The Mil­i­tary Wives Choirs hit the right note with al­bum ‘Re­mem­ber’

‘Re­mem­ber’, the brand-new al­bum by Mil­i­tary Wives Choirs, marks 100 years since the end of World War I. Ali Henderson meets the women who sing to­gether and sup­port each other.

The People's Friend - - This Week -

JAN, VET­ERAN’S WIFE AND MIL­I­TARY MUM, COTTES­MORE CHOIR

We meet ev­ery Tues­day for re­hearsal, but also have so­cial events. It’s about the well­be­ing as­pect of singing, but also about our shared ex­pe­ri­ence of mil­i­tary life, so I’m per­haps able to help other wives who might be strug­gling.

I feel happy, con­nected and val­ued when we meet and sing. We have a break when we share cake and cof­fee. If you ar­rive with your mind full of the prob­lems of your day, you cer­tainly leave with your head full of the songs you’ve been singing and prac­tis­ing.

The ages of our choir ex­tend from twenty-three to sixty-some­thing and all of us find it chal­leng­ing to re­mem­ber words. Our mu­si­cal di­rec­tor has ac­tions which we can see, but the au­di­ence can’t, to help.

There have been times when she’s pulled out some of her fa­mous ac­tions dur­ing per­for­mances and we’ve re­ally strug­gled not to be in fits of gig­gles!

I was lucky enough to be part of the group that sang for our al­bum launch event in Lon­don.

The song “Brave” touched a chord as we had been think­ing a lot about the end of World War I.

My great-grand­fa­ther was gassed in the trenches and sent home in 1916. My great-grand­mother nursed him un­til he died in 1931, at the same time as bring­ing up five chil­dren.

She made ends meet by tak­ing in wash­ing as he was un­able to work. She was a very inspirational woman.

I think a lot of us have found it emo­tional to be in­volved with the al­bum for sim­i­lar rea­sons. There are strong par­al­lels be­tween then and now.

Mil­i­tary life can be tough, but it makes us stronger be­cause we can ac­tu­ally mend things and prob­lem solve. The worry for my hus­band and my son is the same – you have to trust that they will be safe.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of singing with so many other women is inspirational – we all have a com­mon bond.

We’ve got a whole range of mil­i­tary wives – some are mar­ried to young sol­diers, some to quite se­nior of­fi­cers.

The nice thing is that when we meet none of us has any rank. We’re just a nice bunch of ladies who like to sing and have a laugh!

TRACEY, MIL­I­TARY WIFE, BRUNSSUM CHOIR, NETHER­LANDS

A wife who had moved out here was wor­ried about miss­ing out on the choir so she set one up. She put a mes­sage out say­ing, “No au­di­tion re­quired, just come along if you like it!” so I got in­volved.

I come back from choir en­er­gised. It leaves me feel­ing up­beat and I sing at the top of my voice go­ing home in the car.

I don’t know if it’s the breath­ing ex­er­cises we do or if it’s the buzz I get from how good we all sound to­gether, re­gard­less of whether we’ve got a high abil­ity to sing. It just works; we all sound re­ally great when we sing to­gether! Hav­ing a per­for­mance gives you some­thing to drive to­wards. We per­formed at our NATO base’s fifty-year cel­e­bra­tion last May and for the RAF hun­dredyear an­niver­sary at the air­base just over the bor­der in Ger­many.

We get ner­vous about not re­mem­ber­ing the words, but that’s some­thing we all sup­port each other with. We en­cour­age each other and that gives such a sense of con­fi­dence and achieve­ment.

Like one of our mem­bers says, we fill each other’s gaps.

It can be poignant. We recorded the al­bum ‘Re­mem­ber’ in Jan­uary of this year and my mum died on De­cem­ber 23. The song “Carry Me” re­ally res­onated and epit­o­mised for me the mes­sage that the mem­ory of who you have lost gives you the strength to carry on.

The choir sup­ported me as well. They knew how I felt about the song and were very moved by it.

Record­ing the al­bum was a jour­ney for me and a cathar­tic one – an ex­pe­ri­ence I will trea­sure, along with the mem­ory of my mum and all the amaz­ing women who had to en­dure so much loss in 1918.

CATHER­INE, VET­ERAN, MIL­I­TARY WIDOW AND WIFE OF VET­ERAN, WINCH­ESTER CHOIR

The whole mil­i­tary wives’ net­work runs on cake! Our choir meets weekly at the chapel at the train­ing reg­i­ment here. We have ro­tas of cake mak­ing and al­ways stop half­way through for a cuppa.

I was wi­d­owed when I was twenty-nine – it was hor­ri­ble. I had a three-year-old daugh­ter. It was a hard time.

The sup­port net­work of the choir is mar­vel­lous. What I can of­fer now is shar­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences I went through.

We’ve al­ways had things hap­pen to peo­ple in the net­work – some have been poorly, had op­er­a­tions or had ba­bies.

If some­one’s a widow, we can con­nect on a dif­fer­ent level. It’s not easy to speak about be­ing a young widow and hav­ing to cope as a sin­gle mum.

I was there at the record­ing of ‘Re­mem­ber’. There’s a song called “Carry Me” and a lot of the words were writ­ten by a war widow. I don’t get to the end of that with­out cry­ing.

We sang “We Will Re­mem­ber Them”, “The Poppy Red” and “Pack Up My Trou­bles”. It was an ab­so­lutely amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence!

It makes me mas­sively proud to know that I’m on that al­bum. It’s a bucket-list thing to have done. We also sang at Winch­ester Cathe­dral as part of our Christ­mas tour.

It was a won­der­ful event, where I gave a speech. It was all about mem­o­ries and I did it from a war widow’s per­spec­tive.

I cried – the whole cathe­dral cried. It was a hard thing to do but I felt it was re­ally im­por­tant.

For me, I find that choir night is the best night’s sleep I get.

It’s very re­lax­ing, and any stresses seem to evap­o­rate. I work in a pri­mary school so that can be very stress­ful on oc­ca­sions.

I can go to choir night feel­ing quite tired and come away buzzing. The friend­ship, sup­port and laughter are huge. We’re like sis­ters; I’ve made friends all over the world now.

Great-grandma Macdon­ald and her five chil­dren.

Great-grandad Charles Howitt Macdon­ald.

‘Re­mem­ber’ is out now, priced £9.99, from all good mu­sic stores or www.amazon.co.uk.

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