Tag Archives: music

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

Day 3 – 4: Rehearsals & concerts begin!

We’re settling into our new surrounds well, with day three beginning with a massed choir rehearsal for Thursday’s gala concert at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation.

There’s a fair bit of repertoire to get through and it seems like the concert will be quite a big deal with the President of Kazakhstan to attend. It will also be televised throughout Kazakhstan.

The massed choir pieces are being conducted by Hungarian, Gábor Hollerung, and Demeyuov Beimbet from Kazakhstan. We’re working hard and doing all right with the Kasak and Russian pronunciations.

After lunch and back at the hotel, we were treated to a workshop and performance from the Indonesian Children and Youth Choir – Cordana, conducted by Aida Swenson. The choir of young women and girls are dedicated to Indonesian dance from Muslim origin.

They were so impressive, with the music and moves so intricate! Check them out!

A few of our VOB choristers were then invited to try some of the choreographty – we gave it a good go, but don’t feel we did it justice!

On Sunday night we headed to Mega Silk Way, a mall near where the Expo 2017 was held. Here some of the foreign choirs, including those from Belarus, Mongolia, Israel, Korea and Italy performed for the shopping centre patrons and each other.

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A cast photo of the evening’s performance.

It was a fun and relaxed atmosphere and a great chance to air our repertoire before we perform on Wednesday. Overall we were happy with our performance and it was super fun mingling with the other choirs.

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On Monday we were back at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation for more massed rehearsals, with a dress rehearsal in the evening for government representives to make sure all was suitable. They seemed to give their tick of approval which I’m sure was a relief for the festival organisers.

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Back on the bus from practice.

It’s been a busy few days, with lots more to come! Wednesday will involve Sam, Oli and Rohan performing at a reception for the VI Congress of Religious Leaders, with a concert in the evening involving all choristers.

We’ll keep you updated.

#vobkazakh2018

Day 1 – 2: Welcome to Kazakhstan!

Kazakhstan wasn’t on many of our choristers’ travel lists prior to a special invitation from the International Choir Festival: Astana, Voice of the World, a few months ago.

So, a small group of choristers, with conductor Paul Holley, embarked on the journey at noon on Wednesday for an epic flight plan from Brisbane to Astana.

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It took around 36 hours, with stops in China and Russia, and then finally arriving in Kazakhstan for a transfer from Almaty to Astana. Choristers kept spirits high along the way with plenty of Eye-Spy, Uno, finding the best way to nap while seated upright, or having estimates of how long it would take a piece of paper to go down an escalator – boredom can create creativity… almost.

 

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But before we knew it, we were in Astana, a bit tired, but excited to sleep horizontally in a beautiful hotel, but not before travelling through the sparkling city to get there.

Waking up in Astana, a little confused as to where we were, we adjusted and decided to spend a free day exploring. The festival provided us a volunteer translater, Zhansaya, from a local uni, who took on an almost tourguide role. Zhansaya asked if we wanted to take a taxi to the city – hopefully she didn’t mind that we opted to walk. It wasn’t long before we’d passed the 7km mark…

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Pictured in the background is the Bayterek Tower – an observation tower. The tower has a golden egg in a nest at the top, symbolising a world of connection and progress.

As we wandered, we began to realise the city of Astana has been influenced by various iconic buildings / structures from throughout the world. There’s a Charles de Gaulle Street, with Parisian architecture, and even an Eiffel Tower (not to scale of course), a Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, which looks a bit like one of the pyramids at the Louvre Museum, Paris, and even a building that resembles the Empire State Building in New York.

 

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The tour included visiting a building that looked like a museum, but surprisingly, it was a modern mall. The top level had a dinosaur park, train, rides and arcades, quite reminicent of “Tops” which use to be in the Myer Centre in Brisbane.

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After excusing our tour guide / translater, we walked back to our hotel (about 21,000 steps completed for the day!), before getting ready to go to the evening’s opening gala concert at the stunning Astana Opera.

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Choristers with our translater, Zhansaya, a volunteer from a local uni.

The night’s concert featured a Chamber Choir from Kazakhstan and visiting soloist Amikaeyla Gaston and her group, “Harmonic Rhythms” from America. Both groups were incredibly polished and amazing to listen to.

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Outside the Opera House.

 

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The performers at the festival’s opening concert (pic by Oli)

Arriving back to the hotel, we were greeted by the final contingents of our choir, Sam and Andy who’d taken a later flight from Brisbane. It was good to have ‘the band back together again’, as we all got ready for day two.

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The band’s back together again!

On Saturday, three of the guys, Sam, Oli and Rohan left in the morning to partake in a special rehearsal where they’ll be a part of a group performing for the Kazakhstan President next week… no biggie. Some of the group explored the markets and bought around a kilogram of rasberries for reportedly the equivalent of AU$4.

Our group joined up after lunch to run through our repertoire, before walking to the biggest mosque in Central Asia, Hazrat Sultan Mosque. And yes, it was massive, but so beautiful and peacefully quiet.

 

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We then went for some more exploring, before enjoying a group dinner and getting ready for the next day of tour.

More soon…

#VOBKazakh2018

Day 7: Singing for the soldiers of Hamel

The choristers’ last day on Wednesday began with an early start as the group were on the road to The Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel, France, for the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel commemorative service.

After a week of discovering this region’s relevance to WW1 and learning of the battles, particularly, the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918, our choristers were ready to pay tribute to this time in our history through song.

“With the monument of the Sir John Monash centre at the Australian National Memorial in the distance, and the trenches of Le Hamel before us, we sang wholeheartedly in the pre-service alongside the Australian Army Band directed by Lieutenant Colonel Craig Johnson. It has been such a pleasure to sing with them and their soloist Tanya Christensen,” chorister Bridget said.

 

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The choir pictured with the Australian Army Band (pic by Rhonda).

The service began with a video of details of fallen Australian soldiers, some as young as 20-years-old. There were 93 flags from Australia, France, USA, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Canada placed in the trenches, honouring the allied nations involved in the 93-minute Battle of Hamel.

Speeches noted how the battle was meticulously planned by General John Monash to be 90 minutes, and it took just three minutes longer. It was a battle of ‘firsts’, with the Australian Corps fighting alongside the American forces for the first time in history, and was an ‘all arms’ battle with the use of  planes, tanks, bullets, with wireless sets and carrier pigeons for communication.

While it was labelled a ‘text book’ victory, the loss was still costly with Australia alone enduring 1,062 casualties, with 800 soldiers killed.

 

Further reading here.

 

“As the names of the fallen were read out, the flags blew in the wind, as if other soldiers were saluting them. Presenters reflected on the bravery of our soldiers, and were reminded that life is full of choices. We can choose to forget about our soldiers, with their efforts fading into the dust of history. Or we can choose to remember with pride, respect and reverence. We can choose to keep today’s soldiers in our thoughts and hearts as they protect us through dangerous and trying times,” Bridget said. 

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Linda Apelt, Agent General Trade and Investment Queensland Australia, with conductor Julie Christiansen at the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel (pic by Michael)

Distinguished guests and other members of the audience were moved by Voices of Birralee’s performance, with an email coming from a lady from Australia even before they had finished singing, full of admiration for the choir’s rendition of Amazing Grace.

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The choir with the Hon Darren Chester MP.

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The choir with His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) Governor-General of the Commonwealth Of Australia with Lady Lynn Cosgrove.

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The choir with the wreath laid on behalf of Voices of Birralee (pic by Michael)

The choir knew that many of their families were watching the ABC live footage at home with messages of encouragement and pride being sent.

“The importance of our choir’s performance and attendance at this event cannot be understated. We are the voice of a new generation, one who has never known war like our ancestors. We are the voice for those who were permanently silenced. A voice for the ‘quiet ghosts’ on the Western Front’,” Bridget said. 

 

The past week has been an incredible tour for our choristers, conductors and accompanists. Last night they celebrated their time together with a group dinner in Amiens.

Voices of Birralee Founder and Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM, who conducted the choir, noted her pride: 

“Congratulations to every singer, for the integral part which you played in the ensemble. I couldn’t have asked for a more talented, positive, resilient and cooperative team of young people and it has been a privilege to work with you all. Thank you also to LtCol Craig Johnson from the Australian Army Band and the musicians, including soloist Tanya Christensen. Special thanks to Brendan Murtagh, Jenni Flemming and Gwyn Roberts. And finally a huge shout out to Michael Murtagh for multitasking as MC, French -English translator, logistics assistant, photographer and super grandad!” 

Chorister Bridget added: “This has been such a fantastic tour. A highlight has been getting to know the Birralee community- singers, Julie, and families of the singers sharing their talents with us. We are more a community than just a choir and it’s amazing that everyone has something special to contribute. Thank you all for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!” 

Chorister Alexander Brown noted: “Highlights of the trip include performing beneath the Arc d’Triomphe – certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience – as well as the warm reception we received wherever we travelled. The people of Bailleul and Halloy-Les-Pernois were incredibly generous with their food, drink and applause, and it is visiting small communities such as those that makes trips like these so rewarding. Huge thanks to Jenni and Gwyn – world class musicians providing world class accompaniment – and Michael for being on multiple occasions our only form of communication with the local communities. Appreciation to Ryan and Oli for being top shelf roomates. And of course Julie, who was not only conductor, artistic director, tour director and logistics manager, but also a friend to the whole group. And finally, a big shout out to Rochelle, Amirah and Maree for their tireless admin work – this tour was as much yours as it was ours.”

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Julie with the men of the choir (pic by Maddie)

***

There’s a number of people who make these centenary tours possible. Special thank you to:

  • The Department of Veterans’ Affairs for providing Voices of Birralee this opportunity.
  • Eric Brisse for being our liaison for our touring of the Somme region.
  • The Bailleul community for welcoming our group so warmly; Mayor Marc Deneuche, Deputy Mayor Sebastien Malesys and Deputy Mayor Catherine Deplancke, with Sophie and Olivia.
  • The Halloy-Lès-Pernois community and Mayor of Pernois, Eric Olivier and Mayor of Halloy-Lès-Pernois, Philippe Carpentier.
  • Voices of Birralee; Founder & Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM, Associate Director Paul Holley OAM, Operations & Events Manager Rochelle Manderson and Administrator Amirah Farrell.
  • Brisbane City Council.
  • The Ashgrove – The Gap Lions Club.
  • Our wonderful Birralee community including Linda Stemp for her bespoke poppies our choristers wear with pride and Tony Forbes for the offical photography and filming of our tourers in Australia

Finally, thank you to all the friends and family back home for supporting and following our choristers’ journey.

We look forward to our next tour – the Centenary of the First World War Armistice as we send 30 choristers to France for 11 November at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux.

For now, we wish our July tourers a safe and happy rest of their trip.

#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.

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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