Two incredible experiences were packed into Thursday for our choristers.
Enjoying some down time in the morning to check out the town of Amiens, the Anzac Day Commemoration Choir then attended the first of the official rehearsals, this time at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt.
The Digger Memorial commemorates the lives lost in WW1, while honouring the bravery of our Australian soldiers during the two Battles of Bullecourt, the first beginning on 11 April 1917 which was considered a disaster. In the second from 3 May, the Australians took back part of the Hindenburg Line (a German defensive position), however, it was never considered a strategic win. Through both battles, the AIF lost 10,000 soldiers (read more here).
Thursday was a good chance to get a sense of what our choristers can expect in the centenary service of the Battle of Bullecourt on Anzac Day afternoon. This included rehearsing with the Australian Army Band.
The ‘Digger” which overlooks the town of Bullecourt and surrounding fields was sculptured by Melbourne’s Peter Corlett for Anzac Day 1993. Corlett was instructed that the digger should reflect the WW1 Australian soldier. Soon after he began the process, he discovered his father had actually served in Bullecourt in WW1.
“I stood in the field and touched the cairn upon which my sculpture will eventually rest and felt a wave of emotion run through me. I felt my dad’s presence and everything went quiet.” – Peter Corlett, ‘Sculptor captures his father’s spirit’, unsourced and undated newspaper article, Office of Australian War Graves file (as seen – The Bullecourt Digger – Bullecourt, France, Australians on the Western Front, link to article).
After rehearsals, the choristers and APs visited the museum – Maison des Australiens in Vignacourt to discover the history of this town and the stories of our Anzacs being here 100 years ago.
Vignacourt, a small town in the Somme was behind the front lines during WW1 and often used as a refuge. It is here where local Louis Thuillier and his wife turned their home into a photography studio capturing images of the many Australian and other soldiers passing through (more info Australian War Memorial / Yahoo 7 – Sunday Night)
Thursday evening, our choristers performed their second town concert at the beautiful church, Eglise Saint-Firmin.
Chorister Pepper Churchill: “The locals were lovely, and went out of their way to overcome the language barrier, and made us feel as welcome and comfortable as possible. We sang a large portion of our repertoire. My favourite song that we sang was Danny Boy, because we dedicated it to the town doctor who had passed away a few days ago, adding an extra layer of emotion, and establishing a connection between the choir and the local people.
Chorister Avril Hocking: “The Vignacourt locals last night were such a cheerful bunch. During the concert, we performed a number of pieces including some of our favourites being The Ground, Ne Les Oublions Jamais and Danny Boy… after a number of standing ovations from the audience, we all made our way to the village hall to enjoy a beautiful dinner created by the children from the local youth club.”
And it’s not just the choristers who are soaking up the history of these wonderful towns and meeting the friendly locals. Our Accompanying People (APs) are along for the ride, while of course being our choir’s groupies at the local concerts.
AP Gai Woolrych: “Us APs are living the highlife, getting to see all these wonderful places and enjoying amazing concerts put together by Julie, Jenny, Justine, the choir and the team. The choir was incredible last night (in Vignacourt) and I don’t think the locals wanted it to ever finish. In Flanders Fields and The Ground were standouts for me, although all the songs were brilliant. The concert was held in an amazing church Eglise Saint-Firmin and was followed by a wonderful dinner held in the local community hall. These small villages are really special. Some APs managed to visit the war museum at Albert earlier in the day which is sited underground in an old bomb shelter. It was really worth the visit.”
A special thank you again to M. Eric Brisse for helping to set up the town concerts and a number of other activities for our choristers, along with the Mayor of Vignacourt, M. Stéphane Ducrotoy and the Vignacourt community for welcoming our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir so warmly!
Today (Friday) our choristers will partake in an important rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux as the countdown begins for Anzac Day.
#vobanzacdaychoir #ww1 #lestweforget