This month it's the turn of one of our longest standing members, Hannah Illingworth, who joined the choir back in October 2011 and is the only committee member to have served on the committee since its formation in 2012!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I am married to a Military Nursing Officer, Darren, who joined the regular army in 2009 (at the tender age of 37!) after being in the Territorial Army (TA) for over 20 years. We met through the TA as I have been a musician in various TA bands for nearly 23 years and Darren came to teach us about Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare on one of our military training weekends back in 2003. He deployed to Iraq with the TA in 2004 and it was at this time that we realised we would probably be stuck with each other for good! We married in 2006 and now have 3 children aged 9, 7 and 2. Catterick was our second posting, our first being 2 years at Frimley Park Hospital near Camberley in Surrey, we should move every two years but were fortunate enough to get a second posting in Catterick whilst our eldest son was assessed for autism.
What made you join the WAGS?
I had seen the posters for the choir around the Garrison but never really thought of myself as a singer. I have played the flute since I was 8 years old so this tended to take up my 'free' time. When my middle child started nursery, I mentioned my background to two of his Key Workers who had recently joined the choir and they persuaded me to go along with them. Three weeks later I was singing in my first concert with them and I am so glad that they convinced me to go along.
What has been the best thing about being in the WAGS?
The best bit for me has been the friendships that I have formed with other ladies in the choir and the support that they have given my family and I. Following the birth of our third child in 2014 I became seriously ill after surgery for retained placenta and I had to have an emergency hysterectomy. Jacob was just 3 weeks old at the time and I was incapable of looking after him (I couldn't even lift him) so my husband was doing everything. With a 7 year old daughter and a 5 year old son with autism, he had his work cut out whilst still working full time and looking after me! The WAGS rallied around and dropped off pre-prepared meals that just had to be heated up and offered their company, support and help to me. They were there when we needed them the most and we are very grateful to them all.
What has been your favourite moment with the choir?
There have been so many fabulous times with the choir that it is really hard to choose just one! I was lucky enough to be selected to sing at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert as part of Gary Barlow's Commonwealth Band which was a once in a lifetime experience that I thoroughly enjoyed but the moments that will stay with me are those that involved all the WAGS singing together. We sang at the Proms concert at Castle Howard in from of 10,000 people and the weather was atrocious but the atmosphere was amazing, it was great to see so many people donning their waterproofs and getting in the spirit whilst we stood on a damp stage in evening dresses!
Following the Brigades deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 we were asked to sing at the homecoming service in York Minster which was so humbling and such an honour to be part of. It makes you appreciate the work that the soldiers do even more.
Have you got a favourite song from those that you have sung with the WAGS?
My absolute favourite is the selections from Les Miserables as I absolutely love the musical and have seen it numerous times. I also really enjoy singing the Sister Act Medley as everyone gets in to the swing of it with the actions and we have such fun singing it!
If you could sing with anyone in the world who would it be?
As the other WAGS will know, it would have to be 'my' Alfie! I absolutely love Alfie Boe, especially when he is singing Bring Him Home from Les Miserables. I was lucky enough to meet him at the Diamond Jubilee Concert and he was such a lovely man, really down to earth.
What do your family think about you being in the choir?
My husband says he's a choir widow and my sister asks how on earth they let me in as she has heard me sing! My children love it until we start doing the moves, then they get embarrassed! It was lovely when we did the Diamond Jubilee Concert though as they got very excited at seeing mummy on TV.
What would you say to other ladies who might be thinking of joining the WAGS?
I'd say go for it, you don't have to be the world's best singer or be able to read music, it's about getting to meet other ladies, having fun and generally supporting each other. Everyone's singing really improves when you sing regularly too! There are no auditions so no need to be worried, it really is a great thing to be part of.
Hannah playing the flute solo in Annie's Song with the choir with daughter, Grace, looking on