“Perhaps it will brighten the dark moments a little to think how you have meant to someone more than anything ever has or ever will.
What you have striven for will not end in nothing, all that you have done and been will not be wasted, for it will be a part of me as long as I live, and I shall remember, always.”
Vera Brittain, reflecting on WWI
The Military Wives Choirs are marking the centenary of the end of WW1 with a commemorative album, telling their unique story in collaboration with military musicians from across the services through a combination of exciting new compositions and traditional songs. The thousand voices appearing on this album represent the families at home and those who served, both then and now.
I was honoured to be one of the 1,105 choir members to sing on the album and had the privilege of being at the album press launch as both choir member and designer of the album sleeves inside pages.
The album was recorded at 7 locations around the country with 69 choirs from British military bases all over the world. It also features the great musicians from the Central Band of the RAF, The Band of the Household Cavalry, and the Royal Marine Corps of Drums, some of which were at the event.
The press event happened at the London Scottish Regiment building in Westminster and was attended by over 100 Military Wives Choir singers, song composers, along with military and charity guests who support those in the military community. Guests were treated to a special live performance of ‘Poppy Red’ and ‘Brave’ – a song written and performed by the wonderful Laura Wright.
‘2018 marks the centenary of the end of the ‘Great War’. Fierce patriotism and heroism from the troops at the Front was matched by the country’s women, who worked tirelessly and raised children alone, through the loss of husbands, sons, fathers, brothers or friends. It is these values of patriotic pride, staunchness and strength in adversity, and mutual support, that remain the same over a hundred years.
The Military Wives Choirs can tell this story, as it is ours. We have acknowledged this poignant occasion with a timeless commemoration, representing both the families at home and the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who served, both then and now.’
As a member of North London Military Wives Choir I was lucky to be one of the first to hear songs especially composed for us. Last Summer we were joined in a workshop by the composers Joanna Forbes L’Estrange and Alexander L’Estrange, who have written ‘We Will Remember Them’ a commemoration to those in WW1 and to acknowledge the great sacrifice of their family members – something that is reflected in to the world of the modern military wife.
The first line ‘she didn’t know, as she watched him go, if she would ever hold him in her arms again’ isn’t just something from one hundred years ago, it’s something that every military wife still experiences.
The truth is that, although not in the media psyche, today spouses all over the UK have partners in the darkest parts of the world. They continue with their everyday lives, knowing the dangers that they face. This is why this album is so special. It’s a commemoration of the great war, but it’s also draws a direct connection from the past to our own stories.
The support that I have found since joining North London after this posting in 2016 has quite literally changed my entire outlook on this ‘magnolia wall life’. There’s an unspoken understanding within the members of the choir. We have all experienced the worry and the fear that our partners may suffer mentally or physically from their recent operational tour, and we know what this life brings us. The choir and its network create on-the-ground support for the wife. It means that we can get together to support and look out for one another, no matter of rank or situation. It’s a very special thing.
Although I would obviously love the album to do well and sell thousands of copies, I also know that what really matters is that we have achieved something profound together. The opportunities that we have experienced and the friends that we have found make this challenging military life so much easier. We no longer just have the very deserved achievements of our hard-working partners, we now have our own project to celebrate – and they are proud of us too!
The work of the ladies who founded the choir network, along with those who work so tirelessly today have given me and my fellow choirettes something completely wonderful. We have a new album, and some wonderful memories that I will have forever.
I would personally like to say a thank you to the Military Wives Choirs foundation for commissioning me to work on this fantastic album, and to my wonderful North London Choir for accepting me into your wonderful group. I couldn’t have survived this very challenging posting without you. I cannot start to tell you how very special you all are, and the wonderful sound we make.
Front & back cover design by Mike Storey at Storey London Design
The album ‘Remember’ is released on the 29th June and has 12 beautifully arranged songs, some of which are new compositions especially written for me and my choir friends.
The Military Wives Choirs is a registered charity, with over 70 choirs and more than 2,000 members across the UK and abroad: military wives and partners, serving personnel, mothers, daughters and others with a military connection. All proceeds from ‘Remember’ will go back to the charity, allowing women in the military community to sing, share and support one another and feel stronger together.