Tag Archives: choir

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!

The year that was – 2018!

What a year it’s been and our artistic team, choristers, conductors and office team have achieved a great deal! Let’s reflect.

JANUARY – FEBRUARY 

Our year began in January with a choir of 30 voices, led by Paul Holley OAM, beginning rehearsals for April’s Anzac Day Dawn Service and the Centenary of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux to be held at the Australian National Memorial, France.

Rehearsals also began for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies involving a number of our choristers across BBV and Resonance of Birralee.

MARCH: 

Our BBV choristers headed to music camp at Novotel Twin Waters Resort as a chance to bond, learn music and celebrate the new year.

BBV at Camp at Twin Waters

The first concert of the year was a combined concert with our Birralee Blokes and Marist College Ashgrove choirs. We performed at QPAC twice, with Resonance of Birralee performing at Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the World Science Festival and BBV singing in the special event, Songs of Hope and Healing. 

APRIL: 

April was a huge month with the Opening Ceremony of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Our choristers showed affection towards their tailor made costumes, with each fabric representing a Commonwealth country.

Our choristers in the Closing Ceremony met and sang with Australian artists Archie Roach and Amy Shark.

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Performing at the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony. 

Capping off a massive April, our choir’s tour of France for the Anzac Day Dawn Service and the Centenary of the Battle of Villers-Brettoneux was very meaningful, and for some, a once in a lifetime experience. The service can be viewed here.

Voices of Birralee Anzac Day Centenary Choir

Our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir rehearses at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux. 

MAY: 

May saw Resonance of Birralee perform at the Queensland Pops Orchestra’s Best of British concerts in Brisbane and Toowoomba, and later in Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Resonance of Birralee performs with Queensland Pops Orchestra at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba. 

A Cupcake & Cushion Concert involved our Birralee Singers, Kids and Piccolos and a Side by Side Concert involved BBV and Birralee Blokes.

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Our Kids and Piccolos perform at the Cupcake & Cushion Concert. 

The month also marked the launch of the 51st Queensland Youth Music Awards, a school-based music competition managed by Voices of Birralee.

JUNE:

We wished our Founder and Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM a very happy 60th birthday, calling on friends from throughout Australia and overseas to send their messages.

 

In the same month, 45 choristers from the Birralee Singers performed “I Still Call Australia Home” at the International Seeds Congress.

JULY: 

A group of 15 choristers, led by Julie performed at the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel. This service marked the successful 93-minute battle, led by General Sir John Monash, which changed the course of the war for the allies.

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The Western Front Centenary Choir for the Battle of Hamel, with Julie Christiansen OAM. 

The 2018 Birralee Recycled season began, with two main goals – performing at Voices of Birralee’s Poppies & Poems concert at QPAC and a Sing in Spring Concert and Tour to northern NSW.

AUGUST: 

Our BBV choristers performed Chicester Psalms at Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Bernstein at 100. 

SEPTEMBER: 

After months of preparation, Voices of Birralee’s gala concert, Poppies & Poems was held at QPAC. The concert was MC’d by Birralee mum and Channel 7 producer Melanie Stott, and involved all choirs, with guest musicians. The song And Now the War Has Ended (words by Joshua Clifford and Paul Jarman, with music by Paul Jarman) premiered, along with Katherine Ruhle’s Grandpa and Parcel of Care. Poppies & Poems was presented in association with QPAC and proudly supported by the Queensland Government.

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The cast of Poppies & Poems (pic by Darren Thomas) 

Birralee Recycled ventured on their Sing in Spring tour to Mullumbimby. On the way they performed at Emmanuel College, and then a workshop and concert with local choirs, before performing at the Tyalgum Music Festival.

OCTOBER: 

Eight choristers, led by Paul Holley, ventured overseas to Kazakhstan to sing at the Astana, Voice of the World International Choir Festival.

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Touring Kazakhstan! 

Julie led a choir, which involved many choristers who had sung at the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel, to perform at the 75th anniversary of the Australian work on Hellfire Pass and the completion of the Thai–Burma Railway. The full service can be viewed here.

We held a Trivia Fundraising Night to raise funds for upcoming overseas tours. The event was held in conjunction with the Ashgrove – The Gap Lions Club, with the theme, Notables of the 1900s.

In an afternoon of concerts, the Armistice Centenary Choir performed its farewell concert and Resonance of Birralee performed Simply Resonance. Chorister Lucy Heywood was recognised for 20 years with Birralee.

 

Lucy Heywood, with Paul Holley OAM and Julie Christiansen OAM.

Lucy Heywood accepts her 20 year award, with Paul Holley and Julie Christiansen. 

Our Birralee Blokes rounded out the month with a concert at Kenmore Uniting Church as part of its Cool & Classic series.

NOVEMBER: 

Twenty-nine choristers headed to France for the Centenary of the First World War Armistice at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux (view the service here). A special moment of tour was documented by the SBS, when we brought And Now the War Has Ended to the town of Allonville, where the story behind the song had originated.

Also in November, our Birralee Singers performed in QANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation – Picnic for Peace at the Queensland State Library and our female choristers from Resonance of Birralee and BBV performed at Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Alondra Conducts Mahler.

DECEMBER: 

Finally! We’re in December, with festive activity including Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols (combined group of BBV and Singers), The Nutcracker (BBV and Resonance women), The Lights of St Stephens (Birralee Blokes), A Christmas Spectacular with Brisbane Excelsior Band (Resonance of Birralee) and QPAC’s Spirit of Christmas (BBV).

Voices of Birralee performs at Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols.

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And there we have it … the major events of 2018! If we missed anything or if you’d like to share any of your highlights from the year, email marketing@birralee.org or comment below!

Thanks for a wonderful year. We’ll see you in 2019!

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.

VOB Armistice Tour

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.

Voices of Birralee Armistice Day Tour

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