Tag Archives: arts

3. Making Austrian friends

On Sunday, Brisbane Birralee Voices (BBV) and Birralee Blokes woke to a beautiful Graz day and gathered out the front of the Styrian Armoury in the city centre.

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In small groups, we entered to learn about the military violence of this historic city, and the bloody past of the weapons stored there. This included guns, pistols, canons, swords, machetes and suits of armour. We were able to see a rare set of armour for a horse, try on a helmet replica, and hold a large replica sword!

BBV then separated from Blokes. After a quick bite to eat in the city centre – Schlossbergrutsche, the tallest underground slide in the world, was the next destination, which saw many of BBV choristers going for a ride, including Mrs C!

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Other choristers chose to ride the furnicular to the top, to see the incredible views of the city, whilst some of the staff enjoyed some hot chocolate at the bottom.

BBV then headed off for their first rehearsal with the Bischöfliches Gymnasium choir, followed by a fabulous folk dancing and yodelling workshop. The school’s acapella group also put on a lovely performance for our choristers, including their rendition of “I want you back” by the Jackson 5.

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They finished the day with an Austrian spin on an Aussie favourite- the sausage sizzle.

The still jet-lagged choristers then went home to their billets, and definitely enjoying some rest after a big day!

Meanwhile, with the Blokes… The boys went off with the conductor of the Singakademie, Maria, on a scavenger hunt around Graz!

They visited the town hall square, the ‘Blue Alien’ museum of modern art, a Double Spiral Staircase, an ancient cathedral and other exciting venues!

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Alex Graves cracked the hunt code, which was ‘A E I O U’ – the initials of an Emperor which were printed on all the buildings around us the entire time! His prize? A chocolate bar from the infamous Zotter’s factory. After this, we travelled to Eggenburg Castle, not far from the Graz main centre. This lovely estate was covered in abundant flower gardens, inhabited by peacocks and peahens, and dated back to the 17th century.

We were given a guided tour around the rooms of the Princess and Prince, bearing witness to original glass chandeliers, original hand-painted ceilings, lavish furniture and rooms full of enormous history. Many Blokes thoroughly enjoyed learning about the rich history of this building – and others also loved interacting with the local peacocks!

That afternoon, the Blokes joined with the Singakademie to dine on some gorgeous salad, tasty smoked meats, sausages and delicious deserts.

We were incredibly grateful to our host families who had come together to prepare this brilliant feast for us. We then joined the choristers for some traditional Austrian dancing outside, accompanied by an accordion, and to learn some short but tuneful yodelling music!

Whilst this was all fun, we had to eventually return to ‘proper’ rehearsals and sing through some combined pieces for tomorrow’s concert with the Singakademie choir. All in all, an incredibly fulfilling and enriching day – tomorrow we see some more of Graz’s delights before our first European concert.

We invite you to keep following our journey of this epic Europe tour!

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#vobanzac2019 #vobeurope2019 

2: Exploring Graz!

After an early night for many of our choristers, Saturday saw a multitude of adventures across Graz (and beyond) with our various host families!

A popular destination was the Zotter Chocolate factory, near a beautiful town called Riegersburg, where a tour of the factory brought numerous forms of Mr Zotter’s tasty (and sometimes exotic) treats!

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Also at the factory, many of the choristers explored the Farm/ “Edible Zoo” and met a variety of farmhouse favourites such as chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and cows, as well as ostriches, llamas and rabbits just to name a few. There was also a popular boot-throwing “farmers golf” course!

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The Riegersburg Castle was also visited by many of our choristers, who enjoyed exploring the medieval grounds and taking in the fabulous views of the countryside below.

Falcons flew overhead as we learned about the history of this 17th century structure.

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Our choristers enjoyed a range of acitivities during the day, including Jody Hurdial and Paddy Taylor, taking to the snow with tobogganing.

Another two choristers, Chloe Edgar and Jess Ruhle, explored the mountains, and were very excited to also find some “snow”!

Josh Phillips and Aidan Cobb enjoyed similar experiences, including a bird show, whilst Joshua Clifford and Jude Slade rode an Icelandic horse called Fifi.

Alice Barry and Samantha Dunk, on the other hand, explored the city of Graz, with Katja Bain and Emma Skegg exploring the historic buildings.

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Meanwhile, Emily Flanagan and Ashlin Cork went to enjoy the pristine stillness of a gorgeous green lake!

Others saw a movie, ate some interesting Austrian food (including liver sausages) and enjoyed some down time with their generous host families.

Tomorrow rehearsals with the Singakademie choir commence, and some more sightseeing – we all can’t wait!

We invite you to keep following our journey of this epic Europe tour!

Receive the daily posts direct to your inbox by subscribing to this blog – head to the bottom right of this page and click ‘follow’ then enter your email address.

Follow Voices of Birralee via Facebook, and join the ‘Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours’ Facebook group. 

#vobanzac2019 #vobeurope2019

1: The Europe tour begins!

Hello! We hope you enjoy our 2019 Europe tour blogging journey, brought to you by Ally Dunk, and Joshua Clifford!!

Seventy-two choristers and their entourage, have departed on what’s going to be an exciting three week journey through Europe, with the first stop, Brisbane International Airport!

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After checking in and ensuring passports were all accounted for, we boarded our first flight to Dubai. This was a quick stop over with no time for duty free shopping!

The air stewards were so impressed with our behaviour on the first flight that they gave us the left over snacks!

Our trip to Vienna saw some of the choristers begin to hit a wall – the reality of staying up 20 hours with little to no sleep was getting to everyone. Luckily, the in-flight entertainment system kept us all hooked on the latest movie trends – lots of APs, staff and choristers watched “Mary Poppins Returns”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse”, and “On The Basis of Sex”.

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We also celebrated the birthdays of choristers Lily Forbes and Lily Weatherby, and Jane Sutton and Keppel Coughlan! Happy Birthday!

After a shaky landing in Vienna, we managed to successfully exit the Viennese airport with no lost items or missing luggage – hooray!

Splitting into Bus 1 (BBV) and Bus 2 (APs and Blokes), we moved directly on to our bus transfer to Graz, we made a quick pit stop at a McDonalds along the highway, allowing us to indulge in some ‘food from home’! It was also, strangely, a very ‘pretty’ designed Maccas, as some choristers notes it looked fairly different to those ones at home!

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We noticed some spectacular views of the wild mountainside in Vienna, cute villages and towns, small factory settlements and foggy lakes.

When we arrived, our tour uniform started to come in handy – our trusty blue Kathmandu rain jackets were necessary as a light rain started when we neared Graz.

Blokes were collected by their billets from a local boarding school after a beautiful musical welcome!

BBV, meanwhile, were collected from a local school, excitedly waiting to meet their family for the next four nights! Settling in, we are all surely looking forward to a well-deserved sleep.

Looking forward to a free day of relaxing tomorrow!

We invite you to keep following our journey of this epic Europe tour!

Receive the daily posts direct to your inbox by subscribing to this blog – head to the bottom right of this page and click ‘follow’ then enter your email address.

Follow Voices of Birralee via Facebook, and join the ‘Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours’ Facebook group. 

#vobanzac2019 #vobeurope2019

The songs that stole our hearts

There’s many quotes about music and love with likely the most famous, Shakespeare’s “If music be the food of love, play on” written for the Twelfth Night. 

It’s true, music speaks to the heart and there’s been many inspiring songs performed in choral settings that have stolen our hearts over the years. This Valentine’s Day, some of Voices of Birralee’s conductors share their favourites.

Voices of Birralee Founder and Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM says no nation celebrates romance like the French.

“There are many beautiful love songs that are great to reflect upon on Valentine’s Day, and who knows more about romance than the French! One of my favourites from the years has been Chanson D’Amour, made famous by Manhattan Transfer,” Julie said.

Chanson D’Amour, as an acapella jazz number, has become a chorister favourite during our World War One Centenary Tours, proving very popular for audiences in France.

Voices of Birralee’s 2018 Western Front Centenary Choir (for the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel) perform Chanson D’Amour.

Birralee Kids conductor Kate Littlewood’s favourite love-inspired piece is John McNaughton’s “Love at Home” arranged by Mack Wilberg.  

“The lyrics of this hymn speak about how all aspects of our life will appear brighter and more beautiful if we have love in our home life. I choose to interpret this as the love of a partner, parent, child, sibling, pet …  or all of the above!” Kate said.

“Wilberg’s setting of this text is enchanting and really helps convey the importance of the text.”

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs Love at Home.

For Peter Ingram (Resonance of Birralee Co-Director and Birralee Recycled Conductor) it is A Red, Red Rose, arranged by James Mulholland that is a favourite.

“It is a beautiful text with matching beauty in the harmonies. As always with music, there is an emotional connection,” Peter said.

“This was one of the first SATB pieces I conducted as a young conductor and it connected with me and hopefully with my singers as well!”

Portland State University Choir performs A Red Red Rose.

Finally, in a piece our older members will recall, i carry your heart with me resonates most with Paul Holley OAM (Resonance of Birralee Director and Birralee Blokes Conductor).

This song is a favourite of Resonance of Birralee and was even sung by our choir when one of our members proposed to his girlfriend in a surprise proposal a few years ago.

“It is beautiful choral writing and an incredible piano part. The song captures the poem by E. E. Cummings beautifully and the composer, Ben van Tienen is a dear friend,” Paul said.

Resonance of Birralee perform i carry your heart with me at the choir’s 10 year anniversary in 2016.

What’s your favourite love song performed in a choral setting? Let us know by commenting below!

Day 7 – finale: We will remember them

Sunday marked the finale of the tour, with the choir waking early to be one of the first groups on the Australian National Memorial site. Every rehearsal in the past week and in the months prior, led to this special event of commemoration; the Centenary of the First World War Armistice.

The air was fresh with the sun having only come up an hour or so ago, and with just a few grey clouds, we were all optimistic for a service without rain.

 

 

 

 

As we began to warm up our voices, we realised the only chance for a group photo would be before the general public arrived, so we all quickly dashed to the stairs in front of the memorial.

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After a quick warm up in the ‘green room’ tent it was time to join the Royal Australian Air Force Band for the pre-service entertainment performed between stories of remembrance, including about Australian soldiers and those from other countries.

 

Our APs watched on with pride and were delighted the Department of Veterans’ Affairs had reserved the first few rows so they could continue lending their support to our choristers from close by.

 

The weather remained reasonable until the actual service began and the rain started coming down. Our choristers could hear the rattle of plastic ponchos being found by the audience to keep warm and dry. Us choristers, however, just had to bear it and as the MLK song from our repertoire suggested we just had to ‘let it rain’.

It got increasingly cold and became a little hard to handle when the rain got quite heavy, but our choristers were professional, continuing to remind themselves of the importance of what they were doing and the sacrifices made on that very land 100 years before them.

 

 

 

The service was very meaningful, beginning with a roll of honour, followed by speeches from dignitaries and our choir performing with the band, including the hymn Be Still My Soul and both the Australian and French national anthems. You can view it below.

During the public wreath laying, some of our APs laid a wreath for their relatives who served making their involvement in this tour even more meaningful.

 

 

 

Paul from DVA was adamant Voices of Birralee should be last to lay a wreath and enjoy the special moment and choristers Simon and Elise Watt, who are married, were given the honour. It was a beautiful moment – epitomising the pride we all felt in being able to play a special part in Australia’s WW1 centenary commemorations on the Western Front. It was also very special for Simon and Elise personally, as they have ancestors who served during WW1, plus both of their parents were watching on.

 

 

 

When the service came to an end and the live broadcast concluded, we performed one more song, Ave Maria with a solo by our youngest choir member Jia, and the audience clapped, with many coming to the front to watch. Thinking of our wellbeing, our conductor Julie made the call for us to leave the stage and head for warmth.

 

 

 

All in all it was a great morning of reflection and Julie and Jen and our APs were proud of our work.

After having a shower and getting into warm clothes, our group felt recharged and headed to The Underground City of Naours, about 20 minutes from Amiens. These caves were used from the middle ages, mainly during wars. Throughout WW1 some of the Anzacs visited the caves and drew pictures on some of the walls. We weren’t able to see these parts with the system so extensive.

 

 

 

Part of the system we visited is set under a beautiful site which was showing Autumn at its best which us Queenslanders are just not used to. We had to play with the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOB Underground City In Naours

In the evening a group of 60, comprising choristers, APs and shadowing parents and friends, joined together in Amiens, which (as per what happens on any Birralee trip) turned into a singing fest and we even received requests from Aussies passing by. Laurence who seems to always have his bagpipes on hand, played a number of songs for us which encouraged singing from our group and others who were eating in the restaurant. In the below, Laurence’s brother Will joins in to help him with Waltzing Matilda. 

 

 

 

Leaving the restaurant, we didn’t get far, as Emma, Will and Laurence Nicol started an impromptu Ceili. It was super fun and very surreal with the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral hovering nearby.

 

 

 

A dad with his baby asked us to sing a song for them as the night was drawing to a close, which was a very adorable moment.

The evening was the perfect end to the tour which has been a great week of singing, bonding as a group, and of course remembering the Anzacs and others who served throughout the world during the First World War.

This opportunity wouldn’t be possible without a number of people.

First of all, thank you to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, particularly Paul Richardson CSC OAM and Shane Haiduk.

Thank you to Royal Australian Air Force Band Flight Lieutenant Daniel Phillips and each band member. It’s been a pleasure to work with you!

From the French communities, thank you to Eric Brisse for his ongoing assistance in connecting us with beautiful communities such as Allonville and Fouilloy.

Special thank you to Allonville Mayor Joel Delrue and Deputy Mayor Didier Lemaire, and Martial Louis, Bailleul Mayor Marc Deneuche, Deputy Mayor Sebastien Malesys and Deputy Mayor Catherine Deplancke, Fouilloy Deputy Mayor Serge Rondot, Villers-Bretonneux Mayor Patrick Simon and Deputy Mayor Benoit Decottegnie and the Sir John Monash Centre and Musée Franco-Australien.

Thank you to Voices of Birralee’s Founder and Artistic Director, who also conducted us, Julie Christiansen OAM, Assistant Conductor Jenny Moon and Accompanist Shane Calderbank and everyone at Birralee for your support.

Thank you to all the APs involved in the trip for being our ‘rent a crowd’ while helping with various roles, including Tony and Craig for taking video and images.

And thank you to everyone at home for your ongoing support of our choristers throughout this journey!

April 2019 will mark our final tour of our Western Front Anzac Centenary Touring Program and we invite you to stay in touch and follow the journey.

You can do this by subscribing to this blog (hover your cursor around the bottom right hand side of the page and click ‘follow’ and then enter your email address), while also joining the Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours page here.

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #wewillrememberthem #letweforget

Day 5: Our hearts are touched by Allonville

We invite you to tune into the Centenary of the First World War Armistice via the ABC at 9.42pm (Brisbane time), or catch the service live here today (Sunday 11 November). ABC coverage of other Armistice Day services are listed here

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On the 9 November, choristers woke for another busy day, while also one of reflection, with each day in the lead up to Armistice Day having historic events which contributed to the end of WW1. Chorister Laurence Nicol shared with the group his feelings towards the day.

“Today marks 100 years since the German people overthrew their monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II. This was one of the defining events that brought an end to the First World War two days later. For all the fighting, destruction and pointless slaughter, the war was ended not by tanks, artillery bombardments or infantry charges, but by the people of Germany rising up against those responsible for the war on the home front. I doubt this event will get the attention it deserves in the media, but it is a reminder that we all have the power and responsibility to make sure our leaders do not make it happen again.” 

Two of our Accompanying People, Tony Forbes and Ray Jennings (father and grandfather of chorister Shelby) had a moment of reflection of their own, visiting the grave of Ray’s Great Uncle, Reuben John Rule who was killed in action on the 25 July 1916, aged 19 and now rests in Pozieres British Cemetery. It was a beautiful moment and the perfect way for Ray to honour his family.

Following a rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial, the choristers made a short stop at Villers-Bretonneux to explore the Musée Franco-Australien which has been recently renovated and looks amazing.

The museum exhibits the Australian experience in Villers-Bretonneux during the war, with some of the stories including what happened in the town in April 1918. The battle between the British and the Germans marked the world’s first tank battle. The Germans won and had the village occupied, but then lost in a counter attack by two Australian brigades.

The museum overlooks the Victoria school and its playground with a big sign saying “Do not forget Australia”. The original school was destroyed in 1918, so, the Australian soldiers (mainly from Victoria) worked with the Victorian Government and many schools to raise funds to rebuild it, with construction completed in 1927.

From Villers-Bretonneux, the choir was driven to Allonville, with high expectations for a an emotionally stirring, while enjoyable evening. Expectations were met.

Voices of Birralee first met the people of Allonville in July 2016 when Julie Christiansen led a choir to sing at the Centenary of the Battles of Pozieres and Fromelles. The choir performed a community concert in Allonville and at the first commemoration service for the Australian troops who were killed in Allonville.

Chorister Joshua Clifford spoke to some of the locals and heard about The Smart Set, a group of soldiers who had been injured and because they couldn’t serve on the front line, they started a performance troupe to lift morale of soldiers.

Allonville was a place of respite for many soldiers and one night after The Smart Set had performed in a barn there in May 1918, two German shells struck the barn, killing 27 Australian soldiers who were billeted and injuring many others. The Smart Set escaped unharmed and despite the horrific ordeal, they kept travelling throughout the war to lift the spirits of those who needed it most.

Joshua wrote a poem about The Smart Set titled, And Now The War Has Ended, and earlier this year Julie invited world renown composer Paul Jarman to set the words to music, with the commission part-funded by a Pozible fundraising campaign with contributions from the Voices of Birralee and wider community.

Upon arriving to the town, our first stop was the Allonville Communal Cemetery where some of those who died in the horrific event of May 1918 were buried. Having been at the Australian National Memorial (the second image shown in the video below) earlier that day, the cemetery in Allonville was such a contrast – it was small and quaint, but so, so special and beautifully cared for. Just that afternoon the local school children had visited and placed hand-made poppies (crafted out of plastic bottles) onto the graves.

Peter Francis played The Last Post to honour the fallen soldiers, before we stood for a minute’s silence.

The choristers then moved to the nearby church to sound check and get ready for the concert as locals began filling the church.

After much anticipation, we were very excited to finally share And Now the War Has Ended. This is how it went.

The people of Allonville, including friend to Birralee, Martial Louis were moved by the song, along with the Australian contingent of the audience. Martial and the town gifted Joshua a book about Allonville, while Voices of Birralee presented the town a frame with the sheet music and French and Australian lyrics for both And Now the War Has Ended and Fields of Allonville (the piece Joshua wrote first, with music composed by Joseph Twist).

The concert continued to build with the final song, The Parting Glass representing the friendship between Voices of Birralee and Allonville.

After, we were treated to a huge meal provided the the Allonville community. Each of the choristers mingled with the locals, with the locals showing the utmost hospitality producing home-made deer Pâté, wine, Cointreau and other delectable treats to enjoy.

Our pipers, Laurence and Will started playing which encouraged a great display of dancing by our group and the Allonville people who were incredibly festive.

They really knew how to party even though we only had a few hours with them! There were some tears shed leaving, with many of the group moved by the experience and feeling beautifully welcomed.

Thank you to the Allonville community! You will be in our hearts forever!

#vobarmstice100 #vobarmistice2018 #wewillrememberthem

Our alumna & The Voice AU’s Ellen Reed gets set for Birralee Celebrates 2016!

Voices of Birralee will on 6 November celebrate a huge year, with Birralee Celebrates 2016!

ellenreedIn doing so, we’re so excited to welcome back Birralee alumna, Ellen Reed to sing with us. Like Birralee, she has also had a massive year – for a start, she achieved grand finalist status in The Voice AU!


We decided to check in with Ellen to find out about her seven years with Birralee, and The Voice experience!

What do you remember from your time at Voices of Birralee? 

I remember always looking forward to going to BBV every week and seeing my friends and being able to be around a bunch of kids who loved music as much as I did. The choir taught me that I could work hard at what I loved and have an amazing time too.
 
I was afforded so many brilliant opportunities to sing with incredible people at huge events like the Goodwill Games, and The Commonwealth Games, travel the world and even sing for an ex President.

What is your favourite choral piece from your time at Birralee? 

“Mother Earth” by Harley Mead always stands out in my mind. The piece is beautiful and I was so excited to be given the solo in it.

What is your goal over the next 12 months? 

I want to record my debut album in the next 12 months and keep singing and performing as much as I can!

Tell us about The Voice experience? 

The Voice was the hardest and most brilliant experience ever. Learning from and singing with Jessie J on a weekly basis was beyond ridiculous. I had an amazing time with her, and got to know the normal Essex girl behind the crazy persona. She is such a maternal figure and would always make sure we were fed, rested, had tea waiting for us in rehearsal. If someone got sick she’d turn up with vitamins and all her secret weapons. She expects so much from herself, so she expects a lot from everyone that is around her too.

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The unsung heroes of that show, were 100% the crew. Our coaches got all the thanks, but the producers, assistants, wardrobe, hair and make up, the music team, our drivers, everyone that worked with us, were beautiful and kind to us at all times.
 
Even on hour 16 of a performance day, they were still kind and happy to be there and helping. They made the entire experience even better by just being so happy to be there.

I worked harder than I ever have before but I had the most fun I have ever had on that show too.

What is your advice for those who might be interested in chasing a solo career? 

Be determined, work hard, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t (but listen to constructive criticism from those you trust), and above all, be kind to everyone that you come across.

(See Ellen perform with Voices of Birralee on Sunday 6 November when Birralee Celebrates 2016! Information here.)

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