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JBLM spouse performs at 2017 Invictus Games

Local Canadian travels to Toronto

Valcartier Canadian Military Wives Choir performs at its year-end concert in June. Photo courtesy Valcartier Canadian Military Wives Choir

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Julie St-Louis, a Canadian and military spouse whose husband is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), recently traveled to Toronto to join with her peers in the Valcartier Canadian Military Wives Choir. They were united with nine other Canadian Wives Choirs for a total of 191 military spouses and servicemembers who sang at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Invictus Games Sept. 23.

The group accompanied British soprano Laura Wright and sang the song, "Invincible."

"The choirs were invited to participate around a year ago, and it was really due to some good contacts that we have developed over the last couple of years," said Debbie Goodleff, a member of Canadian Wives Choirs. "We found out very early that the games were coming to Toronto and set about demonstrating our interest in supporting a great initiative to help our sick and injured personnel and veterans in the best way we could. Mike Burns, the CEO of Invictus Games 2017, saw us perform at the Canadian Forces Military Family Services 25th Anniversary reception last year and agreed that we would be a wonderful addition to the programming for the games. The organizing team suggested that we accompany the British soprano Laura Wright and her performance of ‘Invincible.' It is a beautiful song and a fitting tribute to the competitors involved in the Invictus Games."

"I have always loved to sing," St-Louis said. "My earliest singing experience was in the church choir when I was twelve.  At military college (your equivalent of West Point), I sang in the college choir, which was really fun.  In my late twenties, I sang in a ‘Sweet Adelines' chorus for a couple of years and that was the most challenging choir experience ever because all the music is acapella, memorized and you have choreography, too.  I have learned a lot over the years from my choir directors."

"The first Canadian Wives Choir started in the fall of 2013 in Ottawa by Sue Palmer, who had been part of a Military Wives Choir in the UK," Goodleff said. "Sue emigrated to Canada in July of 2013 and was determined to replicate the support network that she had been part of in the UK. The Ottawa choir started with just fourteen members, and we now hold a consistent membership of sixty.  The great thing about our choirs is that it really is about providing a support network, a choir family. No one needs to be able to sing; there are no auditions, and you just need to be a willing participant."

St-Louis founded the Valcartier choir in February 2017 after having sung with the Ottawa choir from 2014-2015.

"I loved that experience and the amazing feeling it is to sing with your fellow military spouses.  It's not just a choir, it's a support group.  Our mission is to provide a supportive network for women in the Canadian Military Community through music," she said. "After moving to Valcartier, I really missed my ‘singing sisters' and singing in general, so I decided to start a chapter there.  It was a challenge because it was the first French choir, so we needed to translate all the paperwork, including the constitution. Luckily, I did have help -- another spouse who had just transferred in from another choir wanted to assist me in the set-up.

"I am very, very honored to have participated in the Opening Ceremonies at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada," she added. "I am honored because I got the once-in-a-lifetime chance to sing in a mass ensemble choir with my fellow military wives, to participate in an international event honoring ill and injured servicemembers and to represent my country."

The Invictus Games 2017 runs through Sept. 30 in Toronto. The games were founded by Prince Harry after he visited the Warrior Games in Colorado in 2013.

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