There are probably some people alive today who were born before the Armistice was signed at about 5:10am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 in a converted railway dining car parked in a wood at Compiegne near Paris. (The Armistice directed the combatants to cease firing at 11:00am on that morning.) But there is no one alive who remembers the events of that day. Just as well, perhaps, because the signing of the document that ended WW1 was in some ways almost a non-event, because the Germans did not want to continue the fight, and the French and English, with their various allies, were tired of war, exhausted in spirit, and heart sick over the appalling slaughter that had taken place over 4 years, for no particular purpose. No matter how you look at it, WW1 was an horrendous disaster that decimated a generation of young lives, ruined thousands of hectares of land and destroyed beautiful cities, towns and villages. If the war had continued, there is no doubt that the Allies would have won the war militarily, but following the Armistice, they won it by proxy through ridiculously onerous reparations demanded from the German nation in the Treaty of Versailles. These reparations so crushed the Germans that out of it emerged the Nazi movement, led by Hitler and others, who eventually forced the whole world into WW2. It is sobering to speculate what the outcome might have been if the allies, particularly the French, had taken a more conciliatory approach when drafting the Treaty.
Not often mentioned is the fact that gung-ho American (mainly), plus British and French officers, ordered attacks on the morning of 11/11/1918 that resulted in the needless loss of thousands of lives and the maiming of the many thousands who were wounded. Without exception, the attacks were on territory that the soldiers killed and wounded could have walked into after the Germans had evacuated their positions. What made this even more appalling is the fact that the implementation hour of the Armistice was known to most of the senior officers.
In post war enquiries in USA about Armistice Day casualties, one embarrassing fact emerged – not one officer from the rank of Colonel upwards was killed that day. I wonder why?
So why do we celebrate, 100 years on, a messy, bungled end to an appalling war which resulted in around 40 MILLION casualties (including civilians) - about 17 MILLION of whom were killed, and the toll of wounded, who often were unable to take up normal civilian life again because of their wounds, reached in excess of 23 MILLION? Well, I guess that despite mankind's abject stupidity in thinking that war is the way to solve international disputes (and oh dear, certain idiots, remarkably called World Leaders, still think that), war often brings out the best in people. It has the effect of uniting people in firm resolve to right wrongs. It also brings to the surface that ethereal thing called Heroism. For the tiny new dominion called New Zealand, half a world away from Europe, but still blindly following where Great Britain went, strangely, through the disasters of war, grew into a genuine, united nation. I, for one, do not believe that we had to sustain the highest casualty rate among all the allies to be forged into a united nation. I have to ask the question – what if those thousands of young New Zealanders who were killed or wounded had stayed home, and used their strength and determination to start the new Dominion on its way to strength and self-sufficiency? Of course we will never know, but here is a disturbing thought – do we deep down, do things like ANZAC Day or 11/11/2018 REMEMBRANCE Day celebrations to justify our questionable national actions and the decisions of successive governments? Yes, it is true that we were on the side of right in WW2, but you do have to wonder about WW1. The reasons to justify that war are few, and sketchy. Another question: what is it within us that makes us rally to the flag, take up arms, set out to kill our fellow man, knowing that a lot of people on the other side are doing exactly the same? If the French, British, German and Russian nations had not been colonial powers, all prepared to fight for as much territory as possible, would there even have been a war? I know - speculation will not give us the answers, so back to the question, why should we celebrate the centenary of the Armistice?
The obvious answer is that the awful war was over. The world, and Europe in particular, could get on with the business of living in relative peace. Stories of courage, humanity, self-sacrifice, fortitude and dedication can now be told against the background of terrible times. But most importantly, we are given another opportunity to consider that we should do all in our power to help make a world where events like this are at worst rare, at best history.
So to our show: A Kiwi Armistice celebrates the bravery of colonial boys who either volunteered or were conscripted to fight in the Great War. It celebrates soldiers, sailors, airmen, nurses, and doctors. It celebrates civilians who went and worked in rehabilitation and refugee centres; others who sacrificed much to ensure that warm garments were sent to the troops, shipped food by the boat load, and provided a few of the comforts of home to men living in dire conditions.
In the programme we take a uniquely Kiwi view, skewed toward the Bay of Plenty. We track our troops from basic training, to troopships, to battlefields like Gallipoli, the Somme, and Passchendaele. We show the gung-ho turn of the century world, full of pomp, pride and bluster that brought out the attitudes and national stances that caused the war. We sing anthems and music hall songs. We bring trench humour and unbearable pathos, we sing marching songs and hymns that fearful soldiers and their parents sang. We salute bravery, whether it is on the battlefield, or the bravery of grieving family.
Several songs have been written by our Musical Director, Nigel Williams. Most are being sung worldwide. The 70-strong choir will be accompanied by the Tauranga City Silver Band, Leon Gray on piano, Philip Smith on organ, Jeremy Thompson on trumpet, and Elaine Wogan, soprano, with Tom Bradley and Elizabeth Price providing continuity. The music and commentary will be accompanied by more than 300 images of the turn of the century NZ; soldiers in training and on troopships, at Gallipoli and in Europe; nurses and doctors; the civilian war effort back home; trench scenes; war machines; soldiers on leave; wounded; music halls, and Bay of Plenty volunteers . All this is at Holy Trinity Church, Tauranga, on 11/11/2018 at 7.15pm. There are 866 seats. Make sure one of them is yours. This is going to be a spectacular evening with proceeds going to Waipuna Hospice.
It seems like ages since we did any. In fact, most in the choir were not members when we last did it. But everything has its season, and we think the time has come at last, for another shot at something that usually pops up as a fully-fledged stage show, but when we do it, comes in the form of a full choir presentation. Don't look so mystified. The title is the clue. We are doing a concert of GILBERT and SULLIVAN (capital letters and bold, just in case you missed it). I know. I can hear you all asking, “But you are a serious choir. You do Bach and Brahms, and Mozart. Why are you doing light opera?” Well it goes like this: The two characters mentioned above were the Hit Parade leaders of their time. Their work could probably be called the precursor to the modern musical. In an age before sound recording, the public clamoured for their next offering. Each new light opera was rushed onto the stage as soon as possible after the music and script was released. People hummed and sang the best tunes in the street. A new stage industry called G&S was created with the D'Oyle Carte Opera Company churning out G&S for 100 years up to 1982. On their coat tails were a worldwide variety of professional theatre groups, amateur operatic societies, secondary school drama groups, and groups of all types, who did G&S. I remember as a child between the ages of 6 and 12, being taken to see the Hamilton High School productions of G&S. My parents never missed – probably because 3 of my sisters featured in those shows at various times! Yes, G&S was a musical phenomenon for many years, and while it is more on the musical “back burner” than it used to be, it is an easy task to find G&S productions occurring in countries worldwide.
But we are a choir. We do not pretend to be thespians. So we will do our G&S as a concert production, and here is our cunning plan:
- As part of our year with a particular community emphasis, We will do it in Katikati, at St Paul's Church, a great venue seating upwards of 250.
- It will be on Sunday 26th August at 3.00pm. The cost will be minimal - $15.00 adults, and school aged children $5. Door sales only.
- We are picking the best of G&S, from The Mikado, Yeomen of the Guard, Pirates of Penzance, the Gondoliers, Patience, HMS Pinafore, etc.
- We will be mixing things up – solos sung by the entire choir, or choir sections. Solos sung by the very best of our singers. Small combinations of various sorts. Just about everything you can imagine is going to happen. It will be a choral presentation, but it's G&S for heaven’s sake, so you can expect some clowning around, and a bit of hamming it up. We are going to have fun.
Come and enjoy tuneful songs and hilarious lyrics. It's going to be a blast! Yes, we really are celebrating the music and lyrics of two of the most debated characters in the world of light opera. How did such a disparate pair, who spent most of their musical association fighting and scrapping, turn out such an assortment of musical contradictions and slightly mad lyrics? How did they maintain the quality of their output when they were often at each other's throats? How could they write the Mikado, when their knowledge of Japanese culture was limited to pottery and porcelain? Why are some of the tunes banal and repetitious, and others glorious melodies, loved and hummed by millions? There are lovers of G&S worldwide, and stage productions are always well attended. I guess that whether you love it or hate it, G&S is the output of two genuine, if slightly eccentric geniuses. In their era, they could do no wrong. In ours, we can giggle at the inanities in the lyrics; genuinely laugh at the mad humour; grin at the unconscious racism, sexism, chauvinism, cultural ignorance, and downright condescension (Most of their output would be condemned by the PC police today); luxuriate in the glorious melodies; beat time to, and singalong with, the rollicking choruses; and have a great hour or so of smiles, belly laughs, and a thoroughly good time. Don't miss it!!!! A bit of G and S.
Here's a Concert You Must Not Miss!!
We could say something like, “By Popular Demand”, or “Brahms’ Block Buster Returns”, but it actually would not matter what we say – Brahms’ German Requiem, Opus 45, is one of the most magnificent choral works ever written. Brahms, the consummate tune smith, weaves lovely melodies, profound phrases, glorious solos, and a stupendous organ score into seven stunning movements which complement and enhance the libretto taken entirely from the Bible and the Apocrypha. All the emotions are brought into play and the piece is a roller coaster running between hope and despair. It could be said that Brahms seems pre-occupied by death, but the whole work is pervaded by a sense of hope and triumph over death. Most importantly, he has produced a musical masterpiece, which since its first performance in full, on February 18th 1869 in Leipzig, has been a prized addition to the repertoires of choirs worldwide.
The Civic Choir is proud to present this amazing work, conducted by Musical Director, Nigel Williams, accompanied on organ by Douglas Mews with Yoshi Tsuruta on timpani, and with soloists Elaine Wogan (soprano) and Joel Amosa (baritone). The venue will be St Peters Church, Cameron Road, and the concert begins at 7.30pm.
One thing that you will notice is that the choir has grown. While we may not all be part of this concert, we are over 60 strong, and it shows. We are now struggling to get everyone on our staging and (we think) the sound is even better than previously. Having said that, we could still use more altos and tenors.
So join us on the 26th May. We are really enjoying our rehearsals of this exciting work and I think that you will enjoy it more than us!
Finally, here is a point to ponder. You will note that our publicity material is super-imposed on the face of Johannes Brahms. If you look closely, you will see a rather dour, bearded German chap, who could hardly be described as a joy-germ – well at least at face value. But what you are seeing is the face of one of the most prolific composers of the most beautiful melodies this world has ever heard. So don't judge a book by its cover, or a composer by his face!!
Ever given anyone a leg up? Yes, one way or another we all have. The choir have decided that it is our turn to give someone a leg up, and it is the pretty fabulous Mount Maunganui College choir.
Last year, for the first time ever, the College entered a choir in the BOP/Waikato Big Sing. They were up against some pretty heavy hitters, Tauranga Girls, Hamilton Girls, Waikato Diocesan, St Paul’s Collegiate, Tauranga Boys, and heaps more – you get the picture. Well, I can tell you they were pretty good, and since then they have only got better. But we got to thinking, mainly because some of us are involved in organising the Big Sing each year, and were able to listen to their presentation. We thought, “What a great first effort! but what can we do to help make them even better?”
A cunning plan was hatched. “Let's do a combined concert with the Mount Maunganui College choir that will give them the opportunity of a dry run, without competition pressure, which they then can enjoy, while giving them valuable time in front of an audience.”
The cunning plan will shortly become a reality! On 27th March at 7.00pm, in the Mount Maunganui College Hall, there is a combined concert featuring the Tauranga Civic Choir and the Mount Maunganui College Choir. Both choirs will sing separate pieces and they will also combine. The soloists are College students, and the whole ensemble will be conducted by Musical Director, Nigel Williams, and accompanied by brilliant pianist Leon Gray.
The programme will be an assortment of short items, and you can count on Nigel Williams playing for laughs, as he introduces the pieces. So don't miss this great opportunity to hear the mature and the fresh in concert, March 27th.
Oh! Just about forgot to mention, it will be very good, and also very cheap - only $5.00. At that price you must be there.
My goodness! Four months left in the year, and we are already talking about Christmas! But we haven't much option, because we have two amazing Christmas presents for you.
The first is a selection of fabulous pieces taken from Bach's Christmas Oratorio. We would quite like to sing it all for you, but we think that you might find 2 hours 37mins just a bit long. We are very mindful that we can “have too much of a good thing”, so we have picked out the best bits and will tailor the length of the concert to about 90 minutes. We will have two female soloists and a small orchestra. So this is going to be quite an occasion. Also, you will find that the choir has grown. Instead of the usual 45-50 singers, you will find that we will almost certainly be over 60 singers – yes, we know, quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality – but we have landed some outstanding singers and I know you are going to be delighted by the added depth and delicacy that can be achieved with a good, larger choir.
We are doing something different with the performance time. This concert at St Peters Presbyterian Church starts at 5.30p.m. on Saturday 11 November! No, that is not a misprint! There are several reasons for this:
Daylight saving will be well established, so this early evening start says you can (a) Go out to dinner afterwards (b) go home and mow your lawns or do some weeding in the cool of a late spring evening (c) have a later dinner time at home on the deck, watching the sun go down over the Kaimais, while sipping a lovely Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc (d) filled to the brim -should I say sated or replete with a meal of the finest Bach – you may decide to sip on a glass of water, with no thoughts of food, oblivious to the strange stares from your neighbours, as you hum (slightly out of tune) excerpts from the early evening musical feast you have just enjoyed (e) excited by the sheer, ravishing, musical beauty of all that you have just experienced, you call in on your best friends – just as they are starting dessert – to whom you will rave and emote ad nauseum about what they have just missed. Ah well. Friendships don't always last forever.
So you get the message. We think this is a great time for a concert, and an opportunity for you to break out of your boring old routine!!
Our final concert for the year is on Sunday 10 December, at the Tauranga Art Gallery at 2.00p.m. This relatively small space has the most amazing acoustics. In this space, the mundane becomes fresh and exciting, the hackneyed sounds as you've never heard it before, old sounds new, boring becomes scintillating, and we jaded, run down choristers, after another year of practice and performance, get a new lease on life, have a ball, sing our hearts out, and put on what could be the performance of the year. What's more, it’s a complete steal. Entry by gold coin donation. So get to work checking under the cushions on your couch. Find those dollar coins or $2.00 coins if you are feeling generous. But do come. This is our finale for 2017, and it will be a BLAST!! I can guarantee that you will enjoy every minute of it.
Thank you all soooooo much for your support during the year. Next year is going to be something special. We have some exciting concerts, but the most exciting will be an Armistice Day 100 Year Commemoration Concert on 11th November 2018. This will be held at Holy Trinity Church. It will be sad, fun, laughter filled, dramatic, sobering, a time to reflect, an occasion not to be missed. Waipuna Hospice will be the beneficiaries from the door sales. Make a note of it now. Make sure it is in your diary, your computer schedule, marked on the calendar, stored in your phone. Whatever you do, this will be the concert of the year in the Bay of Plenty. Make sure you are not one of the disappointed ones who miss out.
I'll chat to you again. Cheers!
Written by John Wanhill