When the backstage curtain parted and revealed 188 military wives and girlfriends singing words of encouragement in unison to service members from around the world, it was cherished by the crowd as one of the most inspirational moments of the 2017 Invictus Games Opening Ceremony.
The ceremony was one of the most important occasions in the four years of the Canadian Military Wives Choirs’ (CMWC) existence. For this highly sought-after choir, the ceremony was an event that had never been attempted before and, says Ottawa CMWC member Debbie Goodleff, will never be replicated again.
“The impact of military wives and spouses singing those words on that stage to the competitors, and the audience, what that meant and what that represented, that was the actual impact. It wasn’t that we were amazing performance and we all sing amazingly, it was the actual impact of applying those lyrics to the circumstances,” said Goodleff, who also is on the National Board of the CMWC.
This was the first time in the choir’s history that all ten chapters from across the country united for one performance. Members came from Comox, Edmonton, North Bay, Trenton, Kingston, Ottawa, Valcartier, and Greenwood.
The CMWC was approached earlier this year by the Invictus Games committee to perform for the Opening Ceremony, alongside British recording artist, Laura Wright.
In spring of this year the score for Wright’s single “Invincible,” a moving number, was distributed amongst the choirs for practice.
The choirs then finally came together on Thursday, Sept. 21, just days before the Opening Ceremony. The first all-choir practice was held on Friday morning.
According to Goodleff, all the choirs came together in unison beautifully, even dazzling Wright.
Finally, after months of anticipation and preparation, Saturday, Sept. 24 finally arrived, and Goodleff remembers there was a whisper of nervous excitement amongst all the performers.
When the time came for the performance, the stage was first taken by Wright who opened the song leading into the choir’s big reveal.
“The audience wasn’t expecting to find what they did on stage and the roar from the crowd was just amazing,” recalled Goodleff.
The choir then went on to sing their hearts out in a moving and inspirational performance alongside the British artist.
After the performance, ladies from the choir, who had been identified by their black robes, were stopped and congratulated by audience members.
“It was an honour to be part of it just because of what it represented. It’s one thing to be on stage like that, an international stage, and be able to perform, any performer would like that. It’s just the poignancy of what it meant and what the meaning [of the song] is. That’s what was really striking,” noted Goodleff.
The performance held a special meaning for the choir members as well.
“Four years of a journey of the creation of the choirs culminating in this moment of being able to really support not just our service personnel but those families. It’s just the most humbling and fantastic way to honour everything service families and service personnel do in the worst of circumstances,” said Goodleff.
The performance at this year’s Invictus Games has breathed a new life into the CMWC and has inspired growth and fervour. Come fall, a number of new choirs have started up in Gagetown, Halifax, Esquimalt, and Shiloh. With the rapid growth, the choir is now just looking to the future for their next big challenge.