From performing for an audience of a million to singing lullabies to her daughter, Katherine Jenkins’ voice is one that never fails to enchant.
Now the Welsh songbird is limbering up her vocal chords to woo Wearside when she performs at Herrington Country Park on May 6.
It will be the first time the mezzo-soprano, who’s famed for bringing classical music to the masses, will have performed in the city.
Katherine, who’s sold more than four million copies of her ten studio albums, will perform alongside The National Symphony Orchestra as part of the Northern Sessions, which will be bringing a host of big names to Sunderland in the next few months.
The classical music star is the first act to be announced, and she promises to kick off the series of summer concerts in style.
Speaking in her distinctive Welsh singsong lilt, she said: “I can’t wait, I absolutely love the summer concerts, they’re my favourite by far. There’s just such a lovely atmosphere and I feel like people really enjoy the whole setting.
“I had to take last summer off as I was having my baby, so I’m especially looking forward to them this year.”
The Sunderland concert marks the most northern of several UK performances confirmed for Katherine in 2016, including a celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall.
Speaking about what Wearside can expect from the show, she said: “We’re still working on the programme, but it will have all the popular songs from all the albums, the classical crossovers, the arias, the musical theatre and the classic pop songs,” she said. “I’ve worked with the orchestra since the very beginning of my career so I have a great relationship with them on stage.
“It’s so important to tour with a live orchestra, you need to give the crowd their money’s worth. So there’ll be lots of frock changes too. Apart from that, there’ll be plenty of banter. I want everyone on their feet at the end having a laugh.”
Since debuting in 1998, Katherine has become one of the most popular classical-crossover artists of all time, and she says she still relishes the opportunity to sing the songs which helped to make her name.
“There are certain songs I have to sing, as if I don’t people will be disappointed,” she said.
“Songs like Time to Say Goodbye, The Godfather theme and Hallelujah. I still enjoy singing them, they are amazing songs.
“I always make sure there’s a nice balance. I have to remember that for some people it’s their first classical concert, whereas others are seasoned opera-goers.”
Katherine has not only made classical music popular to a wide audience but has also appeared in TV shows, including Pop Star to Opera Star and US hit show Dancing With The Stars, along with performing to audiences around the world.
It’s a far cry from the early days when she found her voice singing at church in Neath.
“I fell in love with classical music, not because my mum and dad played it in the house, but because I was singing it at church. So for me it grew in a relaxed, organic way,” she explained. Since coming to the public’s attention in 2003 when she sang at Westminster Cathedral in honour of Pope John Paul II’s silver jubilee, Katherine has been at the forefront of making classical music popular with a cross-section of people.
“It has changed so much over the years and I love that. At the beginning you would see a lot of older people in the audience,” she said. “Now you see children, couples in their 20s and 30s through to people celebrating their 90th birthdays. I get to meet people backstage and when I meet little girls who say they want to be a classical singer when they grow up it makes me so happy.
“When I was little I didn’t realise that was an option, I thought if you wanted to be a singer, you had to be a pop singer.”
It was her early days of singing – she won a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music when she was 17 – which helped Katherine to hone her talent.
Speaking about how she looks after her famous voice, she said: “It just comes naturally to me now. I had training on how to look after my voice at the Royal Academy of Music but in general it’s things like not talking between shows, drinking plenty of water, not drinking alcohol the week before a show and no dairy on the day of the show.
“The most important thing is that my body is my instrument so I have to look after it and eat well.”
Last year, Katherine faced a new challenge when she gave birth to her daughter Aaliyah in September. The youngster has perhaps the best bedtime singer in the world.
“I sing to her all the time but not the songs I’m known for, songs like Wheels on the Bus,” said the first-time mum.
“I love it. Being a mum is the best thing, but I’m lucky in that I can choose the concerts I want to do. So if I’m taken away from my family it’s for a concert I really want to do. And in most cases I can take her with me. She really inspires me with my music.”
Katherine’s is a glittering career, which has seen her perform around the world for music-lovers and dignitaries, a passion which saw her given an OBE in the 2014 New Year Honours list.
Does she have a highlight?
“There’s been so many highlights and each one you pinch yourself and think ‘is this really happening.’ In more recent times, a highlight was the year before last when I sang in Berlin on New Year’s Eve in front of a million people in the street against the backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate. Before that, I didn’t even know what a million people looked like.
“From an emotional viewpoint, singing for troops in Iraq on Christmas Eve for 4,000 squaddies was amazing and something I will always remember.”
•Tickets for Katherine Jenkins supported by National Symphony Orchestra at Herrington Country Park on May 6 are £33 each from www.thenorthernsessions.co.uk.
•We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for Katherine’s gig. To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: where is Katherine from?
Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk
Closing date: March 10.