Tag Archives: reflection

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!

The year that was – 2018!

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

JANUARY – FEBRUARY 

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

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

MARCH: 

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

BBV at Camp at Twin Waters

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

APRIL: 

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

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

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Performing at the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony. 

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

Voices of Birralee Anzac Day Centenary Choir

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

MAY: 

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

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

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

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

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

JUNE:

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

 

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

JULY: 

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

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

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

AUGUST: 

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

SEPTEMBER: 

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

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

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

OCTOBER: 

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

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Touring Kazakhstan! 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

NOVEMBER: 

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

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

DECEMBER: 

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

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

***

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

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

Day 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

Day 4: Setting foot at the Australian National Memorial

Before we get started with Day 4 … click here for updates on where you can catch ABC coverage of the Armistice Centenary services (please consider AEST & AEDST). 

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We had an early start on Day 4, heading to Megacity, for our first rehearsal with the Air Force Band in the lead up to Sunday’s Centenary Service.

 

It was a great chance to rehearse many pieces we’ll be performing with them on Sunday, which will include both the Australian and French National Anthems and the hymn Be Still My Soul (Finlandia) in the official service with many pieces prior and after the service.

 

It was a beautiful day with blue skies (only cold in the shade) so the perfect chance to see the site with its immaculately kept cemetery and pristine views from the tower.

 

It’s hard to believe the lush green fields in the distance and grounds below the tower would have been consumed by battle 100 years ago, including the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. We were reminded of the toll here with the many graves, row upon row, across the site, along with the 11,000 names listed of those missing on the Australian National Memorial wall.

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A view from the Australian National Memorial Tower (pic by Tony)

Honouring our soldiers through the best way our choristers knew, we sang Good Night Dear Heart (Words Mark Twain, music Dan Forrest) in the tower, while marvelling at the incredible acoustics.

 

The afternoon was jam-packed with rehearsing repertoire, while being a good chance to soak in the atmosphere prior to Sunday before it will be attended by people from across the world paying their respects.

Channel 10 News First captured some of the rehearsal and interviewed one of our choristers, Andy Francis, on his special WW1 connection, check it out below.

 

 

Overall it was a good day, with many of the choristers joining for a group dinner later in Amiens to unwind, which included some more singing.

VOB Armistice Choir

The lovely city of Amiens, with the spire of the cathedral in the background (pic by Tony)

Today our choristers are enjoying a break in the morning, before heading back to the Australian National Memorial for rehearsals.

Tonight, the choir will perform at the very special Allonville and are excited to share a newly premiered song to honour the town, And Now The War Has Ended, with words by touring chorister Joshua Clifford. More soon!

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

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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