Conductor: Anthony Inglis
Reviewer: James Garrington
Katherine Jenkins must surely be one of Britain’s favourite crossover artists. Since she released her debut album in 2004 she has regularly been at the top of the album charts, and has sung to packed out concert halls around the world – and this Christmas, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is no exception.
This concert has a good mix of religious and secular music, with a seasonal feel. The London Concert Orchestra kicks off proceedings with a touch of Strauss, giving us a lively Die Fledermaus overture before Jenkins makes her first appearance to rapturous applause. It is clear that she is very popular with her audience and has a strong following. Many of the items in the programme will be familiar to Jenkins regulars, too. She opens with Beethoven’s Ode To Joy before moving on to the popular Amazing Grace and following with a Sanctus which has words set to Elgar’s Nimrod – an interesting idea, but one which doesn’t always work as the vocal tends to mask the wonderful lush harmonies.
Jenkins has a warm, endearing personality and she knows how to work with her audience, acknowledging and engaging people in all parts of the auditorium both as she sings and in between numbers. Most people will be familiar with her strong mezzo voice, but she has a wonderfully rich lower register too, which she uses to good effect at various times through the concert – notably during a nicely sultry Santa Baby, where she also demonstrates her ability to interpret a song. The wonderful acoustics at Symphony Hall help here too, as her voice clearly carries around the auditorium, even during the quieter numbers like Silent Night accompanied by a single keyboard.
Jenkins is joined by young tenor Jonathan Antoine, who became a national sensation after his appearance on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012. Antoine has a powerful classical voice but is also no stranger to more popular music as he gives us a nicely varied selection of numbers starting with Ave Maria, and Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme. Later he moves into more modern territory with Bring Him Home from Les Miserables, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah with a slower arrangement than usual, which makes it very effective and ensures that every word is clear. It is a shame that we don’t get to hear Antoine and Jenkins sing anything together.
The orchestra also contributes more during the concert, keeping the seasonal theme going with more Strauss – this time the Champagne Polka with the percussion section clearly having great fun popping away when required. The percussion fun continues with the ever-popular Sleigh Ride, where, despite being small, the section nonetheless manages all of the jingling, whip-cracking and clip-clops that the score asks of them.
The concert is all about Jenkins, though these interludes not only provide variety but also give her time to change into a variety of impressive and exquisite dresses which add to the feel of the event. She wraps up the first half of the concert with a medley celebrating her native Wales, including Ar Hyd y Nos, Cwm Rhondda, Men of Harlech, and nod to Tom Jones with a slightly incongruous Delilah, and tells us about a carol she sang as a girl, a beautiful lullaby with words set to a Brazilian folk melody: Sleep Quietly My Jesus. Jenkins also tells us how she feels strongly about society coming together in a time that seems increasingly divided, with The World In Union set to Holst’s Jupiter.
Some audience carols bring a nicely varied evening to a close before an encore of I will always love you from The Bodyguard.
Lots of music, some anecdotes and a seasonal feel – it’s a lovely way to spend an evening in the run-up to Christmas.
Reviewed on 22 December 2016 | Image: Contributed