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What was your 2017 highlight? Let us know!

As we get closer to the end of the year, we’ve decided to base this blog on some of the many Voices of Birralee highlights for 2017. We’ve gone into detail on a few below, but you can check out the full list here.

Here we go: 


  • Birralee started back for 2017, with BBV uniting for its focus camp at Twin Waters.


  • The first instalment of the Voices from the Trenches Choral Festival was held at St Lawrence’s College, involving the Birralee Singers, Birralee Blokes and 2017 Anzac Day Commemoration Choir, along with various school choirs. The entire three-part project was proudly supported by the Queensland Government.



  • We farewelled our 2017 Anzac Day Commemoration Choir – our youngest group to perform in our Western Front Centenary Choir Touring Project as part of our commitment to the DVA.  Their massive tour culminated in performing at Anzac Day services at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux and at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt, France. Catch up on their tour via their blogging series here.






  • Our Birralee Piccolos, Kids and BBV delighted many at our annual Cupcake & Cushion Concert at The Old Museum. This year’s concert was held as a special Mother’s Day treat.
  • Resonance of Birralee took part in the Queensland Pops Orchestra’s Celtic Spectacular at QPAC and Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre.
  • Birralee was back at the Empire Theatre a week after Celtic Spectacular with the second concert of the Voices from the Trenches Choral Festival which united Birralee and Toowoomba school and community choirs to honour our Anzacs.


  • Resonance of Birralee, BBV and the Birralee Blokes performed a mid-year concert, A World Full of Music at the Gehrmann Theatre, Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School.


  • From 29 June – 1 July a highly successful Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival was held, involving around 400 male singers from across the country, with some from Japan. The finale of Pemulwuy took on the Voices from the Trenches theme and was held at QPAC’s Concert Hall.

  • Our Resonance of Birralee choir, with select BBV members performed in the Queensland Music Festival’s You’re the Voice event, raising awareness of domestic violence. A surprise guest performer was The Voice himself, John Farnham.
You're the Voice

Pic by Tony Forbes


  • Our Birralee Recycled ‘give it a go community choir’ project proved strong in its second year as Peter Ingram and Brendan Murtagh led around 60 choristers in their debut concert at the Young & the Recycled, which also involved the Birralee Singers and September’s Western Front Centenary Choir.
  • The annual Young Voices Festival involved the Birralee Kids with fellow school choirs.


  • Birralee Piccolos’ conductor Katherine Ruhle initiated the ensemble’s first Teddy Bears’ Picnic which was an afternoon of fun singing and teddy bear dancing.
  • The Postcards Trivia Night was held, co-hosted by the Ashgrove – the Gap Lions Club to raise funds for our touring projects.
  • Our Western Front Centenary Choir, made up of 16 choristers set off on a tour to perform at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Polygon Wood, Belgium. Catch up on the blogging tour here.

  • Around 60 Birralee Singers were also on tour in September, singing across Tasmania.  Catch up on their tour blogging series here.


  • Led by Paul Holley OAM, Resonance of Birralee performed an emotive Annelies, a full choral work based on the diary of Anne Frank, by James Whitbourn. Resonance were joined by soloist Cara Fox and a chamber ensemble comprising Julie Elvery, Josie Pollicina, Gwyn Roberts and Brendan Murtagh.

Resonance of Birralee perform Annelies.

And still to come…


  • Our Birralee Singers, with some BBV members performed as the children’s chorus in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Carmen In-Concert on 25 November.

DECEMBER: Choristers across our organisation were involved in a swag of concerts over the festive season, including:

  • Resonance of Birralee, Sing Noel, St John’s Cathedral
  • BBV and Resonance performed in Queensland Ballet’s The Nutcracker (QPAC).
  • BBV with Birralee Singers performed in Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols
  • The Birralee Singers performed at South Bank’s Christmas Village 
  • Birralee Singers, BBV, Resonance of Birralee, Birralee Recycled and alumni performed at Spirit of Christmas (QPAC)


What was your 2017 highlight? Send any comments or photos, to be included in the blog! Or comment below!

Presenting major works, approaching Annelies

In October, Voices of Birralee’s young adult choir Resonance of Birralee will present James Whitbourn’s major choral work, Annelies, based on the diary of Anne Frank. VOB_Annelies_Poster_FINAL

This performance, featuring guest musicians, and conducted by Paul Holley OAM, will explore the incredibly emotive themes of Anne Frank’s journey while she and her family were hidden in an attic for two years, from 1942 – 1944, during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

It’s bound to be an incredibly moving concert, and below we find out why our choristers are enjoying learning this challenging and emotive piece.


Annelies isn’t the only major choral work Resonance of Birralee has undertaken.

In 2015, the choir performed the incredible The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins. This piece took the audience through a journey to discover the major effect of war, including on people, the landscape and animals.


Two concerts of Annelies will be held, at 3pm and 7.30pm on Saturday 14 October 2017, at the Gehrmann Theatre, Brisbane Girls Grammar School.

Book your tickets now for an early bird price of $28 each, with tickets increasing to $38 each after 1 October.

Tickets available here.

Bravo to Birralee’s valuable volunteers!

Volunteers are an incredible asset to many community organisations, and for Voices of Birralee, this is no exception. 

We would not achieve what we do without our passionate volunteers – they provide a valuable human resource, while using their skills and experience to enhance our activities. They help us build and enrich our Birralee community by bringing their personality and vibrancy to our programs. There are always lots of laughs and fun to be had with our volunteers and we, as an organisation, are truly grateful for their involvement. 

Our volunteers help across multiple roles:
  • Being a part of our executive, public fund and the Harley Mead Legacy committees 
  • Choir managers 
  • Choir librarians 
  • Choir uniform managers 
  • Assisting with supervision roles for our younger choirs at large events
  • Front of house at concerts – selling tickets, raffle tickets, CDs, assisting at the door, ushering 
  • Stage management, including choir wrangling 
  • Collating the sheet music and start up packs for the start of our Birralee year
  • Stuffing information packs for major festivals e.g., Pemulwuy 
  • Working bees at the Birralee venue including sorting the uniform shop 
  • Being involved in fundraising initiatives – donating as well as approaching organisations for support 
  • Transporting choir risers and instruments to concerts 
  • Photography and videography at our concerts 
  • Providing canteen / catering at concerts / festivals 
  • Making the 500 poppies for our Pemulwuy festival 
  • Tour supervisors and all that goes with being a part of a touring team 

In the above roles (and likely more!), our volunteers make such a difference, not just to our choristers’ experiences, but also to our conductors’. Katherine Ruhle, conductor of our youngest ensemble, the Birralee Piccolos explains: 

“I couldn’t do my job without volunteers – they are fantastic! I love that I can focus on the children and their singing while the volunteers quietly look after administration, encourage a tired child to join in, give a thumbs up to a child who is trying their best, clean up the floor when a water bottle is accidentally spilt and are there to answer questions from parents. And you should hear their voices – amazing!  We are so lucky in Piccolos to have such lovely singers support our choir – it means that we can sing in canon and do part work at a very young age. ” 

So, who are some (of our many) valuable volunteers? 

What is your role at Birralee and when did you start? 

Brigitte Deeb with her son Anthony. 

I am one of the managers of the Birralee Blokes. I became a volunteer when my son Anthony started in 2007. 


Why do you volunteer? 
I volunteer at Birralee as I love being a part of such a wonderful community of people – from staff, to fellow volunteers, to all the wonderful families I have met along the way. I enjoy giving back especially as I see the support given to my son Anthony over the last 10 years as well.


What do you do away from Birralee? 
I work part time as a Human Resources Advisor at Powerlink Queensland. Hobbies include cooking, baking and travelling. I also like to support Vision Australia and Guide Dogs as a volunteer. 
What value do you think volunteers add to an organisation like Birralee?
I like to think that myself and fellow volunteers add support to staff and choristers at Birralee. Actually, I’m very happy to support in any way I can and feel valued and appreciated if asked to help. Life is very busy, but I feel community organisations, such as Birralee, need the support of volunteers to continue to grow.

“I currently volunteer as BBV’s librarian. I feel privileged to assist the Artistic Team to do what they do best in providing incredible choral training and inspirational musical experiences. Birralee is an organisation with a voice and heart with values that resonate with my family’s. Having Ellen in Voices and James in Blokes has allowed me to see first hand the thought, effort and genuine care for the choristers’ musical development and wellbeing that Julie, Jenny, Paul and Kate continuously provide. The nice thing about volunteering is that everyone brings something different – from organisational, communication or first aid skills, to a willingness to listen and kindness, to an ability to supply a safety pin when someone’s pants have split just as they are about to go on stage! There is a great sense of teamwork and camaraderie, with lots of laughs and friendships made. As a well established organisation, there are many well thought out protocols and mentoring systems to help volunteers navigate tours and tasks. For me, to travel with these incredible young people along their musical journey is very rewarding. Away from Birralee I work full-time as a Practice Manager at our family psychiatric practice and in my spare time, I love spending time with my family, long walks, painting, illustrating and reading.”

Birralee Singers Manager (Saturday) 
When did your involvement with Birralee begin? 
I came to a rehearsal for Piccolos when Kiera was six-years-old in 2012 and we have been with Birralee for five years now.
Why did you decide to volunteer? 
I volunteered because I watched how much enjoyment singing gave the children. The passion from the teachers, helpers and young assistants was inspiring. I enjoy how during practice a song will come together and how beautiful it sounds in its final form. 
Tell us what else you do – have you done any other volunteering?
I have been a football (soccer) coach for children, over 35’s men and a number of women’s teams. I have also been involved in volunteering work in Peru and Ecuador.
What value do you think volunteers add to Birralee? 
I think that the volunteers are a part of the whole team and we have a role to keep calmness when there is madness, support the choristers, while assisting staff. It is very rewarding to be a volunteer with Birralee. You feel that you are contributing in a small way to a great event or performance.
What is your role at Birralee and when did you become a volunteer? 
I am the uniform co-ordinator for BBV, Co-Manager along with Tony Forbes MichelleForbes(my clever husband) and a general Jill of all trades when needed. 

I became a volunteer in 2008 when my eldest daughter Shelby was involved in the then, Birralee Southside Singers, when the previous manager stepped down. 

Why do you volunteer and what do you enjoy about being involved with Birralee? 

I volunteer because I love to watch my children and my Birralee families’ children grow with their experiences. I love seeing my children exposed to such amazing opportunities, but most of all we get to spend time as a family.  I also enjoy meeting and interacting with so many clever, talented staff and other volunteers. 
Tell us what else you do or if you’ve volunteered previously?  
I am currently a Teaching Assistant at Faith Lutheran College, Redlands and have been for 11 years, mainly working with Prep students. My hobbies include family tree research, dabbling in wooden spoon carving, collecting mid-century modern items that catch my eye and selling other old stuff on eBay (mainly to feed my mid-century modern habit). The other volunteering I’ve done has included as a treasurer and committee member for Safety House (for 10 years), being a school craft group coordinator and with the P&FA committee and school fete. 
What value do you think volunteers add to Birralee? 
Volunteers add their individual skills to Birralee, whether a large or small contribution, they are able to be there to support and help in many ways. Volunteering also gives an amazing bird’s eye view of the organisation, plus you get to listen to lovely music. 


What is your role at Birralee? 
I am the manager of the Wednesday Piccolos. This is my first year in the role.
Why do you volunteer? 
Both my children are in Birralee choirs (one in Piccolos and one in Kids), and so it seemed a good use of my time while they were at rehearsals. I very much enjoy getting to know the Piccolos and their parents, and watching even the most shy Prep-aged child blossom into a confident member of our choir.
Tell us what else you do, such as your occupation, hobbies?
I’m an accountant. I have volunteered for other organisations in the past, but usually in a treasury role. I also try to spend time helping out in each of my daughter’s classrooms at school each week.
What value do you think volunteers add to an organisation like Birralee? 
I think that having a volunteer around to do tasks such as marking the roll, managing parent and choir members’ queries, uniform fittings, and even just having an extra adult in the classroom allows our conductors to get on with the what they do best – conducting the choir! 
Is there anything else you’d like to mention? 

Given I’m not from a musical background, I wasn’t sure if volunteering for Birralee would be the right fit for me. I have absolutely loved my time with the Piccolos each week and I’m looking forward to continuing on next year (if you’ll have me!).

To all our volunteers who add so much to our organisation, we would like to officially say ‘bravo’! 

Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival wrap!

A huge thanks to everyone involved in Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival from 29 June – 2 July!

For those who’d like a recap on the fun and excitement, here’s a behind-the-scenes look on how it all went!

And for those boys and men who weren’t involved, we can’t wait to see you in three years.

Stay up to date via our Pemulwuy Facebook page, or website.

Tell us about your Pemulwuy highlights in the comments below.

Voices of Birralee’s commissioning highlights

Our Voices from the Trenches Choral Festival has provided our organisation another opportunity to commission some incredible Australian composers.

Three pieces were commissioned as part of the Anzac Centenary grant we received from the Queensland Government, while others were funded by our generous Voices of Birralee and greater community via the WW1 Commissioning Project which ran in December last year through Pozible.

The first of these pieces, Heather Percy’s Ne Les Oublions Jamais (Never Forget Them), was premiered at Concert One of Voices from the Trenches in March, while our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir sung the piece throughout France and it quickly became a touring favourite.

A second composition premiered in March was Dan Walker’s arrangement of the WW1 Medley: Good–Byee, It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, Keep The Home Fires Burning and Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag – which was also performed at the most recent Voices from the Trenches Concert on Sunday 28 May.

Another highlight from the 28 May concert was the premiere of The Flower of Youth by Sherelle Eyles, based on the words from ‘A Soldier’s Cemetery’, by John William Streets (killed and missing in action on 1 July 1916, aged 31).

Sherelle noted the inspiration behind this piece: “As any Australian I am appreciative of the fact that there were young men who went to war for the freedom that we now enjoy. It is very difficult to imagine what the men went through, fighting in a foreign land. John William Streets’ poem appealed to me because of the description of the innocence of young men willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom. The opening line conveys a graphic image of a trenched line that is the difference for these brave men between life and death.” 

Another piece commissioned as part of the festival is based upon chorister Joshua Clifford’s poem, Fields of Allonville, which notes the toll on our Anzacs in this small French village. Joshua’s words have been transformed into a beautiful composition by acclaimed composer Joe Twist and will be premiered at the Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival, with the finale presented in association with QPAC on 2 July.

Voices of Birralee has always enjoyed drawing upon Australia’s talented composers to produce beautiful music themed towards the organisation’s many programs.

With Pemulwuy! approaching from 29 June – 2 July, we thought we’d note some of the commissioned highlights produced specifically for the festival over the years. Here’s a few standouts (from a wide selection!):

Towards Infinity. This was composed by Paul Jarman originally for Pemulwuy! 2008 and performed by the Adult Choir. After, it was reworked for treble and SATB choirs. Our Brisbane Birralee Voices performed the adapted version during their 2010 European Tour.

View from the Roof. This was composed by Alice Chance for the Birralee Blokes to perform at Pemulwuy! 2014.

Mantra for the Y Generation. Composed by Dan Walker for Pemulwuy! 2008 and performed by the Youth Choir, the Birralee Blokes went on to record this song for their Towards Infinity CD, released by ABC Classics. Listen to the piece here.

Hocket. By Robert Davidson. This was commissioned for the Birralee Blokes for Pemulwuy! 2011. This was an interesting piece without words but was based on sharing melody notes between voice parts, a note or two at a time.

We invite you to enjoy the newly commissioned pieces at our upcoming events via the following: 

Concert Three: Voices from the Trenches, presented in association with QPAC at the Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival Finale at 6.30pm Sunday 2 July. Tickets here.

OR…for all the males out there keen to sing some exciting repertoire, we invite you to register to be a part of Pemulwuy! National Male Voices Festival. We’re particular looking for boys and men for the Treble and Adult Strand. Info here.

Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear which songs were your favourites that were commissioned for a special event! Comment below! 

Find out more about Voices of Birralee.

(Note. This blog was edited on 5 June 2017).

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

Welcome to 2017! So…what’s happening this year?

Just like every other Voices of Birralee year – 2017 is set to be huge! So…we thought we’d give you a bit of a preview of some of the major events!


voices-from-the-trenches-logo18 March, Concert 1. Brisbane venue to be announced soon 

28 May, Concert 2. Empire Theatres Toowoomba (Tickets on sale 1 Feb)

2 July, Concert 3. QPAC, as part of the Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival 

The Voices from the Trenches Choral Festival will be a captivating musical tribute to the World War One soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in The Somme, France and those who came home.

Presented by Voices of Birralee, the festival will unite the community, involving Voices of Birralee ensembles and local school choirs to perform stunning music reflecting the WW1 era, with modern compositions.

This will include beautifully poignant and emotionally charged commissioned pieces,
ensuring the Anzac legacy is preserved.

This project is proudly supported by the Queensland Government.



2017 will involve two tours as part of our five-year commitment to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

In April, 30 choristers aged from 16 – 18 will embark on what’s bound to be a trip of a lifetime, performing at the Anzac Day services at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux and at the Australian ‘Digger’ Memorial, Bullecourt, as well as community services.


Our second overseas trip for the year will be to Belgium to sing at the Polygon Wood Centenary Commemoration. From September 21 – 25, our choir will perform in the north of France and Belgium.

Make sure you follow the blog providing commentary during these tours.



Voices of Birralee is again excited to manage Queensland Youth Music Awards from May 3! 2017 marks the competition’s 50th year of providing a supported environment for young people to explore their music.

Sections will be held throughout Brisbane, featuring schools from across south east Queensland with some of Voices of Birralee’s ensembles performing as guests.

Entries have opened and more information is available here.




Thursday 29 June – Sunday 2 July

This year’s Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival will feature some of the finest male voice ensembles from Australia and abroad.

This year it will adopt the theme ‘Voices from the Trenches’ to commemorate the World War 1 Centenary period and the sacrifices made by the Anzacs in the Battles of The Somme.

Our Birralee Blokes (our male young adult choir) and the Birralee Boys (with male choristers drawn from our children’s ensembles for this project) will play host at the festival.

Ensemble registrations have closed, but individual registrations will open soon. All information is available here.




This year marks our touring year for our Birralee Singers and they are off to Tasmania for the Coastal Young Voices Festival 2017 from 24 – 30 September (dates and details to be confirmed in the coming months). This will be a fantastic trip for these young choristers and a great chance for development through working with other choirs.



There will be more events announced throughout the year, so make sure you keep up-to-date via our Facebook page and subscribe to our eNewsletter Birralee Billboard.