Wednesday, 24th March, 2004_

News Menu Button All things bright and beautiful

By Gareth Bicknell, Daily Post

KATHERINE JenkinsKATHERINE Jenkins is on stage in less than an hour. After a nightmare journey - she had to get a taxi from Chester to Llandudno after her train was delayed - she arrived at the North Wales Theatre two hours late and hasn't even soundchecked yet.

While the theatre foyer is already bustling with opera and classical music fans, who were rolling into the car park dressed in their Sunday best long before doors opened, the 23-year-old mezzo soprano from Neath hasn't even had time to put on her make-up.

And to top it off, as she prepares to support Kiwi singing sensation Hayley Westenra on the second date in their UK tour, she thinks she is coming down with a chest infection.

"I'm not feeling my best today," she says, still smiling despite the late train, the long taxi ride and the fact that she and her PA Genevieve have only just sat down in their dressing room. "But I'll be fine. I'm taking everything I can - I've got my honey and my vitamins and my lozenges and stuff like that, so I'll be okay."

Then, pouncing like a playful kitten as she spots an opportunity to slip the first showbiz cliche into our conversation, she laughs: "The show must go on."

Still dressed in the jeans and black vest top she travelled in, long blonde hair cascading down to her shoulders, she seems as yet unaffected by the whirlwind of publicity that has swept her off her feet since signing the biggest deal for a classical artist in recording history - a cool £1m for six albums. She shakes my hand when we meet, and immediately arrests my attention with her beguiling bright green eyes.

She asks Genevieve for a drink of water every now and again as she battles with her sore throat. The nerves must be taking hold as stage call beckons, but Katherine knows she will be okay. She has her own guardian angel watching over her in her father Selwyn, who died of cancer when Katherine was 15 and her sister Laura barely a teenager.

"I don't think it's a good experience for anyone who loses their father, at any age," she says, the sadness telling straight away as her eyes redden slightly and her voice falters. "But at 15 it's really quite a crucial point in your life, I think for girls especially. But I was fortunate to have all my family around me - we're a big family, we got through it." "My mum actually worked and my Dad stayed at home to look after us. He picked us up from school, took us to piano lessons, took us to singing lessons, and probably spent more of that time with us. He was very encouraging," she says, the smile returning to her face as she remembers her fond inspiration.

Does she have a favourite memory of him? "I haven't got one single memory. I just remember laughing the whole time, because he was just incredibly funny. Whenever I think of anything to do with him, I just think of laughing."

There is a song she sings in tribute to her father, Pie Jesu, an Andrew Lloyd Webber number. It doesn't appear on her debut album Premiere - the release date has been brought forward two weeks to April 5 because of huge demand in advance sales - instead, the whole album is dedicated to his memory. "I think of him as being behind it all," she smiles.

Part Two >


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Article located by the Roger Mansbridge


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