‘We’ll Meet Again’ – How voices can shine through in a time of crisis

In our time of national lockdown, with the country looking for glimmers of hope, there’s been a resurgence of the term ‘We’ll Meet Again.’

It’s a term synonymous with one song and one voice in particular: the voice of Dame Vera Lynn. Though Dame Vera was not a Dame when she first recorded that song, her unmistakeable voice and what it came to symbolise was to elevate her to a deserved place.

I’ve always found ‘We’ll Meet Again’ an emotional song, even without living through the war. For those who did, the song must have pulled at the heart strings of every person missing loved ones due to wartime separations. The song’s lyrics project listeners into a positive future. It was a song of courage. It was a clear voice of hope, in an uncertain time. 

For a voice to convey emotion and hope and strength and emotion is no easy achievement. The inherent elements of Vera Lynn’s voice that made the sentiment of that song so believable were rare and in perfect unison. Successful performers do not need perfect voices, particularly singers of popular songs. Wispy, quirky, husky and gravelly qualities may all feature to varying degrees in singers’ voices – indeed, voices can be characterised by these qualities. But, those voice qualities would not have made ‘Well Meet Again’ the song that it became for so many people. What defines Vera Lynn’s voice is it’s strength – her sustained notes remaining stable by an undominating vibrato, and the unfaltering clarity of her diction. There is no struggle to understand the words. Every syllable is heard. Her singing is wonderfully solid and consistently clear. There is no hesitation; only absolute commitment to the notes, the lyrics and the message. 

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but i know we’ll meet again some sunny day. Keep smiling through, just like you always do, till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.”

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but i know we’ll meet again some sunny day. Keep smiling through, just like you always do, till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.”

A secure voice with an unwavering message – exactly what a country at war would be crying out for. Churchill’s ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ … speech would not have convinced anyone if it’s delivery had been any less than fully robust. Times of crisis need strong voices. 

Yet, strong voices can make an even greater impact when they are underpinned by emotion. Connecting with a national collective of yearning is not something every voice or lyric can do. And the consequence of separation from loved ones is yearning. We yearn to connect in person, to touch our loved ones, to feel their energy around us and to meet again. Vera Lynn’s vocal undertone of supportive empathy carries the lyrics of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ not only to listeners’ ears but also to their hearts. 

It is another consequence of separation and crisis that humans come together to help, events connect and some individuals take actions in a personal and quiet way, which yield massive goodness and connectedness. And so 99 year old former Army Captain Tom Moore decided to walk 100 laps of his garden, supported by his walking frame, in advance of his upcoming 100th birthday, to raise £1000.00 for the NHS. His fund raising total is approaching £27,000,000 as I write. His own vocal tones poignantly fleck through the powerful baritone of singer Michael Ball and members of an NHS choir in their now no. 1 charity single ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.  The vulnerable, the strong, the talented and the heroes vocally combined; walking together, in one force for good. 

The national emergency brought about by the coronavirus also led to a rare national address by the Queen – only the 3rd time in her 68 year reign that she has done so in response to a current event. The powerful feeling of ‘Well Meet Again’, sung by Vera Lynn all those years ago, echoed all the way through time to make up the closing words of Queen Elizabeth II recent steady-toned speech:

“ We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again”. 

Queen Elizabeth II