One of the most exciting things about becoming a professional photographer is never knowing who you are going to be asked to photograph next. This year alone, my work has introduced me to creative yoga instructors, passionate charity workers, dedicated business owners and a whole range of groups and individuals whose stories I am privileged to capture through my lens.
One of the most inspiring group of people I have had the pleasure of working with on a number of occasions this year is Colchester Military Wives Choir. Each time I have worked with the ladies I learn a little more about their talent, their passion for singing and the support network that they provide for one another. Following their successful performance at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester earlier this autumn, I chatted to their chair, Helen O’Neill to find out a little more about this talented group of ladies.
Tell me a little bit about the history of Colchester MWC – when was it established and how has it grown in members and stature since it commenced?
Colchester Military Wives Choir was established in July 2012. Since then it has earned a formidable reputation with a string of concerts including appearing at the House of Commons for three consecutive years to mark Remembrance Day, a sell-out joint event with the Band of the Parachute Regiment at St Botolph’s Church in Colchester and a joint concert with Men2Sing at Chelmsford Cathedral.
In 2013 the choir was invited to take part in the Canadian Military Tattoo, along with the Corps of Drums of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, which was staged at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton Ontario.
In 2014 the choir was also represented at the War Horse Prom, an event commemorating the start of WW1. This endeavour involved being part of a BBC television series culminating in a sell-out performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2015, the choir was privileged to be asked to sing the British and US national anthems at a sell-out NBA basketball game in the O2 Arena in London. As well as performing in front of a sell-out audience, the game was also live on television in both Britain and America.
Later in 2015, our ladies were also invited to take part in West End Heroes at the Dominion Theatre in London. The show united some of the country’s top military musicians in a dazzling display of show stopping numbers, and also included special performances from top west end musicals. This particular event raised money for the charity Help For Heroes.
2016 started with a bang for the choir, when we were invited to perform on stage with Lulu. Lulu and her brother recorded a song which was re-written specifically for the military wives and serving members for the military. It was an amazing experience for our ladies singing on stage with Lulu.
In November 2014 and 2015, the choir staged an evening at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester where it performed to a full house. In September this year we performed two concerts at the Mercury theatre, which allowed more people the opportunity to see us, and as always we had a great time entertaining our local audience. We are also fortunate and proud to support local charities at this annual event.
The choir is part of a growing network of Military Wives Choirs across the forces community worldwide. Currently the choir has approximately 40 members, including serving reservists, mothers of soldiers and of course military wives. The choir is fortunate to have the dedication and talents of Musical Director Mrs Sally Leung and accompanist Mrs Sharon Tidbury.
Ross Willsher is a social (weddings and portraits) and commercial photographer based in Chelmsford and covering Essex and London who is passionate about creating images as individual as you are. His work can be viewed at www.rosswillsherphotography.co.uk / www.rosswillshercommercialphotography.co.uk