Do you remember that scene from the Mel Gibson film “We Were Soldiers”? The one where Madeleine Stowe’s character realizes that the wives, left behind when their husbands are deployed to Vietnam, will need to pull together and look out for each other? Since the dawn of the military family, wives have found ways to support each other. One of the latest ways spouses have been able to pull together is through Military Wives’ Choirs!
The original choir formed in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2011 was soon featured in a BBC documentary. In fact, their recording of “Wherever You Are” went to #1 on the British charts that Christmas. The proceeds from that recording went to help set up other choirs throughout the UK. Many of the Military Wives’ Choir (MWC) members have performed for the Queen and at other significant public events. “Even wives who are not choir members are very proud of the whole concept and are grateful for the recognition the choirs have given to a group of women who are all too often invisible to the public,” says Sue Palmer, a founding member of the MWC in Middle Wallop.
Flash forward to the summer of 2013. Palmer found herself a newly planted immigrant to Canada. She missed her choir experience so much, she wasted no time in laying the groundwork for a Canadian MWC. “I can genuinely say that the most important aspect of being a choir member was the friendship and the incredibly strong support network that built up among the members, not just within our own choir, but, in the MWC movement as a whole,” says Palmer. By the fall of that year, the wheels were in motion for a choir that has quickly become a smashing success! Already, the Ottawa Military Wives’ Choir has performed at many venues including the service held in the Canadian Senate on May 9th, the National Day of Honour marking the end of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
Palmer would love to see the choir movement spread across the country. She notes that she, “Is hopeful that wives on other bases across Canada will become aware of us and feel inspired to start up choirs of their own. In time we would love for there to be many choirs across the country so each time we move with our husbands there is a choir family waiting to welcome us to our new community.” But this has proven a bit more difficult than one might expect. Denise Rochat, a military spouse living in Petawawa tried to set up a MWC but was stymied by the lack of a musical director. And there are also the financial costs. For example, the Ottawa MWC has been invited to perform at International Military Tattoo in Hamilton in May of 2015 and the cost of bussing will be approximately $6000. Thankfully, Porter Airlines has donated 2 tickets to the choir, which they will raffle off at some point as a fundraiser. “We are so thankful to Peter Twolan from Porter Airlines,” emphasizes Palmer. “In fact Porter Airlines is the MWC’s first official sponsor.”
Those challenges aside, Palmer stresses that joining the MWC is easy. There are no auditions, and no musical experience is necessary. It’s rank-free and open to Army, Navy and Air Force wives. “Where else are you welcomed into a singing group when you are 51 years of age, have no training and can’t even read music? The Military Wives’ Choir, that’s where,” Palmer enthuses!
And the rewards seem to encompass so much more than just singing. She explains, “The love of music is only the beginning as we share in the ups and downs, challenges and blessings we face, knowing we have our choir family standing behind us. We have seen each other through hard times and welcomed a new baby. We have laughed together, cried together, held each other up. The choir is a family of amazing women, with no limits.
Laura Keller has enjoyed writing as long as she can remember. Eventually she became the wife of a Combat Engineer and mom of 3. With her husband’s retirement from the CF, they are all learning to adjust to life after the military.
Laura also writes her blog at www.HappyCanadianHome.com.
**This article was originally published in our Holiday 2014 issue**