Our choristers have left the bustle of Paris and are now in northern France, visiting many locations at the centre of Australia and the world’s WW1 history.
What a lovely drive, with stunning views.
On the way, the tourers stopped at the Armistice Museum in Compiènge. This was the site of the signing of the Armistice in November 1918 (and then Hitler used it for France’s surrender in 1940).
There is a replica (an original carriage in the same series, remodelled to the exact decor of the original) of the carriage in which this historic event occurred.
After learning about this historic moment (which another of Voices of Birralee’s choirs will help commemorate the centenary of in France this November) the choristers enjoyed lunch in the town, before their trip continued to Allonville. Any lunch in France involves pastries and cheese!
The choristers checked into their hotel in Amiens before heading to Allonville, where their host for the evening was the gracious and hilarious Marcel – a wonderful character who kindly showed the group around the town.
“We were given a short tour around the gorgeous town of Allonville and visited the cemetery where English, Australian and French servicemen were buried. We sang ‘Abide with Me’ in the cemetery grounds which was very emotional, but extremely special,” chorister Tilly said.
After the tour, the choristers performed at Allonville Church to a full house.
The choir had an excellent reception, with a special moment being the France premiere of ‘Fields of Allonville’ written by Birralee chorister Joshua Clifford, and music by Joe Twist.
Josh was inspired to write this song after his visit to Allonville with the Western Front Centenary Choir in July 2016 who performed at the town’s first commemoration service for the Australian soldiers who died here.
While Allonville was mainly a location for respite during WW1, where the Aussie performance troupe “The Smart Set” would often entertain, it wasn’t immune to the horror of war.
Disaster struct on 31 May 1918, when the local barn, often used for performances, was hit by two German shells. Many soldiers of the 14th Battalion had been sleeping in the barn and there were 87 casualties, with 27 killed. Read more here.
To share this song with the locals was an incredibly special moment.
“The people of the village were so happy to be honoured in that way and in turn honoured us with a delicious and joyous town hall dinner,” chorister Rachel said.
It was a very moving day, which brought home just how much the Australians mean to the people of this area. One hundred years later and they still line the streets with Australian flags, lovingly maintain the Australian war graves, and teach their children to make Anzac biscuits!
The choir was given a massive Anzac biscuit to share!
The choristers are all looking forward to today (Thursday) where they will perform for the town of Bailleul. We can’t wait to share what they discover!