It has been an incredible week for our Anzac Day Commemoration Choir choristers, along with the management team and accompanying people.
On Monday, our choristers were given a rest day from rehearsals and snuck into the stunning Amiens Cathedral for a sneaky sing to test out the impressive acoustics, before heading on a battlefield tour, this time to Vimy Ridge. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was in April 1917, mainly involving the Canadian Corps.
This battlefield tour, among others, continued to build the choristers’ knowledge of WW1 and the importance of commemorating events in Australian and New Zealand’s history, while recognising the impact of this war, and others, on the rest of the world.
These tours and all the rehearsals were counting down to why our choir was in France; Anzac Day. And our choristers knew they were in for something incredible!
At 11pm Monday night our choristers were on the bus from Amiens, keen and ready to get to the grounds of the Australian National Memorial before the crowds. With lots of layers to brace for the onset of dawn, our choir warmed up in their greenroom marquee before providing pre-dawn entertainment.
All their preparation paid off – the choir sang beautifully. You can hear some of the pre-dawn performance here (thanks to Great War Centenary in the Somme for sharing via Facebook Live).
Tour manager / chorister Kate Thompson described what she was feeling between the dawn sets: “It’s quite hard to explain how it feels to be here. I remember learning about the war at school and hearing the stories when Birralee began its commemoration tours, but actually being here is like nothing else. Suddenly everything seems more real. More raw. The hardest thing is reading the remarks inscribed on the gravestones. Words from mothers to their lost sons, from wives to their husbands. When you hear of the vast numbers of lives lost, it’s easy to forget that each one of those boys had a mother, a father, a family, friends and a community who mourned for each and every individual. Singing with these young people has been an honour and I feel more privileged than ever to be a part of the Birralee family. It’s truly been an experience I shall never forget.”
The choir’s professionalism and beautiful sound was recognised by a number of people yesterday, including Councillor for The Gap Ward Steve Toomey who shared the below after meeting the choir.
Along with the coverage on the ABC, the choir was featured on Channel 7 with a snippet of the stunning Amazing Grace. A huge thank you to Birralee mum Melanie for organising this.
Anzac Day Commemoration Choir Conductor Jenny Moon noted: “The singers were exceptional at the Dawn Service and at Bullecourt in honouring all those who served and continue to do so. They have been fine ambassadors for Birralee and Australia and I want to thank each of them for their commitment and dedication to this choir and congratulate them on the truly beautiful music they have made together. Well done guys.”
Each chorister will have their own highlight from the day, but for Anthony Deeb, his is rather unique. The choristers have met a number of incredibly talented people during the past week off rehearsals and this included didgeridoo player David Hudson.
At the end of the Dawn Service, in a beautiful gesture, David gifted his didgeridoo to Anthony.
Chorister Anthony Deeb: “It was a pleasure to meet Dave whilst rehearsing at the Australian National Memorial. After the Anzac Day Dawn Service I was completely overwhelmed when Dave presented me with his didgeridoo which he played during the service. Dave also signed it for me. I’m really looking forward to trying it out when we are back home. This is a wonderful gift which will be shared with the Birralee community.”
After the Anzac Day Dawn Service, our choristers had a rest before participating in the afternoon’s commitments. Their first duty was unofficial as they observed and participated as the audience in the Bullecourt Town Service.
Straight after though, it was back to performance-mode as the choir walked with the crowd up the road to the Digger Memorial for the centenary service.
All in all, it was a very special day for our choristers and they sung beautifully, honouring the Anzacs through song. The day was massive, as choristers sung in a completely different environment to what they had ever done in the past. Voices of Birralee Founder and Artistic Director Julie Christiansen OAM said the choristers’ efforts were exemplary.
“The challenges of extreme low temperatures was overcome by a gallant effort on behalf of all the musicians. It was a moment that no one will ever forget. The camaraderie of the group is another wonderful outcome with friendships that have deepened. Sincere thanks to Justine and Jenny for their wonderful talents, to Brigitte and Peta for constantly being on call and to Stu and Kate who got a taste of parenting 30 adolescents for a fortnight! The accompanying parents were a pleasure to have involved and also made our job easier. And finally a huge thank you to the tour management team back home, Rochelle, Amirah, Margie, Maree and Paul… your support made this amazing experience possible. Thank you.”
Anzac Day and the week surrounding it is sure to stay in our choristers’ minds well into the future. The tour has been successful with the help of a number of individuals and groups. Thank you to:
– The Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Thank you in particular to Director Shaun Carroll and Assistant Director Paul Richardson CSC OAM of the Western Front Section Commemorations Branch and Sue Edwards from Definitive Events.
– Eric Brisse and the various communities of Paris, Vignacourt, Villers-Bretonneux and Allonville for welcoming our choir so warmly.
– Brisbane City Council, along with a number of community groups at home for lending our choristers support, including local RSLs, the Ashgrove – The Gap Lions Club (through the Lions Community 100 Project and via other projects) and Link Vision for their support of Anthony.
– Major Jeff Cocks, conductor of Australian Army Band and ADF soloist Dave Andrews for working with our choir so beautifully.
– And to Linda Stemp for her bespoke poppies our choristers wore with pride.
Finally, to everyone following the journey from home, including the families and schools of the choristers – thank you for your ongoing support!
#vobanzacdaychoir #lestweforget #wewillrememberthem