An evening with Katherine Jenkins

If only… 😀

Last night I had the opportunity to see Katherine Jenkins, one of my two favourite classical crossover artists (the other being Hayley Westenra) perform live at the Royal Albert Hall – and what a wonderful treat it was too! It’s been a good couple of years since I last had a chance to catch her singing live but it was so worth the wait.

The lovely Katherine Jenkins

I first saw the lovely Katherine back in April 2004 down at the Pavilion in Bournemouth when she was the supporting artist for Hayley Westenra on the UK leg of her ‘Pure’ tour. Back then of course she (Katherine) wasn’t very well known but it was immediately obvious from her performance that she was about to go places. She had that ‘star quality’ about her. Around about the same time she released her first album Premier which was a commercial success from the word go. A few months later I took a gamble and bought a copy myself – and was immediately hooked! Amazingly she was able to release a second album Second Nature towards the end of the same year and since then has remained a very prolific artist releasing a new album to critical and commercial success every year culminating very recently with her sixth, Sacred Arias.

In March the following year I went up to London to see her perform live in her own concert show at the Criterion Theatre. It was a wonderful evening; she came across as such a warm and friendly person with a sparkling personality and one of those lovely welsh sing-song voices – the sort of girl you’d love to take home to meet your parents. She was note perfect and made every song sound effortless and I knew then that I would want to see her again. And so I did late that year at the Barbican and again the following spring at the Royal Albert Hall where I was quick off the mark in booking a ticket and so managed to get a seat close to the front and dead centre. What a lovely view :-).

After 2006 the live concert tours dried up as Katherine joined forces with Prima ballerina Darcey Bussell for the very ambitious music and dance extravaganza Viva la Diva. For some reason I missed out on this although by all the accounts I’ve read it was spectacular. Oh well, there is always the DVD which has just been released…

The cover for the Winter Tour 2008 concert programme

So the winter 2008 tour is the first time in two years that Katherine Jenkins has been on tour and when the tickets went on sale earlier in the year I had to take a gamble. Would I be well enough to travel? How far would the disease have progressed? Would walking the streets of London and navigating around the underground system be practical or should I use taxis? Well I certainly wasn’t going to let the disease ruin everything for me so I booked my ticket online and just hoped for the best.

These days thanks to the Internet there is a wealth of information available to travellers so it is no longer necessary to travel ‘blind’. Consequently I was able to check for weather conditions, train departure times, journey times, see if there was any track maintenance or schedule alterations, pick the best routes on the London Underground and confirm when the last trains ran as well as orientate myself with the streets between the tube station and the Royal Albert Hall, and all from the comfort of my study.

So yesterday late afternoon I set off, grateful of the dry weather (my arms are so weak that I can no longer open or hold an umbrella) and made my way to the local railway station. I caught a fast train to London Waterloo then joined the throng of people on the underground. I’ve done this sort of thing a number of times now so I’m fairly familiar with it but being disabled this time did make me feel somewhat vulnerable. For instance I no longer feel comfortable standing up in a moving tube train because I cannot raise my arms to hold onto the overhead hand holds and traversing the steep escalators makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I was also a bit apprehensive of getting through the ticket barriers but fortunately there were transport officials on hand to assist as well as a special disability walk through. Of course I could have caught a taxi at Waterloo but like a child at the funfair wanting jut one more ride I wanted to use the underground on my own one last time. Perhaps it would have been wiser not to though as early evening in London is of course the commuter rush hour. As I stepped off the train at Waterloo all I could see was a huge crowd of people. I had actually arrived early so had quite a bit of time to kill so I decided to take a walk over to the embankment to see the London Eye illuminated and to see what festive lights were on show. I soon abandoned that idea though when half way there the bitter cold became too much for me.

To get to the Royal Albert Hall means catching a couple of tube trains. The first one to the Embankment on the Northern Line was okay but changing to the District Line for the second and heading westbound until you reach South Kensington was a bit worrying because of the sheer weight of people trying to cram into the carriages. Inevitably I ended up standing and wrapping my arm around a support pillar as best I could whilst at the same time bracing my legs. I didn’t feel very secure and was glad to be on solid ground again. From South Kensington there is a long underground tunnel that leads out to Exhibition road and then it’s just a matter of turning left into Prince Consort Road and right into Kensington Gore. So fortunately not too much walking although still enough to make me feel tired and grateful of being able to sit down and rest.

The impressive venue - the Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall is a spectacular venue which is even more impressive on the inside. In its time many of the world’s top performers have appeared there. I was lucky, I had managed to get a seat in row 7 of the Arena and fairly central too so I had a good close-up and unrestricted view of the stage. As I glanced around the huge auditorium which seemed packed to capacity, a testament to Katherine’s popularity, I felt dwarfed by the sheer scale. The upper balconies seemingly reaching towards the sky although I wondered what sort of view of the stage they would offer – probably like looking at ants.

At 7:30pm the show commenced with a medley of orchestral pieces performed by the National Symphony Orchestra (Katherine’s ‘regular’ orchestra when touring in the UK) under the baton of Anthony Inglis. Katherine then stepped out onto the stage to a large round of applause and opened with I Could Have Danced All Night wearing the first of her now trademark costume changes. She loves her dresses does our Katherine (or frocks as she calls them) and during the performance she changed four times, each one dazzling in its own right and each one generating much appreciation and comment judging by the voices around me. Even Katherine herself commented on her last dress after the gasps it drew from the audience by saying “this is what I got with my 2.5% off (a reference to the recent VAT reduction for those unaware). I saw it in Primark and just had to have it!”

I sat there mesmerised, enjoying the moment and letting the power of her voice wash over me. Something very special happens when beauty and talent collide. There is no doubt at least in my mind that she is both incredibly gifted and very beautiful. She is a marketing department’s dream. Her enthusiasm and love for music is infectious and there is always a great atmosphere at her concerts. But despite all the fame and success that her talent has brought her it is so lovely to see that it has not spoilt her. And I think it is that as much as her singing ability that makes her so popular.

It was indeed a very special evening not just for hearing all the beautiful songs that Katherine was singing but also for the range and quality of special guests that she had. From the Classical Brit award winning Blake and the very promising Faryl Smith (who’s voice seemed so much more mature then her 13 years) to the young American Pianist William Joseph who’s compositions really impressed me. Each of her guests in their own way were superb and blessed with so much talent. One thing I like about going to a Katherine Jenkins concert is that she is very generous with the limelight and gives each of her guests plenty of time to showcase their talents.

This was the first concert of hers that I been to that was so close to Christmas, and so perhaps inevitably there were a selection of Christmas carols and songs, some of which feature on her latest album like the beautiful Hallelujah. It was lovely also to hear her sing one of my favourites O Holy Night although I am still very fond too of the Celine Dion version. Inevitably with all good things time passed so quickly and before long it was 10pm and the show was over. I felt very frustrated that I was unable to clap my hands after each song to show my appreciation. I think if there is a next time I’ll have to get a pair of sprung loaded rubber hands, hehe.

Oh, and Kim, it was great to see a friendly face in the crowd. Thanks for coming over to chat. I hope you enjoyed the show as much as I did. I’m sure your husband did ;-).

Oh, I remember this one. That was the day she called round my house for tea. That’s my house in the background! I said ‘just stand there Kath while I quickly take a picture. No, don’t worry about the makeup; you look great as you are. In any case I’m good with PhotoShop 😀

Sitting on the train headed back home I felt exhausted but also very glad that I had been able to make it and glad that it had all gone smoothly thanks to my advanced planning. With arms that are so weak and respond only when they feel like it I knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle but somehow I had managed. But I also knew that it would be the last time I would be able to venture out like this on my own. My legs are not so strong anymore and I don’t feel quite as steady these days. Large groups of tightly packed people in close proximity to me are starting to be of concern (because of their unpredictability). Having said that I would hate to think that this was the last time I would go to a concert. But realistically if I were to go anywhere in future then I would need either a member of the family, a friend or even a carer – just someone who could be my hands and arms and be there if I needed them.

It had been a really wonderful evening and I had enjoyed once again the thrill of hearing music performed live and so well and in such a magnificent venue. Thank you, Katherine.

Mark

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