How it all began.
The Military Wives, Affiliates, Girlfriends, and Servicewomen's (WAGS) Choir, Catterick was formed in April 2010 just as 19 Brigade was about to embark on a six-month tour to Afghanistan at the height of the war. Casualties were expected and two Scots Guards' wives, Caroline Jopp and Nicky Clarke, felt the wives and girlfriends left behind needed something to keep their spirits up. They contacted Gareth Malone to see if he would help them set up a choir; he was very interested but for various logistical reasons it could not happen at that time and so Caroline and Nicky forged ahead on their own, establishing the WAGS Choir.
The choir was an immediate welfare success, the weekly rehearsals providing an opportunity for women to get together, support each other and have fun. With time, the mysterious power of music started to shine through as each week women emerged feeling just that bit better and more able to cope with the difficult time they were experiencing.
The Military WAGS Choir Catterick Garrison gained charitable status in its own right in January 2013.
Musical Director – Carol Gedye
Carol Gedye is a well-known Richmond music teacher and vocal animateur. Thousands of adults and children have taken part in her wide-ranging choral projects. She helped found the Military WAGS Choir Catterick with Nicky Clarke and Caroline Jopp in April 2010, and has been thrilled to be part of the journey of the choir ever since.
In 2011, with the support of the Community Fund at The Station, Richmond, she started three new community choirs for the area. The choirs known as The Station Singers (www.richmondstationsingers.co.uk), cater for all ranges of vocal ability. They have been very successful in both enabling people to sing (some for the first time), to make friends and also to support local charities. The choirs now operate independently of The Station, though are still based there.
In December 2012 she was very honoured to receive the Investor in Richmond Award from the mayor, on behalf of Richmond Town Council, in recognition of her services to the Richmondshire community through choral singing.
On the 30th November 2016 at the Town Hall in Richmond in front of dignitaries, family and friends; Carol had the Freedom of Richmond bestowed on her in a ceremony that recognised over 25 years of dedication to music and the Richmondshire community.
Accompanist – Brett Overin
Brett has accompanied the choir on several occasion over the past few years when our regular accompanist wasn't available. He became our regular accompanist in September 2015. Brett recently took early retirement from teaching but throughout his career he played the piano for school musicals and choirs. Since moving to North Yorkshire in 1990 he has accompanied a wide variety of local singing groups and soloists. In addition to playing for the WAGS, Brett also accompanies the Station Singers (who are also led by Carol Gedye) at their concerts.
Gareth Malone & The Military Wives Choir
A year or so later, inspired by the WAGS, a choir was set up along similar lines in Plymouth and in Chivenor as it was their brigades’ turn to be deployed. Gareth Malone was involved with this choir that became known as the Military Wives Choir (MWC) and featured on the TV programme The Choir. It captured the public’s interest and became an overnight success. We owe much to them in bringing the idea of military wives choirs into the public arena and creating opportunities for not only themselves but the WAGS as well.
Decca and the CDs
Riding high on the wave of public interest, Decca was keen to capitalise on this success and so a deal was forged that brought the five existing MWCs together to create an album, profit from which would assist the development of a Military Wives Choirs Foundation.
The Military Wives Choirs Foundation (MWCF)
The MWCF’s purpose is as an umbrella organisation that helps new choirs establish themselves with the aim of having a network of choirs throughout the military community.The MWCF's website can be found at www.militarywiveschoirs.org
The Military Wives Choir community
The majority of MWCs are linked to the MWCF, but some of the well established choirs or those who have chosen to organise themselves slightly differently from the MWCF model, whilst not actual affiliates of the MWCF remain part of the Military Wives Choir community. The Military WAGS Choir Catterick Garrison falls into this group - very much supporting the aims of the MWCF and as the founding choir regarding themselves as integral to the history and movement of the Military Wives Choirs community.