Tag Archives: performance

Day 5 & 6 – Culture & concerts

After lunch on Day 5 we arrived at Astana Ballet to sound check for the next day’s concert where each choir would perform individually. It was a long session but we filled the time eating local junk food and playing many games of Uno and working out which rules were ‘house’ rules vs ‘actual’ rules.

On Wednesday, Sam, Oli and Rohan spent the morning at a reception for the Sixth Congress of Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Each choir nominated three singers to perform in this reception with an audience that included the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

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Sam, Oli and Rohan with new friends after the reception.

The other choristers enjoyed a quiet morning and Paul called a rehearsal which turned out to be a pretend rehearsal in order to sing Happy Birthday to chorister, Amirah and share cake.

After lunch we walked to Assumption Russian Orthodox Cathedral. It was a grand cathedral both inside and out, with the exterior featuring white, gold and blue towers, with the artwork on the interior incredibly detailed paintings with gold leaf.

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The impressive Assumption Russian Orthodox Church, Kazakhstan (pic by Rohan)

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Inside Assumption Russian Orthodox Church (pic by Rohan)

There was only a handful of parishioners visiting the church when we were there, and the place was hauntingly quiet. A cough echoed throughout showing just how incredible the resonance was. We were tempted to sing, but weren’t sure if it would have been appropriate and we hadn’t learnt how to ask politely in Kasakh or Russian yet.

With a short stop at the Astana Mall to replenish snacks we ran back to the hotel to make it (just) in time for the bus to take us to the evening’s concert.

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The choir with conductor Paul Holley and one of the translators, Dory, prior to the concert.

Before the concert began, we took some pictures with other choirs and with our translators who’d looked after us.  Two volunteer translators were Sanzhar and a young woman we nicknamed Dory because she said she loved Finding Nemo. She loved the nickname and that’s what we called her for the rest of the tour.

When the time came for the performance we sang Ruth McCall’s arrangement of Waltzing Matilda, followed by Sing Me to Heaven (Daniel Gawthrop). Below is the recording of Sing Me to Heaven (apologies for the vision quality). 

Being first we were able to then watch the other performances from many of the choirs we had befriended. It was awesome to see the diversity of performances. Some choirs used interesting mouth instruments, percussion, or just showed their diversity of vocals.

More soon, with the final blog covering day 7 and 8!

#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 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.

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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.” 

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

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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.

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#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget