeople.

Ciaran Kennedy: The church wasn’t as extravagant as something such as Notre Dame, but this church had a lot more character. It had more of a ‘personable’ aspect rather than the ‘wow’ factor. I spoke to a man named Jacques last night and he told me about the church. He was partly upset that they couldn’t achieve the funds required to maintain the building because of the declining numbers in Catholicism. The community were most appreciative of our performance and I thoroughly enjoyed singing for them because of how well we were received and how much they enjoyed it. We paid a visit to the cemetery before our concert and it was very different to the huge cemetery of Paris. The cemetery was small but that’s what made me think about how most of these people here were from this community. They knew most of the people they lay down beside and it really helped me make a connection with the people and helped me understand what this experience is all about. It’s not just the soldiers that were affected, it’s the families and friends that were left behind through their sacrifice.


(pic by Jack)

Avril Hocking: The Allonville community who came to our performance last night were absolutely beautiful! They seemed so excited to hear us, meet us and feed us… We sang a wide variety of pieces ranging from our remembrance pieces to our upbeat light-hearted pieces, including two encores!! We shared dinner with the community after the performance and there definitely wasn’t any shortage of food! The people of Allonville went above and beyond to look after us and I’m very grateful to have been able to experience it all with such beautiful people – both Birralee and the Allonville community!

Anzac Day Commemoration Choir Conductor Jenny Moon: Tonight we sang for the community of Allonville. Performing to a full church, the singers gave a 75 minute concert receiving two standing ovations. The beautiful acoustics of the church lent themselves perfectly to our repertoire and the audience was incredibly welcoming and appreciative. The crowd favourite was the World War One Medley, with the audience instantly recognising and clapping along to It’s A Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles. We have had three concerts in three days, all very different venues, experiences and audiences. A representative from the Australian Embassy summed it up last night when she said how proud they were of these young ambassadors who are sharing their music with such energy, team commitment and obvious enjoyment. 

A very special thank you to M. Eric Brisse from the Somme region for arranging the concert in Allonville, and the upcoming concerts, and to the Allonville Mayor, M. Joël Delrue and Deputy-Mayor, M. Lemaire, along with the incredibly hospitable and supportive community.

Today the choristers have their first official rehearsal at the The Digger Memorial in Bullecourt, where they will perform in the centennial service Anzac Day afternoon.

This evening (Thursday), they will perform at their second town concert, this time in Vignacourt.

We look forward to sharing their ongoing adventure through these beautiful French communities.

#vobanzacdaychoir #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget