Tag Archives: choir

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.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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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You are also invited to join the Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours page on Facebook.

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

 

Day 4: The countdown begins

Before we get into what our choristers got up to on Day 4 – we’d like to share some info for those keen to tune into the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel service this Wednesday. 

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) 

Now … to Day 4.

On Sunday our choristers woke up in Bailleul and said goodbye to the locals.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

The choir with Sebastien and Sophie who looked after them in Bailleul (pic by Mark)

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

Jacquille with a new friend (pic by Maddie)

Upon departure, chorister Oli said there was one local the group were tempted to take with them.

“We met a puppy called ‘Oli’ which people were all too happy to replace me with!” he said.

The group then drove to Halloy-lès-Pernois for a service at the British Cemetery where the choir learnt about how there are 403 Commonwealth burials, with 17 Germans laid to rest at the site.

After the service, the group walked to the town where there was a big festival showcasing vintage cars, bikes and tractors.

The group was then provided a sumptuous lunch by the community, with ciders, beers and wine. Our choristers only had a drink or two, as there was still lots of work on for the day. 

Next, it was rehearsal time with the Australian Army Band at MegaCite as the countdown begins to Wednesday’s Centenary of the Battle of Hamel service.

And before long it was back on the bus to return to Halloy-lès-Pernois for a ceremony and concert in the beautiful town church, where the acoustics were marvellous.

With the concert over, marking the end to a massive day, the group journeyed to Amiens where they’ll stay for the next few nights.

Some grabbed local food and sat by the river to watch the sun set at 11pm.

Today (Monday) the group is visiting the Sir John Monash Centre at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, which an incredibly apt stop, as it was Sir Monash who led the Australians and the allies to victory at Hamel almost 100 years ago.

They’ll rehearse at Le Hamel, Australian Corps Memorial and perform to the locals at Amiens Cathedral in the early evening.

We look forward to sharing what they discover.

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You are also invited to join the Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours page on Facebook.

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

Day 3: Arriving to Bailleul

On Day 3 our choristers hit the road from Paris. It was a day of exploration and discovery, before meeting the beautiful people of Bailleul.

The first destination was the Armistice Museum in Compiègne, where the Armistice which ended World War One was signed on 11 November, 1918, in a railway car paused on its tracks in the nearby forest.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

At the Armistice Museum, Compiègne (pic by Julie) 

The railway car was again used for another Armistice signing in 1940, before it was taken by Hitler and displayed in the Lustgarten in Berlin as a symbol of revenge and victory.

Chorister Heather Hunt described the significance of the site:

“Although the second armistice failed to bring peace, it was still a critical moment in the war so it was fascinating to be in this now serene countryside and imagine the days of negotiation which occurred in a small railway car.

“Although the original car was destroyed in an accidental fire, they displayed an almost identical railway car from the same era which had been revamped to replicate the original 1918 carriage.” 

The next stop, was the Canadian National Vimy Memorial nearby. This site is of significance particularly due to 12 April 1917 when the Canadian forces strategically captured higher ground after days of intense battle and years of preparation by combined allied forces.

“It seems as though Vimy Ridge holds a similar significance to Canadians as Gallipoli does for Australians, as a milestone for a fledgling nation. The thousands of Canadians who died are memorialised at a hauntingly beautiful limestone creation by sculptor Walter Allward which rises above the already elevated Vimy Ridge,” Heather said.

“The grief from the sacrifice made here is displayed in shrouded mourning figures, while other dying figures are embedded in the stone atop the two towers, approaching the sky. The nearby Vimy Ridge Visitor’s Centre provided more information about the battle as well as the wider significance. This included a moving art exhibition combining pressed flowers sent home by a soldier, glass artworks, matched scents and personal stories of soldiers, doctors, and women who contributed to the war effort by connecting soldiers to their families.”

The choristers then explored the tunnels and trenches of Vimy Ridge, where soldiers spent endless hours, sometimes in rat-infested mud. It was interesting to realise that no-man’s land (the distance between the two opposing front lines, in this case, between Canadian and German trenches) was only 25 metres apart, due to a destroyed mine which formed craters.

With touring done for the day, the choir arrived to Bailleul, with the sombre day in sharp  contrast to the warm welcome received from the community.

Deputy Mayor Sébastien Malesys and his wife, Sophie, opened a colourful boarding house to the choir before they all headed to the Hôtel de Ville for an official reception.

“This gorgeous building dripping in flowers was a lovely place to meet more of the people who made our stay here possible. We couldn’t stay long however, as our concert was in the evening at a beautiful chapel, Église Saint Vaast located near the hospital, a short way out of town,” Heather noted.

 

The choir was excited to sing almost all of their repertoire at the concert, to a fantastically enthusiastic audience.

“It was an absolute joy to sing for them. My favourite piece in this particular concert was La Vie en Rose as everyone seemed overjoyed to hear us sing it despite our imperfect French and many even sung along,” Heather said.

“It was a beautiful moment and I’m very grateful to everyone who listened to us, thanked us afterwards and were so generous with their kind words and smiles. I can’t imagine having a better audience at the start of a tour when we were admittedly quite nervous.”

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After two encores, the group moved to Ferme Brasserie Beck for dinner, a charming farm restaurant which brews the phenomenal Hommelpap artisanal beer.

The generosity and warmth of the Bailleul community continued as the choristers enjoyed a meal with local leaders.

It was such a wonderful experience for our choristers and a special thank you to the Bailleul community for welcoming them so well – especially to Sébastien, Sophie and Olivia.

Today (Sunday), our choristers will meet and perform for the community of Halloy-lès-Pernois, while having their first overseas rehearsal with the Australian Army Band in preparation for Wednesday’s service for the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel.

More soon! 

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You are also invited to join the Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours page on Facebook.

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

Day two: Sightseeing in Paris

Our choristers enjoyed a leisurely Day Two (Friday), playing tourists and exploring Paris in the 30 degree heat!

Some of the choristers ventured to the gardens, Jardins du Luxembourg, the modern art galleries of Centre Georges Pompidou, and the second largest church in Paris, Church of Saint-Sulpice.

Others journeyed to the palace of Versailles, which was the palace of the kings, until the French Revolution in 1789.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

The grounds at the Palace of Versailles (pic by Maddie)

The site, just under an hour from Paris, comprises no less than 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 m2.

It’s a beautiful property, with chorister Bree reporting it seemed larger than expected, with 21,000 steps accumulated for the day.

The rest of the day included a lovely group dinner, before visiting a wine bar and sampling some excellent French wine.

Today (Saturday), the group is travelling from Paris to Bailleul for its first community concert. Our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir in April this year had a wonderful experience meeting the community of Bailleul, so our current tourers are looking forward to the visit.

The choir will be performing beautiful pieces like this one, recorded at their Dedication Service and Concert earlier this month (special thanks to Tony Forbes).

We can’t wait to share more of the choir’s adventures soon as they get closer to what is going to be an incredible experience of performing at the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel.

We invite you to follow this blog by hovering your curser on the lower right hand corner of the page. Enter your email address when prompted. We also invite you to join the Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours Facebook group. 

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget 

Day One – Reuniting in Paris!

Voices of Birralee’s Western Front Centenary Choir (for the Battle of Hamel) has arrived in Paris, ready for a week of touring and performing to many French communities. As tourer Em Salmon explains, Day One in Paris with a performance at the Arc de Triomphe was quite a way to begin!

“The morning started off with everyone slowly filing in to our accommodation, and it was wonderful to see many familiar and friendly faces after some of us have been solo travelling!

“After some uniform adjustments due to the heat, we all piled into some cabs to brave the crazy Paris traffic to get to our first rehearsal of the tour.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

Journeying to the first rehearsal (pic by Michael)

“Our lovely French liaison Eric Brisse had organised for our rehearsal to be held in the exclusive Hôtel de la Païva, which was originally built for a Russian-born French courtesan in the 1800s. It was certainly a luxurious place to have our first rehearsal in France!

Hôtel de la Païva was Italian architectural indulgence and became the scene of some of the most decadent parties in the history of Europe.

“From there we trekked down the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe for our first performance of tour at the Rekindling of the Eternal Flame Ceremony. This is a ceremony that happens every day and it quite literally stops traffic for distinguished guests and members of the military to cross the roundabout over to the Arc.

“The ceremony itself was very humbling to be a part of, as we were treated as honoured guests, and invited to walk ahead of the military personnel.”

The choir’s Conductor and Voices of Birralee’s Founder & Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM added: “The ceremony was surrounded by representatives of different regions; there were police, flags and more flags watching over a moment of solemn reflection.”

“Heather and Ryan laid a wreath for Voices of Birralee and Jane and Phoebe also featured in the flame ceremony. Brendan (the choir’s Assistant Conductor) conducted the choir beautifully with many comments from onlookers. In Jaquille’s solo, her voice echoed through the magnificent pillars of the Arc de Triomphe. It was a wonderful moment for all.” 

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

The choir, with Assistant Conductor Brendan Murtagh and his son Peppie, and Conductor Julie Christiansen OAM (pic by Michael).

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

The Murtaghs on tour: Catherine, Michael, Peppie, Brendan and Jane.

After the ceremony the choristers went out to dinner to celebrate the first memorable day of tour, with the expectation of many other wonderful memories to be made in the days to come.

Today (Friday), the choristers will explore the sights of Paris, before they head north to Bailleul, where the next part of the tour will begin.

If you’d like to receive blog posts to your inbox, simply hover your cursor over the bottom right hand corner of the blog. Click ‘follow’ and then enter your email address.

You are also invited to join the Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours page on Facebook.

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

Post one: Our choristers arrive in France!

Voices of Birralee’s 2017 Anzac Day Commemoration Choir has arrived in France – ready to tackle just over a week of rehearsals and performances throughout Paris, Allonville, Vignacourt and Villers-Bretonneux, prior to the significant commemorative events for Anzac Day.

Of course, there will be quite a few opportunities for sightseeing! While a few of the choristers and Accompanying People (APs), got a head start on their trip, the majority of choristers flew into Paris early Friday morning, very excited to finally be in Europe.

To thwart jet-lag, the choristers made the most of Friday and Saturday, exploring the sights of the city, including sitting back on the hop-on-hop-off bus tours, with a major site, the Eiffel Tower.

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Groups explored the Montmarte precinct, including the Sacré Cœur Basilica and the Montmartre Cemetery, stumbling across a number of familiar names on tombstones, including notable French composer Hector Berlioz.

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Choristers also checked out the spectacular site of the Moulin Rouge.

Between more sightseeing, Saturday included a rehearsal at Saint-Jean de Montmartre to regroup after a busy few weeks.

Our choir’s first performance is on Monday night at the Ravivage de la Flame sous l’Arc de Triomphe which will be an interesting initiation for the choristers as they begin this important tour.

The Eternal Flame, which sits below the Arc de Triomphe is rekindled each night by representatives of the Veterans Associations of France. The site marks the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which honours all soldiers who have fought for France, with the idea initiated in 1916 (more info here). Being a part of this ceremony will mark our choir’s first overseas performance!

We can’t wait to share more with you as the adventure continues!

#vobanzacdaychoir

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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