Colleen Smee, Vice-President/Publicity Officer of the Hastings Choristers, is excited to announce some upcoming concerts in April – which will not only showcase some beautiful voices, but will also pay tribute to the brave Australians who gave their lives for our country in World War One … Lest We Forget.
Leading into ANZAC Day, what thoughts would you like to share about Australia’s involvement in World War One?
Almost all Australians know about Gallipoli and its significance in our commemoration of ANZAC Day each year. Yet, few Australians have heard of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in France, during which Australian troops saved the town for the French inhabitants and consequently, Australians are honoured and remembered in this town to the present day.
This April it is one hundred years since the battle took place, coincidentally exactly three years after the legendary landing of Australian forces at Gallipoli. The Battle of Villers-Bretonneux displayed the true ANZAC spirit of the Australian Imperial Forces, who on the second day of the battle, April 25th, 1918, recaptured the town from the Germans. The Australian troops showed enormous courage and paid the ultimate sacrifice, with over 1,200 lives being lost.
The battle was highly significant to the outcome of the First World War, as it halted the German offensive and allowed the Allies to begin pushing back the German front line, contributing to the Allied victory in November 1918. The town’s mayor spoke of the Australian troops on 14 July 1919, when unveiling a memorial in their honour:
“The first inhabitants of Villers-Bretonneux to re-establish themselves in the ruins of what was once a flourishing little town have, by means of donations, shown a desire to thank the valorous Australian Armies, who with the spontaneous enthusiasm and characteristic dash of their race, in a few hours drove out an enemy ten times their number … They offer a memorial tablet, a gift which is but the least expression of their gratitude, compared with the brilliant feat which was accomplished by the sons of Australia … Soldiers of Australia, whose brothers lie here in French soil, be assured that your memory will always be kept alive, and that the burial places of your dead will always be respected and cared for.”
The school in Villers-Bretonneux was rebuilt using donations from school children in Victoria, Australia (many of whom had relatives perish in the town’s liberation) and above every blackboard is the inscription “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” (Let us never forget Australia). In front of the Australian War Memorial, just outside Villers-Bretonneux lie the graves of 770 Australian soldiers, and the Western Front Anzac Day ceremony is held at this memorial on ANZAC Day, 25th April, each year.
How will the Hastings Choristers pay tribute to the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux and those who lost their lives there?
To commemorate this important centenary, The Hastings Choristers are presenting a choral tribute to honour the courage, resourcefulness and sacrifice of Australian soldiers on the Western Front and at Gallipoli during World War One. The programme will feature In Flanders Fields and Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, as well as many more beautiful, moving choral pieces and instrumental music.
The choristers will be joined by soloists baritone Joshua Salter, mezzo soprano Stella Hannock and Heather Moen-Boyd, organist, and Musical Director Robyn Ryan (OAM).
What can you tell us about the featured soloists, Joshua Salter and Stella Hannock?
Born in Port Macquarie and now residing in Sydney, Joshua holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Newcastle, majoring in voice. He’s performed with Co-Opera (Adelaide), Sydney Independent Opera, Pacific Opera, Newcastle Festival Opera, Opera Hunter, and Cantillation. He’s performed the roles of Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte in Adelaide and Melbourne (Co-Opera), Papageno (Opera Laboratory-Sydney) and Schaunard in La Boheme (Opera Projects). Joshua also played Masetto in Don Giovanni (Sydney Independent Opera), and Giuseppe in The Gondoliers (Newcastle Festival Opera).
Joshua’s other principal roles include Escamillo (Carmen) Sprecher (The Magic Flute) and Readymoney Matt (The Threepenny Opera).
Joshua also attended the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School on scholarship in 2016, performing the roles of Orfeo (Orfeo ed Eurydice-Gluck), Jupiter (Orpheus in the Underworld – Offenbach) and Dr Cajus (Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor-Nicolai).
Joshua was also a Young Artist with Pacific Opera, based in Sydney.
Stella Hannock is currently in her third year at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, studying a Bachelor of Music Performance in Classical Voice under the tutelage of Dr Rowena Cowley. Stella was chosen for the 2018 Pacific Opera Adjunct Young Artist Program. She recently performed the role of Ma Moss in an excerpt of Copland’s opera, The Tender Land with the Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony.
During 2017 Stella performed in the Sydney Conservatorium’s performance of Die Zauberflöter in the mezzosoprano chorus. She also performed in the Spiegeltent production of Pagliacci in the mezzo-soprano chorus.
During July of last year, Stella travelled to Europe and spent a month in Berlin studying the German language at the Goethe Institut. While in Berlin, she also received voice coaching from Antony Shelley, who is an accompanist/prompt at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin.
Stella graduated from St Columba Anglican School in 2015, receiving an Encore nomination for her performances in Music 2 and Music Extension.
Having been heavily involved in the arts in Port Macquarie for a number of years, Stella has participated in numerous performances with the Hastings Choristers and is delighted to be performing with us again.
When will the concerts take place?
The concerts will take place on Friday 13th April at 7pm and Saturday 14th April at 1:30pm in St Agnes’ Church, Hay St, Port Macquarie.
Adults $20, under 18s $10 – tickets will be available at the door or at the Glasshouse Box Office.
Interview by Jo Robinson.