We'll Meet Again will be Virtual Festival of Chichester finale

The recent passing of Dame Vera Lynn at the age of 103 has given extra poignancy to the finale of this year’s Virtual Festival of Chichester.

Chichester Singers musical director Jonathan Willcocks
Chichester Singers musical director Jonathan Willcocks

We’ll Meet Again, recorded in isolation by the Chichester Singers, will bring the online festival to a conclusion on Sunday, July 12.

The title evokes the spirit of this unusual year, looks ahead to the return of a live festival in 2021 and now also offers a tribute to Dame Vera.

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Chichester Singers musical director Jonathan Willcocks said: “I chose this particular song because it was very apt with the VE-Day 75th anniversary, and also you really can’t get more relevant words for now than ‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.’

“But it is also particularly apt that we are able to have this video included in the festival at a time when Dame Vera has just died.

“So many of us have been separated from our usual lives, disconnected from them. We just can’t know when we are going to be able to get back together again as normal – and the world was in exactly that situation in wartime in the 1940s when nobody knew when they would meet again. Obviously we are not in exactly the same situation as people going off to war, but there is something similar.”

The recording was made over a number of weeks, bringing together – still in isolation – around 90 members of the Chichester Singers.

“The recording was done over a matter of weeks. The particular thing that is vital is to get a video which has the accompanist which everybody has to sing against. And then I had some remote rehearsals. I had a session with about 80 or 90 people on Zoom. I took them through the piece.

“It is a very artificial situation because all you can do is deliver it one way. You can’t hear what all the other individual singers are singing because of all the different speeds of broadband, so they had to be muted. I took the rehearsal from the piano in my own home, and I programme four different rehearsals, for sopranos, altos, tenors and basses to help them learn the music.

“It is a well known song, but this is my own arrangement. You have got to start with the tune.”

Then it became a question of where Jonathan himself fitted in: “Sometimes in these videos you see the musical director conducting, but in fact all he or she is really doing is just miming along to the music.

“You just can’t make this kind of video and expect the singers to follow the conductor so I decided the best way for me to be part of it was to create it as a piano duo me with and with Sue at the piano.”

The day’s events during the Virtual Festival of Chichester are being added at 7pm ready for enjoying at the traditional 7.30pm event time. Events will stay on the site for the rest of the summer – so there is no need to miss them.