Debbie Alsop had never sung in an adult choir before last month – let alone in front of a packed gallery full of Royal Scots Club
That all changed last night when the 37-year-old from Cramond delivered her debut performance as a proud new member of the Edinburgh Military Wives Choir.
The Christmas carol service held before 70 guests at the club’s Abercromby Place headquarters was only the choir’s fourth public performance since forming in September.
A recording of their performance, which included O Holy Night, Away in a Manger and Deck the Halls, will be sent to 1 Scots soldiers serving in Afghanistan on a six-month tour of duty.
Ms Alsop’s partner, Corporal James Laidlaw, will be amongst Scottish military personnel stationed in Camp Bastion – Britain’s main military hub in the war-torn country – who will be shown the footage for the first time on Christmas Day.
“He’ll have a giggle,” Ms Alsop said. “Hopefully it’ll keep morale up over there. He’s glad that I’m doing something, keeping myself busy.
“It’s nice to be doing something and to not be losing contact with the forces. They do so much for us that it’s nice to give something back to them. This is his third deployment. He’s been out there every Christmas, so it’s about getting a bit of normality.”
Ms Alsop – one of 24 choir members performing last night – said she signed up “for a laugh”.
She said: “We’re all from different backgrounds. Some are from the marines, some from the army. We’re all mixed in together and we all get on, like one big family.”
The choir has about 30 members who practise for 90 minutes each week. It was started after a group of women were approached by Edinburgh Garrison Commander, Colonel Philip Bates, about creating a choir following the footsteps of other military wives choral groups across Britain.
Previous performances had included an appearance at the Stockbridge Musical Festival and a special farewell tribute at Colinton Parish Church before 1 Scots were deployed to Afghanistan in October.
Choir spokeswoman Kathleen Cody said the choir had grown on word of mouth, with most members never having sung in a choir before.
She said: “We’re not accomplished singers in any way, shape or form, but we all enjoy coming together, especially for something like a Christmas carol concert.”
Ms Cody, whose partner, Captain Neil Cargill, is an army trainer, said last night’s performance, led by musical director Finlay Hetherington, had been a poignant moment. She added: “We’re honoured to be asked to do it.”
Fellow chorister and Colinton wife Veronica Sefton, 36, is in Edinburgh as part of a two-year posting, with husband, Graham, serving in Afghanistan, and said she had joined for a distraction from thinking about his work.
She said: “On one level it’s complete escapism. You don’t think about anything else.
“You have an hour-and-a-half off from anything that’s on your mind. Singing’s like that – you can just completely take yourself away.
“Military life is very different and I think as wives we just need to stick together to help each other through it. ”
Mrs Sefton, who has a two-year-old son, James, said any time with her husband away on duty was hard, not just in the lead-up to Christmas.
She said: “I think it’s especially hard for the guys – they’re out there doing a job and they miss out on Christmas.”