Sing Loud, Sing Proud

Sing Loud, Sing Proud

Hey Everyone,

I'm not what you'd classify as an 'early morning person'. Not even a 'late morning person'. Afternoons are more my thing. Or nights. But not too late. I like my sleep as well. 

Today my alarm went off at 4.30am and I got out of bed without complaint. Okay, so maybe a little whinge. But I got up, got dressed and joined my fellow Australian Military Wives Choir friends to sing at the Anzac Day Dawn Service at RAAF Base Wagga (that's Royal Australian Air Force, if you're not all up on your Aussie military acronyms).

After the service, I was inspired to write the Anzac Day scene in my next novel and I'd like to share it with you now.

The novel has the working title Sing From Our Hearts and is a women's fiction story told from the points of view of three military spouses (including Megan, below) and set in Wagga. It's still a work in progress and this scene is a first draft.

Photo taken before dawn service at RAAF Base Wagga began April 25, 2019.
Choir microphones, Australian flag and cenotaph in the foreground.
Deis, paved path and large gum tree in the background.

Sing Loud, Sing Proud

 Megan followed a group of uniformed recruits along the dimly-lit path from the carpark back through the front gate. Her military spouse ID had come in handy this morning, allowing her to park on the base rather than near the local shops, the next street over.

She accepted a copy of the order of service from the airman greeting the Anzac day dawn service attendees. The recruits turned left into the staging area while Megan continued up the path towards the RAAF Wagga Heritage Centre housed in the original front gate building.

Angie waved from the back door of the small museum. Megan crossed the exit lane to join the rest of the choir members to warm up. Spotlights shone on various displays around the room. Maybe she'd come back another day and have a proper look.

"I know this is a solemn occasion but make sure you smile while you're singing. Smiling will lift your soft palate and help you hit those high notes." Angie smiled encouragingly. "And think about landing on the notes rather than reaching for them. It might sound silly but mindset helps."

It wasn't the high notes Megan was worried about. It was all those silhouettes gathered under the gum trees she'd passed earlier.

Danielle wasn't here to support her. Her presence, along with the rest of the trainees, had been required at another service.

Strangers were all she had. People she'd never met listening to her. The only consolation was they'd hardly be able to see her, dressed in black in the pre-dawn light.

Her boots clicked on the paved path as Megan followed the other women past the deis to the microphones set up to the far side. The Australian flag hung at half-mast to their left and the bagpipe player stood solemnly behind them. Gathering in a semicircle around the two microphones, they waited for the service to start.

Papers rustled in nervous hands, feet shuffled in the grass, magpies warbled their morning song and a lone kookaburra laughed from high above them. Megan's eyes adjusted to the dim light, though the crowd remained faceless.

The service began. The catafalque party slow-marched past, close enough to touch, and took their places at the corners of the cenotaph, eyes downcast and rifles at rest.

A prayer, a reading, an address, then it was time to sing. The women shuffled closer to the microphone as the Australian Military Wives Choir were introduced.

The knot in Megan's stomach tightened. What was she doing? This whole thing seemed surreal. She'd never been to a church service before let alone a dawn service. She hated public speaking. But she'd run out of time to panic.

The last four bars of the now-familiar hymn boomed through the large speakers as an introduction. The opening note swelled inside her and Megan's voice blended seamlessly with the other women.

"Abide with me, fast falls the eventide."

She glanced down at her torch-lit order of service, double checking the words for the next line.

"The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide."

Megan's senses sharpened as she became fully present in the moment. The subtle lightening of the sky as the sun neared the horizon chasing away her fear.

"When other helpers fail and comforts flee."

The knot in her stomach unravelled.

"Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me."

The final verse ended, the sound echoing for a moment. Megan couldn't keep the grin from her face. Her whole body hummed.

She glanced behind her as the piper began to play. She'd always thought bagpipes sounded like a cat in considerable pain but this was something else. The high reedy sound combined with the deeper droning bass sent a shiver down her spine. She turned back to face the cenotaph and watched as wreaths of colourful flowers and sprigs of rosemary were laid at its base.

Her voice joined with those of the crowd as they responded to the ode. "We will remember them. Lest we forget."

The haunting notes of the last post filled the air. Megan's mind wandered to the shores of Gallipoli. The sacrifices made so that she could be here, in this moment, in this life.

A babies cry broke the minute of silence, a reminder of why the war was fought rather than an interruption.

The bugle began, again. Rousing her back into the present. A cue to prepare for the next song.

The Australian National Anthem. The warmth of pride filled her as she sang, loud and proud.

She sang from her heart.

She sang for her heart.

The representatives of the Wagga branch of the Australian Military Wives Choir who were available to sing at the dawn service on Anzac day 2019
Left to right: Bec (the choir director), Angie (whose name I stole for my story), Me and Emma (who I'll be sure to work into a future story...)
We sang loud and proud today - thanks ladies

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