Enjoy an evening of music and chat in Cambridge with Katherine Jenkins
Multi-award-winning singing sensation Katherine Jenkins, Britain’s best-selling classical artist of the last 25 years, will be gracing the Corn Exchange stage in May.
The ‘voice of an angel’ badge which is used to describe a singer is a bit like the term ‘legend’ when it is used to describe lots of often rather less-than-deserving people, in that it tends to get overused.
But in the case of Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, it most definitely applies.
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and a major star for nearly 20 years, Katherine’s gorgeous voice has effortlessly transcended popular music and classical and, since releasing her debut album, Première, in 2004, the married mother-of-two has enjoyed mainstream success, wowed fans all over the world, made friends with Dame Vera Lynn and met the Queen on more than one occasion.
Katherine has entertained British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, sung with legendary (I think here the term is justified) artists like Plácido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli, appeared numerous times on television – including a solid run on Dancing with the Stars in the US – performed for the Pope, for presidents and members of the royal family.
Something of a royal favourite in fact, Katherine – the number one classical music artist of the past 25 years, selling more than 2.7 million albums in the Ultimate Classic FM Chart – was invited to sing God Save The Queen at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and then again, by special request, at Her Majesty’s 90th birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle in 2016.
The singer, who also presents Songs of Praise, spoke to the Cambridge Independent from her home in London, having recently returned from performing in Argentina.
Katherine’s latest album, released last year, is a 15-track LP, produced by Patrick Hamilton, entitled Guiding Light.
It is her first studio album since 2014’s Home Sweet Home.
She said: “When I was looking at this album, it had been four years since my last one came out. A lot had happened to me in that time – I’d had two children and was just in a very different place.
“I felt very happy and settled and thankful, and I thought that was a nice point at which to start choosing songs for an album. It was choosing songs that were emotional and spiritual, and sometimes religious.
"It wasn’t about ‘Look how many high notes I can sing’ and making it the biggest show-off album that I could do...
“It was more about the songs connecting with me and then hopefully connecting with the audience – so being a lot more intimate and emotional.”
One of Katherine’s own compositions made the cut, alongside hymns and standards such as Peace in the Valley, Morning Has Broken and Nearer My God to Thee.
“I wrote a song on the album for Xander [Katherine’s baby son] which I didn’t actually set out to do,” she recalled.
“When I’ve written a song, it’s usually been because I’ve really felt that I’ve wanted to write it.
“We’d nearly finished the album and I was sat with my son in my arms – I think he was maybe two or three months old.
"I was cuddling him and he was falling asleep in my arms, and I wrote this prayer for his life – just the kind of thing that any mum would wish for their child...
“I played it to my producer and he said, ‘We have to put that on the album’. I said, ‘Yeah, but where are we going to put it?’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll fit it in somewhere’.
"So it’s really nice that I got to do something like that for my son on the first album after he was born. But I’m pretty sure that in about 10 years, or less than, he’ll probably think it’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened!”
On the title, Guiding Light, Katherine said: “It’s a mixture of things. It is to do with my faith because I’ve been a Christian since forever, really.
"A lot of my singing background came from learning to sing in church from the age of seven, so that was a big part of my life. I think it’s a mixture of that and my father...
"He passed away when I was 15 and I’ve always felt like he’s been a guiding light in my life.
“He was always my biggest supporter so I feel like that would make a lot of sense, and then looking at the future – my children make me want to be the best I can be and make me think about doing more things in the future so that I can share that with them.
"So I think it’s also about a future guiding light.”
Katherine has also coached young singers in her spare time. “I’ve always got my eyes open for new talent,” she noted, “and I think that’s so important.
"Plácido Domingo does so much for young singers – he has these opera competitions... so even when I would go and sing with him, we would be in Korea or something and he would say, ‘Let’s go and study together’, and he would coach me.”
In 2005, Katherine memorably treated the crowd in Trafalgar Square and the audience watching at home to renditions of wartime favourites such as (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and We’ll Meet Again at the 60th anniversary celebrations of VE Day.
Looking on was Dame Vera Lynn, who joined Katherine on stage, although she didn’t sing.
“I was always in awe of her and the work that she’s done,” said Katherine. “I met her for the first time when we did the VE Day concert.
"We talked afterwards and she said, ‘You really should go out and sing to the troops’. She shared with me some of her stories and we’ve become very friendly over the years.”
Katherine looks back on some of her encounters with the Queen.
“She’s just very funny. I think she has a great sense of humour and a quick wit, and my family are huge fans of the royal family.
“I grew up with my nana and my mother talking about them, so whenever I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to go and perform for them, it’s always been a real honour and something that I have treasured in terms of memories.”
An Evening with Katherine Jenkins UK tour will be at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Wednesday, May 15 at 7.30pm.
All tickets include a £3 booking fee.
Box office: cornex.co.uk.