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Katherine Jenkins: Celebrating the Queen’s 90th Birthday – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Conductor: Anthony Inglis
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

As the official celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday come to a close, promoter Raymond Gubbay’s London Concert Orchestra joins forces with Katherine Jenkins and guest singer Ryan Silverman for an evening of music that celebrates Britishness and the Queen’s life and reign.

The orchestra, under the baton of conductor Anthony Inglis, is a more than equal partner in the performance as is evidenced by the opening pieces – a traditional rendition of God Save the Queen followed by Edward Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, with its themes that take us on a journey through metropolitan London. The orchestra shows just what it can do under the good-humoured and quietly assertive baton of Inglis. Later, they will play the wonderfully regal Music for the Royal Fireworks and Crown Imperial, the rarely played Youth of Britain (Princess Elizabeth) from Coates’ The Three Elizabeths Suite as well as Vivian Ellis’ Coronation Scot that so accurately evokes the golden age and glamour of steam travel.

But it is Jenkins the crowd have come to see and she is greeted by applause and cheers as she takes to the stage. As Inglis tells us, she is now officially the best-selling classical singer, with twelve albums all having gone to number one. And tonight she shows us why that is so, with a rich mezzo-soprano voice that soars and fills Symphony Hall. But when she speaks to the audience, one feels an intimacy thanks to her unforced and easy rapport. After some solemn moments in How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace, she dives into A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, sung with a lovely lightness of touch and almost wistful tone. This will be recreated later with I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady.

As part of a musical journey around the British Isles, guest singer Ryan Silverman sings Danny Boy and Flower of Scotland. A former Broadway Phantom, Silverman has a warm mellow voice. His later duet with Jenkins, All I Ask of You, from The Phantom of the Opera, perhaps unsurprisingly suits his voice the best. A Welsh medley again showcases Jenkins’ voice, although the inclusion of Delilah alongside such favourites as Cwm Rhondda and Men of Harlech might feel like a strange choice. A further Scottish offering, Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss is beautifully delicate.

As the evening draws to its close, we move into Last Night of the Proms territory with Inglis on humorous form as he instructs the audience in rhythmic clapping before the Hornpipe and then leading lusty community singing of Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory.

Overall, an evening of music well suited to its purpose, even if some of the decisions seem a little odd – the arrangement for Flower of Scotland as sung by Silverman and surprisingly only written in 1967 by Roy Williamson being an example – this nevertheless hits the spot in musically celebrating this sceptred isle and providing a superb showcase for orchestra and singers alike.

Reviewed on 15 June 2016 | Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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