By DAVID BLACKMORE
Monday, January 7, 2013
Sitting in the Bull and Bowl bar at RAF Marham in January last year, Shamaine Elms hoped her dream of creating a military wives choir would become a reality.
And she didn’t have to wait long as the big doors to the bar outside Norfolk’s last RAF flying base were flung open by 15 women all wanting to form the Marham Bluebirds Military Wives Choir.
The head of learning support at Northgate High School in Dereham had been inspired to form the group after watching the BBC television programme The Choir, featuring choirmaster Gareth Malone.
But she could never have imagined that a year later, the choir would have performed on the second Military Wives album, broken a world record and performed at a national music awards ceremony.
Mrs Elms said: “This whole Military Wives movement is giving us a voice. We have been a part of military life that in the past has not been seen or heard, but now we are.
“Now people can see who the men are leaving behind and what they have to give up to serve.
“It has been an incredible year for us but, for me, the highlight has to be some of the giggles we have and how much this has brought us together as a group.”
Consisting of the wives, partners and girlfriends of personnel based at RAF Marham and servicewomen, the choir formed on January 25 but were soon invited to join the Military Wives Choir Foundation.
Some of the choir’s members then went to Abbey Road, in London, in March to take part in the recording of Sing, which was written for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The choir also joined 10 other choirs to perform the track at the Classic Brit Awards 2012, alongside Gareth Malone, Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The choir then performed with other choirs on three tracks on the second Military Wives album, Stronger Together, which was released ahead of Remembrance Sunday and peaked at number five in the charts.
The choir has also helped the Military Wives to break the world record for the biggest video shoot in music history, shooting the video for the title track Stronger Together.
Steph Eustace, who helped to form the choir, said: “For most of the members this is a vital support network. I’ve had a lot of friends move on from here and I was beginning to get quite lonely here and I feel like we really have become a family... It is great to know if I need something, all I have to do is call one of these ladies and I know she will be there for me.”
The choir currently has 32 members but are hoping to recruit more members.
Niki Dowsett joined the choir in July after watching the choir perform at a family day at the RAF base.
She said: “I absolutely love it. Apart from my family, this is my life and I think the highlights from my time have been recording the album and performing at the unveiling of the Peterborough War Memorial which were on the same day.”
Jane Welborn joined after a flyer was pushed through her door.
“My husband was away and I was feeling very lonely,” she said.
“I had no idea I could sing but I just gave it a go and I was made to feel very welcome.
“This choir gives me a sense of belonging and of community.
“It gave me somewhere to go when I felt lonely and at the lowest point of my life.”
For more information about the choir and upcoming performances visit www.marhambluebirds.co.uk. You can also follow the choir on Twitter @MarhamMWC