Military Wives mount new offensive

Chivenor Military Wives Choir members Estelle Liepa, Rachel Woosey and Tammy Aitchison. Chivenor Military Wives Choir members Estelle Liepa, Rachel Woosey and Tammy Aitchison.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
11:00 AM

Ladies from Chivenor’s Military Wives Choir talk about a hectic year and their latest bid on the Christmas retail charts.

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CHIVENOR’S Military Wives Choir is preparing another assault on the Christmas bestseller lists with a new album and book.

They captured the nation’s hearts and imagination last year when their single Wherever You Are made the Christmas number one spot after selling 684,474 copies.

This year, the Chivenor ladies joined 23 other Military Wives choirs plus mentor Gareth Malone to record a second album Stronger Together, now available in the shops, as well as a video for the title track.

The book Wherever You Are, Military Wives: Our True Stories of Heartbreak, Hope and Love is available from Harper Collins and will raise money for the Military Wives Choirs Foundation, which helps other choirs to come together. A £1 from every album sold will also go to the charity.

It was more than a year ago when ladies with serving partners at RMB Chivenor first appeared on the nation’s television screens with choirmaster Gareth in his BBC Two series The Choir: Military Wives.

Since then some choir members have moved away with their husbands to new postings, but the North Devon Gazette caught up with founding choir member Rachel Woosey plus new members Tammy Aitchison and Estelle Liepa.

It has been a busy year for the Chivenor choir, with appearances, PR stints and recording sessions – most recently they appeared at the Commando 999 speed march challenge in London.

This was followed by a performance at the Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall. A week earlier they took part in Barnstaple’s Festival of Remembrance at the Queen’s Theatre.

“After recording the single we didn’t think that much would happen, or it would all be forgotten in a couple of months, so for it to be going 12 months later is really strange, but good too – we would never have dreamed it would take off like it did,” said Rachel, whose husband Major Mark Woosey is with the Royal Marines.

“My husband was here when it started, but he went to Afghanistan in January so for me the choir came into its own this year. It’s not about the TV programme now, it’s about raising awareness of the families left behind.

“Now we have support from people who know what we are going through. This choir is unique because we have people from the Army, Navy and RAF here.”

Tammy, who is from Barnstaple originally and whose husband Glenn is a warrant officer class 2 with the Commando Logistic Regiment, joined the choir in August.

“I watched them all last year because it was in my home town – and the moment we knew we were coming here friends and family were asking if I was going to join,” she said.

“I have probably made more friends through this than I would have otherwise and it was nice the girls stood back and let the newer members have the opportunity to sing at the Albert Hall this year. “The amount of emotions I went through there was unbelievable.”

Estelle joined the choir in March. Although her husband James is a former colour sergeant with 42 Commando and now works in the security industry, she is in a similar position to any other ‘forces wife’ as he spends long periods working away.

“It is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the choir,” she said.

“It was a fantastic experience to be involved in the video and it was quite emotional seeing the advert on the TV as well.”

After several temporary appointments the Chivenor Military Wives have a permanent choirmaster with Rachel Smith, who has been in post for a couple of months and seems to be fitting in very well.

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