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.
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.