LONDON – A century ago, British soldiers marched off to fight in World War I to a cheerful, bittersweet tune urging them to “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile!”
Now veterans, military families and serving soldiers have taken to the choir stands to give the hit song a new life and to mark 100 years since the start of the Great War.
A choir organized by a British military charity braved torrential rains to perform the song Sunday in central London, launching a new recording of what Aubrey Powell, the grandson of the original’s co-composer George Powell, described as “the viral hit of WWI.”
“Pack Up Your Troubles” was a widely-known music-hall style tune used to boost morale and a sense of unity among troops and on the home front.
“There couldn’t have been a person alive then who didn’t know someone fighting. It affected everybody, and having that song united people,” said Rachel Smith, one of the musical directors involved in the project.
She added that the song’s simple melody and lyrics gave it its enduring appeal, and is still relevant today because it “makes us think a little more about what people were going through.”