Dame Vera, 100, still making and breaking records

Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn could make recording history on her 100th birthday this month if she breaks her record as the oldest living artist to land a UK No1 album.

The indefatigable star celebrates her birthday on March 20 and marks the centenary with the release of a new compilation album, Vera Lynn 100, and a concert in her honour in aid
of her Dame Vera Lynn Chil­dren’s Charity at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

When the album is released on March 17, she will become the first singer to have released a new album as a centenarian and if, as she hopes, it reaches No1, she will break her own record set eight years ago, when she became the oldest living artist to land a UK No1 album.

Dame Vera said: “On my birthday, I will be at home in Ditchling, Sussex, thinking of my links with France.
“After the war, I spent many happy holidays in the south of France with my husband Harry.
“When he died in 1998, I continued to go there with my daughter Virginia, her husband, daughter and grandchildren, who still visit. I don’t travel much these days, but I am in good form and looking forward to a great family party!”

Dame Vera was last year honoured by the Queen, who made her a Com­panion of Honour, and she had a special message for Connexion readers when she said: “France is so special to me – you will always be in my heart.”

Her new CD, released just before her birthday, features guests Alfie Boe, Alex­an­der Arm­strong and Aled Jones. Designed to be uplifting in difficult times, the cover photo is of Dame Vera and fighter planes above the White Cliffs of Dover.

She said: “Music is inspiring, and my wartime songs did help people cope. We are all still facing huge problems and we can get strength from music.
“In those dark days, we all had to grow up very quickly. I was only 22 when I volunteered for ENSA (Enter­tainments National Service Assoc­iation) and was sent to entertain our troops in Burma. Singing to 6,000 troups in the Burmese jungle was less daunting than the smoky working men’s clubs where I started out at the age of seven. So I coped well!
“I wore khaki uniform shorts, belted to keep them up as I had a 22in waistline! After the war, it was exciting to see the incredible fashions coming from France, and I used some of my precious coupons for pretty dresses with nipped-in waists and full skirts.”

Her love of fashion even led to a TV show and she said: “I presented a TV programme about Dior’s collection, called New Look Lynn.”
Dame Vera said her wartime repertoire was chosen to entertain but also to encourage people to be optimistic: “The lyrics were written with love and meaning, and my interpretation had to be accurate, strong and clear for the often crackly-sounding radios of that era. Every song carries an important message.

“I am a mezzo-soprano, so I’ve invited singers renowned for their clarity and whose voices blend well with mine to join me on the new album.
“These days, our challenges are very different but I hope people will feel inspired by the result.”
Her choice of chart-topping artists should help her achieve that as Alfie Boe’s operatic skills are superb on We’ll Meet Again, Aled Jones’ clear voice is thrilling on As Time Goes By and Alexander Armstrong adds even more drama to her wartime classic, White Cliffs of Dover.

The CD features her original vocals re-mastered alongside new orchestral productions which transform the sound and, as a bonus, it also features a previously unreleased version of Sailing, made famous by Rod Stewart. Vera Lynn 100, (Decca) will be released on March 17.