Tag Archives: Voices of Birralee

Day 3: Arriving to Amiens & Fouilloy

Welcome back to the blog! Before we get started, some special info to take note: 

“Australia Remembers: Armistice Day France Service” will be broadcast on the ABC at 9.42pm on Sunday 11 November (Brisbane time).

Also, there’ll be a story on Channel Ten Eyewitness News at 5pm today which will include Voices of Birralee (Friday 9 November). Tune in! 

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Awaking to a rainy day in Bailleul, choristers were treated to a breakfast of delicious croissants and bread provided by the local community, before jumping on the bus to head to Amiens, with a few stops in between.

With the rain limiting outdoor activities, we visited the Somme 1916 Museum which is built upon and within 13th century tunnels that were turned into air-raid shelters before WW2.

The museum is incredibly interesting, delving into the history of the battles of the Somme, and the impact on multiple nations, including Britain, New Foundland, Germany and more, covering themes of the soldiers’ state of mind when they returned home, as well as the role and toll on animals including horses, dogs and pigeons.

After the museum, the choir visited Thiepval Memorial which commemorates 72,000 British and South African soldiers reported missing prior to 20 March 1918.

The monument is very impressive towering at 45m, with a cemetery below. While a sombre sight, it was a beautiful one, flanked by trees with vibrant autumn leaves. One of our choristers, Laurence honoured the fallen soldiers once again with a bagpipes solo.

Our choristers also honoured the troops with an impromptu sing of In Flanders Fields. It was quite a moving experience with many choristers reflecting on what happened in the site and the sacrifices made.

After the historical visits, the choir checked in at their Amiens accommodation and quickly got ready for their second community concert, this time in the village of Fouilloy.

It was quite an intimate concert with a very appreciative audience. It was lovely to perform for another French village and a fun moment (our conductor Julie’s idea) was for each chorister to introduce (in French!) who they were and their profession. I think the audience appreciated our efforts!

After the concert, we were delighted to be led by Fouilloy Deputy Mayor Serge Rondot on a short walk for dinner. On the way we could see the Australian National Memorial in the distance – a perfect reminder of why we’re here and what we have to look forward to.

We were provided a fresh and delicious meal at a local restaurant and we were very appreciative of the warm welcome. It was such as great representation of friendship – another perfect end to a community concert.

More soon.

#vobarmistice100 #vobarmistice2018 #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.

VOB Armistice Choir

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.

Voices of Birralee Armistice Day Tour

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 6 – Rehearsals and relaxing before the big day

As you might have seen by now, our choir performed beautifully at the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel, using their voices to honour those who served in the battle which was a turning point of the war.

But before we provide Wednesday’s recap, here’s what happened on Day 6 (Tuesday).

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

Brisbane young musician Dave Leaders rehearses the pipes for the Hamel Centenary Service (pic by Julie)

First up in the morning our group left Amiens for the Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel for an ‘in real time’ rehearsal, to get ready for Wednesday. As it has been with all of the commemorative events Voices of Birralee has been involved with, planning is down to the minute, which is needed to ensure a successful broadcast on the day.

With everyone confident with how rehearsal went, the group had time for some more exploring of historical sites, including the Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial.

This memorial further highlights how many people throughout the world ‘answered the call’ to fight voluntarily during WW1 and that countries felt the need to serve, no matter their size. Newfoundland was a small British dominion, and offered a small regiment throughout the war. Of all the battles it faced, the worst was the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 when the regiment was almost wiped out. It was a devastating day for many. 20,000 British troops were killed, 37,000 wounded and of the Newfoundland Regiment, when the roll was called only 68 answered as 324 troops were killed or missing and 386 were wounded (more here).

After visiting the site, our group headed back to Amiens. Here they enjoyed a boat ride through the canal, arches and garden plots of The ‘Hortillonnages‘, a maze of floating gardens.

It was the perfect opportunity for a sing:

 

The group then enjoyed an early dinner.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

Enjoying a meal before the final day (pic by Brendan)

In the next blog post, we’ll recap Wednesday, noting what it was like for our tourers to be a part of the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel.

If you’d like to receive blog posts to your inbox, simply hover your cursor over the bottom right hand corner of the blog. Click ‘follow’ and then enter your email address.

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

#vobhamel100 #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

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.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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) 

If you’d like to receive blog posts to your inbox, simply hover your cursor over the bottom right hand corner of the blog. Click ‘follow’ and then enter your email address.

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.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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.

If you’d like to receive blog posts to your inbox, simply hover your cursor over the bottom right hand corner of the blog. Click ‘follow’ and then enter your email address.

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.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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! 

If you’d like to receive blog posts to your inbox, simply hover your cursor over the bottom right hand corner of the blog. Click ‘follow’ and then enter your email address.

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

#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.

Voices of Birralee Hamel Tour

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