When choirmaster Gareth Malone set about teaching a group of military wives to sing, none of them could have imagined the phenomenon the project was to become.
The idea, formed to support and unite the women while their husbands were serving in Afghanistan, led to a Christmas number one single, TV appearances and international acclaim.
Now audiences in north Northumberland are getting the chance to share the music for themselves.
The Dishforth Military Wives Choir is singing at The Alnwick Garden in a fund-raising evening for ssafa Northumberland.
The event, on April 18, will include favourite military wives choir songs including Wherever You Are, which was the Christmas number one in 2011, Bring Him Home, On My Own and When Will I See You Again? In commemoration of last year’s centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, the choir will present a Vera Lynn medley of wartime songs alongside old favourites such as It’s A Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles. Other patriotic hymns and songs will be included, such as Jerusalem, Abide With Me and I Vow To Thee My Country.
The evening, plus an optional pre-concert meal, will be followed by a ball in October with the choir, again at The Alnwick Garden.
ssafa Northumberland public awareness and fund-raising officer Major Brian Finlayson, who has organised the events, said: “It is a coup to have them, they are really in big demand. To be able to tie them down to one event is remarkable, to have them back again is wonderful.”
Tickets for the spring event will cost £20, concessions £15. Tickets for a meal, with the choir singing one or two songs privately, and the concert cost £40 per person.
The Dishforth Military Wives Choir was formed in February 2012 and has just celebrated its third anniversary. It is one of the longest running of the military wives choirs and is one of now nearly 80 such choirs under their umbrella organisation, the Military Wives Choir Foundation, itself a subsidiary of ssafa.
Based at Dishforth Airfield in North Yorkshire, which is the current home to the 9th Regiment Army Air Corps, it welcomes wives, partners, daughters and mums of army, navy and airforce personnel and current or past servicewomen.
Three of its members were lucky part of a 100-strong choir, drawn by audition from military wives choirs all over the country, to sing at The Royal Albert Hall last August for the War Horse Prom, which was shown on TV over the festive period.
The choir’s accompanist is Malcolm Maddock, a talented pianist, and its musical director is Ruth Sladden.
All of the money raised from the event will be used in Northumberland by ssafa (soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association), the oldes national military charity which provides much-needed support for servicemen and women, past and present, and their families.