Tag Archives: france

Day 12 & 13: Venice to Paris

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Today, Birralee woke up to a lovely sunny day in Mestre, and had a filling breakfast at Hotel Russott. At 8:30am we all boarded busses to take us up the road to the Grand Canal ferry terminal where we boarded separate boats to the island of Venice! Our journey towards the city was a little bumpy, but we all arrived safely. We split into six groups and were given some radio devices to listen to tour guides. Many thanks to Barbara, Filippo, Pamela, Cinzia, Manu and Nora for showing us around Venice and introducing us to the sights of this city.

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Lunchtime saw each group venture to various eateries on the island; though of course pizza was a favourite for many! After lunch we all met up for a truly Venetian experience – a Gondola ride! In groups of six we were taken into the canals on the gorgeous wooden boats as they sleekly slunk through the quiet ‘streets,’ buildings looming over us.

Next stop was Doge’s Palace, where we were led through ancient halls covered in old art including pieces by Titian, and across the famous suspended ‘Bridge of Sighs.’ Farewelling our amazing guides, we once again split up for some shopping and dinner – many had their sights set on gelato for desert! Reconvening with all of Birralee at the docks at 7:45pm, we boarded our boats back to the mainland and watched with smiles as the glinting lights of Venezia faded away.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Today, we travelled to our final European country, France! We split into two different groups between choristers, staff and AP’s for the journey from Marco Polo Airport in Venice, to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. With no glitches, we all arrived safely. Tomorrow we take on EuroDisney!!!

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

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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!

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#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 6: One more sleep! (For us in France anyway!)

It’s been such an incredible week of singing, discovery and nurturing connections between us Australians and the French, while remembering sacrifices made by many soldiers from throughout the world during WW1.

Today (Saturday) was a busy day as we headed to the Australian National Memorial for a final rehearsal with the Airforce Band, as the ABC and Department of Veterans’ Affairs rehearsed the service program for the Centenary of the WW1 Armistice.

We were warned it might be rainy but some of us didn’t expect the quantity of rain and the chill in the air.

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We consoled in the fact that no matter how cold and wet it would be, it was never going to be as bad as what the Anzacs went through with wet and soggy trenches and sometimes snow in the lead up to Christmas. Also, they didn’t just have to deal with the weather, they had to contend with vermin, disease, being fired at and more.

Anytime we could add layers of clean clothing. We enjoyed a break in a heated tent at lunch time. We had it pretty good … thanks to them.

After rehearsals choristers walked behind the Australian National Memorial to the Sir John Monash Centre, which is a cleverly set out museum. Here you can choose to download an App and plug-in your earphones to immerse yourself in WW1 history, where fascinating topics are covered including Monash’s incredible ‘all arms’ 93-minute Battle of Hamel in July 1918, how the war started, why Australia got involved, what they wore, the weapons used and the strategies of battles.

The museum seemed to touch deeply on subjects rarely brought to light, including the indigenous Australians who served. This was represented with an artistic sculpture of two emus. In aboriginal culture it is believed that if a person dies away from their home land, their soul wanders forever.

Another subject covered was how the soldiers felt when the war finally ended on 11 November 1918. Many soldiers couldn’t process what had happened, after too many years of horrific battle. This was represented in the words of one young solider:

“We had two victories today, we won the war and defeated the 5th Field Company at soccer.” 

Choristers spent a few hours wandering the centre before they gathered in the foyer to sing some songs to the visitors. It was a great way to finish the final day of rehearsals and exploration before the big day tomorrow.

We can’t wait to tell you all about it!

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

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