Tag Archives: singing

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 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 5: On site rehearsals begin at Le Hamel

Today the choristers began their day with a visit to the Sir John Monash Centre, which sits behind the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux.

The site presented a phenomenal recount of the stories, horror and fate of Australian soldiers who fought in WWI and the many battles fought on the Western Front.

There were two quotes that stood out to the choristers the most:

“When the Australians came to France, the French people expected a great deal of you… We knew that you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the very beginning you would astonish the whole continent with your valour.” Spoken by French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau to the Australian troops after the war was won. 

Chorister Sally Christiansen said the group was inspired to hear about Monash’s theory on warfare which ultimately led Australian troops to reclaim the French villages and never loose ground. Resonating well with the choristers, Monash equated the organisation of troops to music.

Monash said: “A perfected modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases.”

The group’s AP and translator, Michael Murtagh said the centre was an overwhelming experience.

“Everyone follows a trail with an app and earphones in so it becomes a very private affair with only occasional glances exchanged with fellow visitors. It culminates in a multi-media screen show complete with a smoke machine, strobe lighting, machine gun fire and bombs exploding all around!” he said. 

 

While at the Australian National Memorial, the group observed the wall which hosts the names of 11,000 troops recorded as missing.

Choristers Maddie and Mark, who toured in Voices of Birralee’s first choir as part of the DVA commitment in 2015, relished the chance to find their ancestors’ names on the wall, once again.

“Myself and fellow chorister and friend, Mark had great uncles that fought with the 26th battalion on the Western Front,” Maddie said.

“We placed a bunch of wildflowers in the shadow of the remembrance wall that holds their names and wondered what they would think of our presence and if they were friends.” 

The group then headed to Le Hamel, Australian Corps Memorial for the rehearsal on-site for Wednesday’s performance.

The weather continued to be hot, but the choristers ran their music smoothly with the Australian Army Band.

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Julie and the choir in the shade at the memorial (pic by Sally)

After, the group ventured back to Amiens for the next element of the day, a performance.

“A highlight of the day was our late afternoon performance at the acclaimed original ‘Notre Dame Cathedral’ in Amiens. It was a once in a life time experience and a beautiful concert,” Sally said.

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The choir at Amiens Cathedral (pic by Rhonda)

Michael added, “The vastness was in stark contrast to other intimate venues and offered a very different acoustic which could have challenged our chorale. It was a beautiful concert and we must have done something right as the recteur/curé invited us behind the locked gates into the choir stalls dating from 1501 – 1508. It contained 3,000 intricate carvings in the solid wood retelling biblical stories in great detail.”

A special moment was the Australian Army Band soloist Tanya joining the choir to sing Amazing Grace.

Some of the crew came back to the cathedral later in the evening for the light show which was spectacular – so bright and colourful.

Today (on Tuesday) our choristers will participate in another rehearsal at Le Hamel, before visiting more historical sites including Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial and Thiepval Memorial.

More soon!

EDIT ON WAYS TO TUNE INTO THE CENTENARY OF THE BATTLE OF HAMEL SERVICE ON WEDNESDAY 4 JULY 2018: 

6pm. The ABC will now be broadcasting the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel live. (It will be repeated at 10am Thursday)
6pm. Live via the Anzac Centenary Facebook page
6pm. Via the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs​’s Youtube channel here.
(Times listed above are AEST) 

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

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

 

Day 4: The countdown begins

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

EDIT ON WAYS TO TUNE INTO THE CENTENARY OF THE BATTLE OF HAMEL SERVICE ON WEDNESDAY 4 JULY 2018: 

6pm. The ABC will now be broadcasting the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel live. (It will be repeated at 10am Thursday)
6pm. Live via the Anzac Centenary Facebook page
6pm. Via the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs​’s Youtube channel here.
(Times listed above are AEST) 

Now … to Day 4.

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

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

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Jacquille with a new friend (pic by Maddie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We look forward to sharing what they discover.

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

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

Day 3: Arriving to Bailleul

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

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

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At the Armistice Museum, Compiègne (pic by Julie) 

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

Chorister Heather Hunt described the significance of the site:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More soon! 

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#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.

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#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget