Tag Archives: choir

Day 4: Setting foot at the Australian National Memorial

Before we get started with Day 4 … click here for updates on where you can catch ABC coverage of the Armistice Centenary services (please consider AEST & AEDST). 

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We had an early start on Day 4, heading to Megacity, for our first rehearsal with the Air Force Band in the lead up to Sunday’s Centenary Service.

 

It was a great chance to rehearse many pieces we’ll be performing with them on Sunday, which will include both the Australian and French National Anthems and the hymn Be Still My Soul (Finlandia) in the official service with many pieces prior and after the service.

 

It was a beautiful day with blue skies (only cold in the shade) so the perfect chance to see the site with its immaculately kept cemetery and pristine views from the tower.

 

It’s hard to believe the lush green fields in the distance and grounds below the tower would have been consumed by battle 100 years ago, including the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. We were reminded of the toll here with the many graves, row upon row, across the site, along with the 11,000 names listed of those missing on the Australian National Memorial wall.

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A view from the Australian National Memorial Tower (pic by Tony)

Honouring our soldiers through the best way our choristers knew, we sang Good Night Dear Heart (Words Mark Twain, music Dan Forrest) in the tower, while marvelling at the incredible acoustics.

 

The afternoon was jam-packed with rehearsing repertoire, while being a good chance to soak in the atmosphere prior to Sunday before it will be attended by people from across the world paying their respects.

Channel 10 News First captured some of the rehearsal and interviewed one of our choristers, Andy Francis, on his special WW1 connection, check it out below.

 

 

Overall it was a good day, with many of the choristers joining for a group dinner later in Amiens to unwind, which included some more singing.

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The lovely city of Amiens, with the spire of the cathedral in the background (pic by Tony)

Today our choristers are enjoying a break in the morning, before heading back to the Australian National Memorial for rehearsals.

Tonight, the choir will perform at the very special Allonville and are excited to share a newly premiered song to honour the town, And Now The War Has Ended, with words by touring chorister Joshua Clifford. More soon!

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

Day 3: Arriving to Amiens & Fouilloy

Welcome back to the blog! Before we get started, some special info to take note: 

“Australia Remembers: Armistice Day France Service” will be broadcast on the ABC at 9.42pm on Sunday 11 November (Brisbane time).

Also, there’ll be a story on Channel Ten Eyewitness News at 5pm today which will include Voices of Birralee (Friday 9 November). Tune in! 

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Awaking to a rainy day in Bailleul, choristers were treated to a breakfast of delicious croissants and bread provided by the local community, before jumping on the bus to head to Amiens, with a few stops in between.

With the rain limiting outdoor activities, we visited the Somme 1916 Museum which is built upon and within 13th century tunnels that were turned into air-raid shelters before WW2.

The museum is incredibly interesting, delving into the history of the battles of the Somme, and the impact on multiple nations, including Britain, New Foundland, Germany and more, covering themes of the soldiers’ state of mind when they returned home, as well as the role and toll on animals including horses, dogs and pigeons.

After the museum, the choir visited Thiepval Memorial which commemorates 72,000 British and South African soldiers reported missing prior to 20 March 1918.

The monument is very impressive towering at 45m, with a cemetery below. While a sombre sight, it was a beautiful one, flanked by trees with vibrant autumn leaves. One of our choristers, Laurence honoured the fallen soldiers once again with a bagpipes solo.

Our choristers also honoured the troops with an impromptu sing of In Flanders Fields. It was quite a moving experience with many choristers reflecting on what happened in the site and the sacrifices made.

After the historical visits, the choir checked in at their Amiens accommodation and quickly got ready for their second community concert, this time in the village of Fouilloy.

It was quite an intimate concert with a very appreciative audience. It was lovely to perform for another French village and a fun moment (our conductor Julie’s idea) was for each chorister to introduce (in French!) who they were and their profession. I think the audience appreciated our efforts!

After the concert, we were delighted to be led by Fouilloy Deputy Mayor Serge Rondot on a short walk for dinner. On the way we could see the Australian National Memorial in the distance – a perfect reminder of why we’re here and what we have to look forward to.

We were provided a fresh and delicious meal at a local restaurant and we were very appreciative of the warm welcome. It was such as great representation of friendship – another perfect end to a community concert.

More soon.

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #wewillrememberthem

Day 2: Explorations and singing for the beautiful community of Bailleul

Our choristers woke up to a sunny Paris, ready to hit the road for a day of exploration, reflection and singing, all the while heading north to our next port of accommodation and first concert.

(Special thanks to Tony Forbes for the above video) 

With a delay due to traffic, our plans for the day were rearranged on the fly, so we visited the Canadian memorial, Vimy Ridge.

The site boasts a huge monument for the Canadian soldiers of WW1. It stands at around 27m tall, in white. Our choristers took a moment to soak in the atmosphere, with one of our singers, Laurence honouring the soldiers by playing the bagpipes, with the sound floating throughout the memorial and close fields.

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The impressive Vimy Ridge (pic by Lindy)

Another aspect of the site that fascinated was the memorial for the Moroccan troops who fought with Canada. This memorial was particularly important for choristers Yazmin and Safia to acknowledge, as they are half-Moroccan.

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Yasmin and Safia at the Moroccan Memorial (pic by Lindy)

We then visited the Vimy Memorial Park nearby, which is set on a beautiful field with lush green grass, however, with the troughs created by mines and bombs from the war.

Our choristers participated in a tour which took the group through a tunnel under the field, which had been built to provide added coverage for soldiers.

Hitting the road again en route to Bailleul, the choir rehearsed on the bus to brush up on songs in the lead up to the first community concert.

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The choristers arrive at Bailleul City Hall (pic provided by Elise)

Our welcome to Bailleul began with a beautiful reception at Bailleul City Hall by Deputy Mayor Sébastien Malesys with his colleagues Olivia, Anne and Lucy.

(Special thanks to Tony Forbes for the above video) 

The choir then walked to the church behind city hall to prepare for the concert and as soon as they entered they realised the beauty of the performance venue, Église Saint-Vaast. The church was huge, with incredible resonance which is always a pleasure to sing in.

The concert experience was wonderful, with a crowd of around 200 who all seemed very moved by what we sang.

(Special thanks to Craig Donaldson for the above video) 

We were grateful to have attendance by Mayor Marc Deneuche and again by Sebastien, both of whom expressed their appreciation for our visit. It was an amazing experience to be able to connect with the locals through music.

(Special thanks to Craig Donaldson for the above video) 

One of these connections was the Francis family meeting a local who had found a bugle from WW1 which was inscripted with the maker’s details from London as well as the owners’ details. It noted it had been owned by an Australian soldier who coincidently had served in the same battalion as the grandfather of Heather Francis, who is playing flute for our choir.

After the concert, the locals treated our choir and APs to an impressive supper. It was a wonderful end to a great day of music making and friendship.

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Today (Wednesday) the choir headed to Amiens, with a few historical stops on the way, followed by a community concert in Fouilloy.

More soon!

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #lestweforget #wewillrememberthem

Day 1: The Amistice trail begins!

Welcome to the Armistice Centenary Choir blog! We can’t wait to provide you a daily recap of the goings on of our tour this week from now until after the Centenary of the First World War Armistice this Sunday.

 

It all began Sunday afternoon with our choristers, Conductor Julie Christiansen OAM, Assistant Conductor Jenny Moon, and many accompanying people, meeting in Paris, some having enjoyed a short holiday prior, with others arriving on a red-eye direct from Brisbane.

The group united for a rehearsal to revise the many songs to be performed for the week, before a group dinner at the accommodation.

With leisure time scheduled for the evening, some of our choristers checked out a quirky underground jazz club, Le Caveau De La Huchette, stopping at an Aussie bar on the way, with some settling for an early night.

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Simon and Elise enjoy the Jazz Club.

Monday marked the first official day of tour, beginning with a morning rehearsal to lock in the repertoire, before exploring the sights of Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

It was a beautiful almost ‘t-shirt weather’ kind of day (a contrast to the chilly European weather in recent weeks). Stops included a gallery of lighting installations, Atelier des Lumieres, seeing the massive Eiffel Tower under blue skies, climbing 300 steps to relish in the expansive views from the top of the SacréCœur basilica, or simply finding a good coffee shop to keep the caffeine cravings at bay.

 

 

 

 

 

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In the afternoon, the group met for the first performance of tour – singing under the l’Arc de Triomphe as part of the Ravivage de la Flamme ceremony. This rekindling of the flame ceremony is held every night to honour an unkown French soldier who gave his life during WW1, while being a meaningful ceremony of war remembrance.

L’Arc de Triomphe is looking a little different to usual, with tiered seating both on the inner side of the busy round-a-bout and on the outer in the lead up to Sunday’s Armistice Day. It was still impressive and great to see the Armistice commemorations will take place far and wide.

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All dressed and ready for the first performance (pic by Maree)

We sang a few warm up songs before the service began, with three songs, For the Fallen, Hymne à la Nuit, and the French National Anthem sang during the official proceedings.

 

 

The French veterans seemed very appreciative of our involvement and we were honoured to play a part, especially during this incredible week of world remembrance. A special moment was when one of the spokespeople told the crowd of Australia’s experience of fighting in Northern France during World War One and our country’s allegiance with France.

 

 

 

 

 

After the ceremony, choristers enjoyed dinner, with some watching the Eiffel Tower light show. Many tried to get an early night with Tuesday set to be a big day which will include the choir appropriately visiting the Armistice Museum in Compiegne, Vimy Ridge and other memorials.

The choir is looking forward to then arriving in Bailleul for the first community concert.

We can’t wait to share what we discover!

A special thank you to Tony Forbes for his videos and the choristers for contributing to this blog. 

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #lestweforget

Day 7 & 8: Kazakhstan Finale!

As we drew closer to the end of tour, the final event was the Gala Concert, which was to be performed in front of delegates of the 6th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. 

Our group arrived to the venue late Thursday morning and immediately got to work with rehearsals to prepare for the big event, including allowing the national TV station to rehearse their ‘shots’. 

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Rehearsing the massed piece with the orchestra (pic by Paul)

Just before the concert, our choristers decided to do a lap of the building to present gifts to other choirs we’d befriended. Gifts included Aussie themed pencils, koala keychains, Tim Tams and CDs. 

No one was more excited than the Italians who reacted emphatically to the gifts. And soon the word spread that we had little koala keychains, so other choristers came to our dressing room politely asking for one.

Soon we were ushered to the stage to begin the concert, awaiting ‘go-time’ for when the delegates would finish their earlier conference to be treated to some music. 

And then it all happened and went pretty well we feel – but see for yourself! 

There was a sense of great excitement when the concert finished as it had been a full-on week to get the music performance ready. 

After the concert, we caught a bus from our hotel to the city where we went to Baiterek Tower to catch Astana from another angle and at night.  

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At the top of Baiterek Tower (pic by Rohan)

On Friday we had a slow morning packing and getting organised for the trip home. 

We enjoyed our final meal together in Kazakhstan before heading to the Astana Airport in the afternoon. 

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Our hotel for the week! (pic by Rohan)

It was a huge week of singing, eating and exploring such a quirky place and we feel very grateful for the opportunity provided by the Astana – Voice of The World organisers, and to Voices of Birralee for this and many opportunities we’ve been provided over the years.

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Saying goodbye to Astana, including Dory and Sanzhar, our friendly translators.

A special thank you to our conductor, Paul Holley OAM for being our fearless leader, preparing our little choir for this occassion, while providing morale and musical support on the ground in Astana.

And thank you to our supporters at home! We can’t wait to share the next adventure with you.

#Vobkazakh2018

How to enjoy a big day of singing!

At Voices of Birralee, our choristers are often involved in events which require a big day of rehearsing. One of these days can include lots of singing, or lots of waiting for your moment. Either way, it’s important to know how to best be prepared for both, with the ultimate goals being to keep happy and healthy, while delivering a wonderful performance.

Particularly in the lead up to Sunday’s Poppies & Poems, we thought we’d share some tips on how to get the most out of the day.

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Our Birralee Blokes at last year’s Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival Finale. Image credit: Darren Thomas. 

KEEP HEALTHY 

Make sure you rest up in the lead up to the day with lots of sleep, hydration and healthy food.

Birralee Blokes and Resonance of Birralee conductor Paul Holley OAM says drinking plenty of water is essential to a healthy voice.

“Continue to hydrate and save your voice, using it only when you have to. I’ve heard pineapple juice is good, but there’s no scientific evidence, so get to know what works best for your vocals – water is generally the safest,” Paul says.

Make a conscious effort to not speak too much during the day, including shouting to your friends on your breaks. Along with water, eat healthy snacks to keep up energy.

PREPARATION IS KEY 

Being prepared with your music is important so you feel less pressure on the day. This includes ensuring you have the lyrics and music down prior to setting foot in the performance venue.

“If you do the work, thoroughly learning the music before the day, then you can focus on the new elements, like the venue and effects, and enjoy those experiences,” Paul says.

If you do all you can in your pre-preparation and still feel nervous, Birralee Recycled conductor Peter Ingram says you can use your downtime on the day wisely.

“Find a fellow chorister to run through your lyrics and music. You’ll be helping each other,” Peter says.

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BBV perform at our Side By Side concert (Image credit: Tony Forbes)

GIVE YOUR BEST AT SOUNDCHECK 

A day like Poppies & Poems is full of activity, with one of the main goals prior to the concert being to soundcheck each choir to ensure their beautiful sound is amplified in the best way.

There is always a very well-thought out soundcheck schedule so it is important that choristers listen to their conductors, runners and managers, and be ready to move quickly and safely on and off the stage, when needed.

Once choristers are on the stage and ready for their soundcheck, Paul says focus is important.

“We urge our choristers to be as focused as possible.  They’re usually only needed for a short period of time, so if they give their best and focus, it will allow for an efficient soundcheck, benefitting everyone,” Paul says.

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Our Birralee Kids perform at our Cup Cake & Cushion Concert

NERVES 

Concert Hall QPAC can be an intimidating space for choristers both young and old and Birralee Piccolos conductor Katherine Ruhle says it’s important to remember to have fun.”It’s okay to feel nervous as it means you have something special to give,” she said.

“Remember, you have a wonderful support system around you! Your friends in your choir, your friends and family in the audience, along with the Birralee team.

“Nerves can sometimes make you feel a bit funny in the tummy which is totally normal. But if you don’t feel well, please chat with someone.”

HELP OUT 

No matter the choristers’ age, there are many ways they can contribute to the smooth running of the day.

“Look to help out wherever you can on the day – that might be practical help with moving gear or people – or just being silent as you move around and listening carefully to instructions rather than causing disruption. Look out for your mates as well – it’s a big day for everyone,” Paul says.

Katherine says when facing a big day it’s important to remember that we are all a part of a team and everyone is important.

“Remember why we’re doing this – to connect with the audience, to tell a story and in the case of Poppies & Poems, to remember the war,” she says.

“Enjoy the occasion – look at the amazing venue and take it all in. It’s pretty amazing!”

All the best to everyone for your upcoming choral performances!

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.

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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.

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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