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This week our newsletter introduction has been written by our Director of Performing Arts, Dr Kevin Cameron who is recently back from our in augural ANZAC Music and Languages Tour of France and Belgium.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow …

A large contingent of our musicians and French language students have recently returned from a very successful tour to France and Belgium, where they represented the Gippsland Grammar Community in concerts and commemoration ceremonies centred around ANZAC Day and extending the friendship and goodwill that exists between Australia and the people of the Somme and Flanders. This special relationship, forged over a century ago in times of war, endures to the present day. The impacts of service, sacrifice, and loss on so many Australian families in the Great War continue to resonate.

Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place…

We visited the cemetery at Tyne Cot which has 11,965 gravestones that stretch for as far as the eye can see. So many hopes and dreams lay buried there, never to be realised.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow…

We learned that every gravestone in those cemeteries, as well as every name on the walls at the Australian National Memorial (10,773 names) and the Menin Gate (54,896 names), represent someone’s son, brother, father, husband, relative, or friend; someone who had a story, was loved, and was so tragically lost.

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

The Gippsland Grammar Music Centre was proud to initiate the Gippsland Grammar Music and Languages Tour, in collaboration with our colleagues in the Languages Department and it presented an unsurpassed opportunity for students of Gippsland Grammar to learn and experience the School’s philosophy of ‘Learn, Live and Lead’ through the lenses of music, culture, and language. We visited France and performed at the La Flamme ceremony under the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of Paris, and in places that are forever famous in the annals of Australia’s long tradition of service and sacrifice in times of war; the beautiful churches at Le Hamel and Vignacourt, and at the magnificent Sir John Monash Centre at Villers Bretonneux.

But it was the visits to the memorials and the cemeteries that made the most impact, and the well of emotional response was a surprise for many of us.

…and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

The Tour’s musical and commemorative flavour culminated in performances on ANZAC Day, providing music for commemoration and reflection at the Dawn Service in the beautiful cemetery at the famous Polygon Wood, one of the most famous battlefield sites of great significance to Australians, as well as at a special Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. No one who was there will ever forget the piper’s lament performed in the cold darkness before the dawn … and then the larks sang their morning song to herald the dawning of the new day as we played the national anthems and the hymn Abide With Me.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

In addition, we travelled the Paris Metro, visited the Louvre Museum (and saw the famous Mona Lisa), met the Australian Ambassador to France and sang for her at her residence, climbed the Eifel Tower, cruised the River Seine, purchased fashion in Montmartre, ate croissants and drank French coffee (and Belgian fries and waffles), ate chocolate in Bruges, sang in the ancient cathedral at Amiens, and saw more musical instruments than we knew existed at the famous Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels, which is a wonderful city, worthy of exploration.

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Our team of students and staff were a pleasure to take on this tour and I thank all of them for their support in sharing this dream to do something so special, and so significant, together. For two magical weeks we made lasting memories as we shared our music on the international stage, played concerts that were received with enthusiasm and goodwill, and gained some thoughtful perspective on the true meaning of service, sacrifice, and mateship.

Read more about the Tour here:

Michele Wakeham