• Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

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Catterick’s Military WAGS Choir inspires ‘Military Wives’ Blockbuster

The Military WAGS Choir in Catterick is the inspiration behind the latest British blockbuster to hit the big screen. Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Hogan, ‘Military Wives’, is directed by Peter Cattaneo , of multi-award-winning ‘Full Monty’ fame, and is based on the true story of how Catterick’s WAGS’ Choir was born during the Afghanistan conflict and went on to become the phenomenon it is today.

As the name suggests, the WAGS Choir in Catterick embraces services’ wives, affiliates, girlfriends and servicewomen, and it was the first and original Military Wives Choir.  In early 2010, Nicky Clarke and Caroline Jopp approached Carol Gedye with the idea of starting up a choir. The thought was to give those left at home a focus and a support group to keep spirits high with fun and friendship while their loved ones and colleagues were away. Gareth Malone did wonders for raising the profile of the Military Wives Choirs after setting up two choirs in the TV series The Choir: Military Wives which triggered many other groups across the UK. However, it is the Catterick WAGS who must be credited for creating the concept which is now regarded by many as a national treasure.

Members from the Military Wives Choir family across the country headed to London in January to record some soundtracks from the film. Ten choir members from the WAGS volunteered to take part and spent Christmas learning their parts.  Jane Scott, a teacher at Richmond School and Sixth Form College was chosen to introduce the trailer to the soundtrack to talk about her experiences in the choir and what it means to her. Jane said: “It was such a privilege to be asked to open the trailer and acknowledge the enormity of what these choirs mean to so many people.”

A further nine WAGS choir members were invited to attend and perform at the recent London premiere, together with Carol Gedye, the original WAGS musical director, who picked up the baton and led the choir from its inception until last year.  It was wonderful that Carol was asked to conduct the WAGS and combined Military Wives Choirs of Chivenor and Plymouth at the premiere.  This was in recognition of the Military WAGS Choir being at the heart of the film’s storyline and the trigger that sparked a lasting legacy that has brought, and continues to bring, so much joy through singing and forging friendships to hundreds of women with military connections. The choir sung in front of the director, the cast, Gareth Malone, Lorraine Kelly and other celebrities.

To pay tribute to the enormous contribution that the Military WAGS Choir have made there will be a red-carpet event at opening night of the Military Wives film on Friday 6th March at the Empire Cinema in Catterick.   The WAGS will perform music from their repertoire from 6:45 to 7:45, followed by the film at 8pm. Tickets are available from  www.catterick.empirecinemas.co.uk  The Military Wives film is receiving fabulous reviews as the power and positivity of singing, and how it brings people together, shines through.

The Military WAGS Choir have sung at numerous high-profile events over the years and are committed to making music in the local community. They regularly collaborate with Richmond School at concerts with their music and drama groups.  In 2014, they recorded a CD, ‘Harmonies for Heroes’, with Reeth and Muker Bands, raising over £8,000 to support the Help for Heroes at the Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick. The WAGS are looking forward to exciting events in 2020 to commemorate their tenth anniversary.