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Royal Albert Hall to host concert without audience for first time in 150 years

Katherine Jenkins will perform for the VE Day event, and will be joined virtually by 103-year-old singer Vera Lynn

The Royal Albert Hall will mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day with a historic concert.

For the first time in its 150-year history, the London performance venue will stage a concert behind closed doors, featuring Katherine Jenkins.

The celebrated Welsh mezzo-soprano will perform at the empty venue in a pre-recorded concert to be aired on the Royal Albert Hall YouTube page on Friday, May 8 from 9pm UAE time.

With the venue closed for the first time since the Second World War, the concert aims to evoke the resilient spirit of that era.

The highlight of the event will be a virtual duet with the 103-year-old British singer Vera Lynn, whose wartime songs consoled and rejuvenated the UK during the war.

The power of ‘We’ll Meet Again’

In what is bound to be a moving moment in the concert, both Jenkins and Lynn will perform this wartime classic.

Written by English songwriters Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, the 1939 song was credited for boosting the morale of British citizens during the Second World War.

The lyrics exemplify the collective sacrifice of allied soldiers, who left loved ones and families to fight against Nazi Germany.

The song continued to resonate throughout the years and was afterwards used to mark solemn occasions, as well as rallying the public to a common cause. We’ll Meet Again remains the traditional closing song for the annual Liberation Day Concert in Amsterdam on May 5, marking the end of the Second World War in the Netherlands.

The song was also used in a number of wartime films, such as 1943’s We’ll Meet Again, in which Lynn played a starring role, as well as scoring the final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 anti-war black comedy Dr. Strangelove.

The song speaks of today’s challenges

Not surprisingly, the song found resonance once again during the pandemic.

According to the UK’s Official Charts, the song received a 580 per cent boost in downloads in the first week of April.

A lot of it was down to the historic April 5 address given by Queen Elizabeth. In what was only her fifth public address in her 68-year reign, the British royal encouraged citizens to weather the challenges of the pandemic by uttering some of the song’s most memorable lyrics, including “better days will return” and “we’ll meet again”.

Jenkins is also well-versed in performing the track, as it has been part of her repertoire for the past 15 years.

Speaking to The National before her March performance at Dubai Opera – as part of the venue’s last run of events before temporarily closing its doors – Jenkins said she realised the true gravitas of We’ll Meet Again once she became a mother.

She recalled how the song continues to elicit a lump in her throat when delivering lines such as: “We’ll meet again / Don’t know where, don’t know when / But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

“It is a Second World War song and I have sung that so many times,” she said. “But when I think about it now, in 2020, and the idea of being apart from my children and family, that song now just breaks my heart.”

What is VE Day?

Known in full as “Victory in Europe Day” and held annually on May 8 since 1945, the day celebrates Nazi Germany’s surrender to the Allied forces, marking the end of the Second World War.

While most countries mark the occasion on May 8, former Soviet bloc countries, including Russia and Belarus, celebrate the following day.