Singing together when loved ones are far away

Witney Gazette: The RAF Brize Norton Military Wives Choir. Pictures: OX64202 Ed Nix Buy this photo » The RAF Brize Norton Military Wives Choir. Pictures: OX64202 Ed Nix

FOR military wives, Christmas can be a challenging and difficult time.

But many are finding comfort in the military wives choirs that exist across the county.

One of these is the RAF Brize Norton group, which started in March this year. Its opening evening attracted 30 people and, since then, it has swelled to 50.

Christmas has been a busy time for the group, and they performed at the Christmas lights switch-on in Carterton on November 29.

Debbie Phair, from the group, said: “It acts as a support network for people and is also a new way to make friends.

“Particularly over Christmas, it can be tough for wives when their husbands are away. Having the choir can be an escape and also a way to get out of the house.”

“The choir perform songs from the Military Wives Choirs Foundation charity, most famously Wherever You Are.”

The Abingdon Military Wives Choir experienced a difficult year following the disbanding of the 12 Logistic Support Regiment at Dalton Barracks.

Witney Gazette:

The Abingdon Military Wives Choir sing at Waterperry Gardens

Jules Lowe, from the choir, said: “At present we only have about 10 regulars so it’s tough at the moment.

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“But the choir is really important especially when your husband is deployed abroad.

“It gives you that sense of community support. It is a great social thing and a way to meet new wives, especially if you are working during the day.”

When asked about the challenges of moving so frequently, often every two years, she said: “It can be hard to move on and sad to leave friends, but you have to accept it as the way it is.”

Unlike RAF Brize Norton’s group, the Abingdon military wives are not part of the foundation charity and so come up with their own songs and ideas for performances.

In the run-up to Christmas, the choir performed at the Women’s Institute in Wantage, as well as at an Abingdon care home.

RAF Benson Military Wives Choir was formed in October last year and has 43 members.

Witney Gazette:

Jo Williams, musical director, conducts RAF Benson Military Wives Choir outside Oxford’s New Theatre

Its 14 performances have included this year’s Armed Forces Day and a show at Benson St Helen’s Church.

Their latest was outside Oxford’s New Theatre on Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the musical Cats.

Regular numbers include the musical’s Memory, Gary Barlow and The Commonwealth Band’s Sing and Wherever You Are, made famous by the original Military Wives Choir.

Musical director Jo Williams, 34, said: “They have a good time singing but they also have a shared understanding of what it is like having a military partner.”

Husband Phil, a squadron leader with 33 Squadron Puma helicopter fleet, returned from Afghanistan in June after four months away.

Mrs Williams, mum to Jacob, one, said: “It is a support unit. We move on every two to three years which is quite difficult, especially for the young children.”

FOUNDATION HOPES FOR A LEGACY OF COMMUNITY SONG.

THE Military Wives Choirs Foundation charity was created following the success of the No 1 single Wherever You Are, which raised over half a million pounds for SSAFA and The Royal British Legion.

Witney Gazette:

Brize’s Nicole Rashley

Founded in September 2013 by a small group of military wives to build a lasting legacy of choirs for women in the military community, the foundation brings women in the military community closer together through singing.

The foundation is a volunteer-led organistation with Gareth Malone as its Patron.

Trustees and a small, employed management team provide guidance, funding and support for the volunteer committees running their own individual choirs, as well as the opportunity to bring choirs together nationally.

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