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Petawawa Military Wives Choir shines at Lights Across Canada ceremony

By Celina Ip

The Petawawa Military Wives Choir had the honour of performing at the 2017 Christmas Lights Across Canada illumination ceremony at Parliament Hill earlier this month.


Founded more than two years ago, the Petawawa Military Wives Choir currently has 58 members that include wives and partners of Armed Forces personnel as well as women from the wider military community.

Over the past two years, the choir has been invited to sing at local Remembrance Day ceremonies, other special events and they had the honour of joining other Canadian Military Wives Choirs from across the country to perform at the opening ceremonies of the 2017 Invictus Games this past September.

On Dec. 7, 35 members of the choir were invited by Heritage Minister Melanie Jolie to perform at a special VIP reception at Parliament Hill, as part of the official illumination ceremony for the 2017 Christmas Lights Across Canada multimedia lighstcapes show.

“They did the Lights Across Canada on the hill and then the ladies sang at a VIP reception afterwards, for the heritage minister and other dignitaries,” said Henrietta Biddiscombe, president of the choir. “Unfortunately they could only accommodate half a choir, so there were 58 ladies that wanted to go but they said that they only had room for 30. So we pulled some of the ladies that had already been down to the parliament buildings and let the newer ladies go and experience it.”

Upon entering the Parliament buildings and stepping foot in the beautifully-decorated rotunda, the choir members were mesmerized by the architectural beauty and were overjoyed to have the opportunity to perform in the enchanting space.

“Our excitement was really high because there were so many of us who had recently joined up with the choir and so to have this honour of being asked to come down and perform at Parliament – it really took us off guard,” said Lisa Genzer-Wheeler, a member of the choir who partook in the ceremony. it was interesting for me for sure because it was the first time id ever been into the rotunda.

She added that the rotunda served as a beautiful venue with amazing acoustics, providing a truly magical atmosphere to sing Christmas carols.

“The building was completely decorated for Christmas which was so special and they do such a beautiful job. The rotunda itself is just such a gorgeous room with neo-gothic architecture and the acoustics in it are just tremendous,” said Genzer-Wheeler.

The high profile ceremony welcomed 160 attendees that included several ministers, other dignitaries and their family members.

“Most of them were various VIPs and various other government individuals who were there with their families. It was awesome and so wonderful to see children there because we were singing a lot of well-known Christmas carols. So we sang Jingle Bells and a lot of upbeat Christmas carols and the children were just so mesmerized to stop and listen to us. It was so much fun to sing to them and I think it was very well received by the invitees of the reception itself – they seemed to have really appreciated our presence there,” said Genzer-Wheeler.

The concert also provided notes of joy and comfort to the choir members whose husbands are currently deployed, giving them the chance to stand stronger together and express themselves through song.

According to Biddiscombe, the choir hit all the right notes as they serenade their audience with Carol of the Bells, African Noel, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, Silent Night and various other holiday classics.

“I was lucky that one of the ladies there had a go-pro and was able to videotape the whole performance. So that was a nice memento they took away from it and they sang phenomenally well,” said Biddiscombe.

The choir is open to anyone with a military connection with no singing experience necessary, offering the chance for women to socialize, sing and support one another.

For more information about the Petawawa Military Wives Choir, contact Henrietta Biddiscombe at 

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