Post 7: Arriving to ANM, Villers-Bretonneux

A lot has happened since our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir met up last Friday in Paris!

And yesterday our choir had another busy day of rehearsals, beginning with the Australian Army Band in Amiens, before heading for the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux.

The photos below were taken at 10.30am…and as you can see our choristers were really enjoying the views during the morning bus ride through lovely French villages and the countryside.

They’ve had a big week!

Our choristers were amazed when they set foot at the Australian National Memorial for the first time. The memorial lists the names of some 11,000 Australians missing in France, with a number of graves where soldiers remain unidentified and the tombstones note, ‘known unto God’.

The memorial is in Villers-Bretonneux, a town where our Anzacs had one of their greatest victories of WW1. Two Australian brigades were assigned by the British to take back Villers-Bretonneux from the Germans. It was believed that had the Germans advanced to Amiens, they would have won the war (there’s a story here by the ABC which is a good summary of the event on 24 – 25 April, 1918).

On Friday, our choristers were able to explore the sacred site of the memorial between rehearsals.

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The Australian National Memorial (pic by Brigitte)

Chorister Rachel Bond: “Our first official day of rehearsal on site at the Australian National Memorial was amazing. As we arrived, it was almost impossible to believe we were finally there after all the counting down and hard work we had done to prepare. While we were rehearsing songs with the band such as Danny Boy, We Will Remember Them and Requiem for a Soldier and looking out over rows of graves and endless plains of fields in the distance, it felt as if we were singing directly to the soldiers who each made a selfless sacrifice for their nation. The experience was incredibly moving and many choristers shed a tear as the harsh reality of the tragedy of war set in.

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Choristers Jody Hurdial, Anthony Deeb and Louis Backstrom (pic by Brigitte)

Chorister Anthony Deeb: “Today the realisation of what we are here for hit me. Rehearsing with the Australian Army Band and being out at the ANM was incredible. We climbed to the top of the tower and I was told of what lay before me. I’m really looking forward to performing on Anzac Day.” 

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Preparations are underway for Anzac Day with the chairs set for the audience, along with greenrooms for the various VIPs and groups participating, including our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir (pic by Brigitte)

Choristers Ellie Minto and Libby Lynch have been working on a short poem together to express the importance of this trip. Seeing wording on a gravestone at the Australian National Memorial inspired this beautiful poem.

Dawn’s Tale – by Ellie Minto and Libby Lynch

Dawn tells no tale greater than war
And shines light upon our fields and shores
With hearts of pride and bravery
Our men left home for king and country

The spoils of war were all but none
And yet our men fought as one
A heart, a soul, a country, a kin,
A band of brothers without and within

The letters home were streaked with ink
As soldiers stood armed at the brink
Of death and war. They hoped and feared
And from every sacrifice we revered

Dawn tells no tale greater than war
And shines light upon heaven’s door
The arms of angels, weighted with sorrow,
carried our men unto tomorrow

And now we walk the fields of green
With white stone columns laced with wreaths
It’s our hearts now that break from the loss
Of men whose stones shall bare no cross

No names, no grave, no sign of place
But for the tears left on our face
The home they left so long ago
Shall now be protected from the foe

Dawn tells no tale greater than war
And shines light on our ANZACS, forever more.
“Not goodbye, but goodnight.
We shall all meet in the morning light.”

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Our choristers rehearse for the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial (pic by Brigitte)

A note from Voices of Birralee Founder & Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM: It has been so lovely working with Major Jeff Cocks , conductor of Australian Army Band. Jeff and his wife Simone, who is also an ADF soloist, lived in Brisbane for many years with their two sons. Jeff is one of those rare band conductors who understands how to change his gesture for singers. His musicality is making our job so much more enjoyable and the music is expressive. The ADF soloist for this Anzac Day service is Dave Andrews from Ferny Hills. (He runs the gymnastics club at Ferny Hills in his spare time!) He is such a lovely guy and his singing is just perfect for this occasion.

Also Jenny Moon (Anzac Day Commemoration Choir conductor) is doing a wonderful job! The kids are sounding great! Jenny was enjoying herself so much yesterday at the ANM, that you might have caught a glimpse of her adding some sassy choreography to her conducting of La Vien en Rose! Much to the amusement of the DVA staff.” 

Today (Saturday) our choristers will take part in another rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial, before heading on a battlefield to Pozieres, Thiepval Memorial and  Lochnagar.

Tonight they will meet the people of Villers-Bretonneux for a town concert.

More soon!

#vobanzacdaychoir #lestweforget #ww1


One thought on “Post 7: Arriving to ANM, Villers-Bretonneux

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  1. Thanks for the insights you are sharing. Please tell Tara, Ellie and Libby that we are missing them at Mansfield and that the poem is incredibly special. We will be thinking about you all during our own Anzac ceremony tomorrow. Good luck. Marg Overs


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