An extract from a newspaper article Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell gives on his visit to Canada with the Colchester Military Wives Choir.
In the roller-coaster of my life’s experiences there have been some significant highs and some depressing low points.
I now add a wonderful new high, that of the spectacular success of the Colchester Military Wives’ Choir who over six days I had the honour to accompany to the Canadian International Military Tattoo in Hamilton, Ontario, where they performed before 7,500 spectators.
This was the first overseas visit by any of Britain’s 80 Military Wives’ Choirs which have been established during the past two years.
The Colchester Choir was formed in June last year. Under the guidance of Musical Director Sally Leung it has quickly developed a formidable reputation with a string of concerts including at the House of Commons ahead of Remembrance Day last November and a sell-out joint event with The Band of The Parachute Regiment at St Botolph’s Church in Colchester in aid of the soldiers’ charity the Army Benevolent Fund.
Organisers of the Canadian International Military Tattoo also invited The Corps of Drums of the 1st Battalion of The Royal Anglian Regiment as a second overseas contingent from the UK.
I was directly involved in the establishment of the Colchester Choir, and its members wished me to go with them to Canada.
The Canadian Tattoo is a not-for-profit event run by volunteers, so we each paid for our flights between Gatwick and Toronto. Accommodation in Hamilton was in student bedrooms at McMaster University.
The visit meant me being away from the Commons on three days (Thursday last week, and Monday and Tuesday this week), therefore the agreement of my Chief Whip was required. In order that the balance of Government and Opposition MPs is maintained, a “pairing” agreement between the parties allows an equal number of MPs from each side to be absent for authorised reasons.
As I represent a Garrison town, and serve on the Defence Select Committee, it was agreed that the purpose of the visit to Canada justified my absence.
The Tattoo was held in the amazing Copps Coliseum, an all-seater covered stadium which is the home of the Hamilton Bulldogs ice hockey team.
A rehearsal concert on Friday, with local schoolchildren as the audience, was attended by 1,200.
The two public concerts attracted 1,800 on Saturday evening and 4,500 on Sunday afternoon.
I had the honour at these two concerts to be seated on the front row of the podium and address the audience at the opening, making reference to Colchester’s history and its Army connections and to tell them about the Choir.
The Choir sang five songs to end the first half. They were: Over the Sea to Skye and Mull of Kintyre, accompanied by a lone bagpiper; and then You Raise Me Up, Sing, and Together We Are Stronger.
Each audience gave the Choir a rousing reception.
The goodwill visit was a huge success. In addition to the Tattoo the Choir enjoyed visits to Niagara Falls and to the replica early 19th Century Fort George which played a key role in 1812-1814 in the defeat of the US by British North America loyalists which led to the creation of Canada.
The plane home to England arrived on Wednesday morning and I went straight to the House of Commons.
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