Katherine Jenkins looks forward to Christchurch Park, Ipswich, concert

From pointing out London landmarks to tourists to becoming the main attraction at major musical venues the world over, entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talks about fame, rugby and marriage with multi-million selling classical singer Katherine Jenkins

IF the singing ever dries up, Katherine Jenkins can always fall back on her old summer job as a London Eye tour guide.

The Welsh mezzo-soprano used to go round ten times a day, pointing out landmarks to tourists while she was studying at The Royal Academy of Music.

“If you ever need a guide I can give you a pretty good tour from the air,” she assures me, confessing she’d need to read up on her facts first.

“I used to know it by heart and tried to remember what I said recently, but I’ve forgotten a lot of it. I did history A-level and I’m interested in the history of London so I can give you a little bit of why the monuments are there and stuff like that.

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“I remember one lady from America looking at Crystal Palace, you know the TV mast, and she said to me ‘wow, I can’t believe you can see France from here’. She thought it was the Eiffel Tower,” she laughs.

The former model – a job she admits to not enjoying – and freelance singing teacher needn’t worry about packing in the day job.

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Renowned the world over, the 30-year-old from Neath has been showered with awards, multi-platinum record sales and has played at every high profile sporting tournament in the British calendar you can name.

A regular visitor to Suffolk, she’ll sing The Last Night of the Proms at Christchurch Park on Saturday, July 2, accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis.

The concert will also feature special guest Wynne Evans - better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare adverts.

“Every time I’ve been it’s just been a lovely evening and a fabulous audience. I love the summer concerts, they’re the most relaxed,” says Katherine.

“People bring a picnic, a bottle of wine and just enjoy the music and I can really feel that from the stage. I’m looking forward to returning, it should be a really fun night.”

One of her most high profile visits was performing at the memorial of former England and Ipswich Town boss Sir Bobby Robson.

“I had met him and Lady Robson at a previous engagement and he was a fan of my music, which I didn’t know, so she invited me to perform. I wanted to do whatever I could; it was very emotional,” she remembers.

She’s come a long way since performing Rossini’s Una Voce Poco Fa for Universal execs after they’d heard her demo tape.

“Oh my gosh, I was absolutely terrified, but you know I look back now and think ‘you have no idea what’s coming, what’s ahead’. Within an hour they offered me the six album deal. It was an amazing moment; I cried all day when I heard.”

It was said to be the most lucrative in the UK’s classical recording history, reportedly worth �1million.

“It was a big deal. I had this backing from this huge company who had on their roster all the artists I admired. But I think everyone thought overnight I had become the richest woman in Neath,” she laughs.

“That wasn’t really the case; it’s an amount of money that pays for the albums to be made and all this kind of stuff so it wasn’t how it was reported, but career wise it was brilliant.”

Years later, Katherine admits there are still moments where she’s really surprised how her life’s turned out and the number of people who come to see her perform.

“It’s crazy,” she laughs. “But my family are brilliant at just keeping my feet on the ground, keeping everything in perspective; I think you really need that.”

They always encouraged her to work at school and have a back-up plan, but Katherine knew singing was for her from the age of four.

“I sang at a school show. My mum taught me this little silly song and I did it as she taught me with all the actions and everyone laughed and applauded. I just remember thinking ‘yep, this is what I wanna do.”

The stage is her home, where she feels at her natural best.

“I know that’s my time with the audience; no matter how stressful the day’s been nobody’s going to interrupt that.”

Some performances, though, are more stressful than others – such as singing for Barbra Streisand.

“I was making the album Believe in LA. Completely out the blue I got invited to a party, went along and it was Barbra Streisand’s birthday. Suddenly everyone was telling me I had to sing,” she giggles.

“Being a big Barbra fan it was very scary, thinking ‘what is she thinking’. She was lovely afterwards.”

A huge rugby fan too, Katherine doesn’t get to as many games as she’d like.

“I was in Switzerland doing some concerts and one of the Six Nations games was on. I found my way to an Irish bar and sat with everyone else watching. It’s sad to be away and sometimes miss all the excitement,” she sighs.

That must’ve made some fans’ nights.

“Everyone was lovely. I’m very lucky in that sense and people quickly made room for us to join their table and we had a lovely night; I made some new friends,” she laughs.

Concentrating on singing for now, Katherine – set to marry former Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones some time next year – hasn’t ruled out more acting after last Christmas’s Doctor Who special.

“Before, it was something that quite terrified me, but I really did enjoy it. I would probably consider it, if it was the right thing, if it was music related.”

She’s already mentioned her family’s importance and her album liner notes mention missing her father Selwyn, who died aged 70 of lung cancer when she was just 15. Katherine’s dedicated many awards to him.

What would he have made of her success?

“I think he would’ve loved it. He was very supportive and encouraging. He always made me feel like I could do it so...” she trails off briefly. “He’s here watching, he knows what’s going on.”

Also performing in Christchurch Park are Billy Ocean, Jocelyn Brown, Soul II Soul and the Gibson Brothers at the Club Classics Concert on July 9 and Peter Andre on July 10.

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