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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
The rise of Katherine Jenkins
Tom Bourton
By Tom Bourton
BBC Wales news website

Katherine Jenkins at the Classical Brits
It was an emotional night as Katherine Jenkins won her Classical Brit
Two number one albums, half a million record sales and now a Classical Brit - it has certainly been a busy year for Katherine Jenkins.

Around 18 months ago, she was giving singing lessons to children in Neath, dreaming of topping the classical charts and singing at the Sydney Opera House.

The 24-year-old mezzo-soprano has already done both, and that is not all.

As the Wales rugby team's mascot, she has played at the Millennium Stadium more times than Chelsea, and has raised her UK profile with performances at the VE Day celebrations and the Tsunami Relief Concert.

Although it seems as though she has appeared from nowhere, she has a solid classical background, and her path to fame has been anything but an overnight phenomenon.

As a schoolgirl, she was named Welsh choirgirl of the year, and after training at the Royal Academy, she was quickly snapped up by Universal Classics, who gave her a six-album 1m deal.

She recognises the importance of promotion - not every artist is like that
Mark Wilkinson, Universal Classics

Since then, the albums Premiere and Second Nature have propelled her into the classical music hierarchy, but experts said was not just about having a good voice.

Mark Wilkinson, marketing director at Universal Classics, said Jenkins was one of the hardest working artists on their books, who was easy to work with.

"She is an utter professional, a wonderful singer and has a team utterly committed to her," he said.

"What has made it easy is her approach to the whole business of making and marketing records.

"Meeting people, shaking hands, delivering the same message again and again, and singing the same song hundreds of times is all part of it, and she has thrown herself into it.

"She recognises the importance of promotion - not every artist is like that."

One of the cornerstones in her profile is the deal with the Welsh Rugby Union that has seen her sing at Wales rugby matches, alongside Aled Jones, Bryn Terfel and Charlotte Church.

Katherine Jenkins at the Classical Brits
Jenkins is now a regular performer at key events

Mr Wilkinson said this had helped introduce her to a wider audience.

"Our research tells us that the sort of person buying a Katherine Jenkins record is very broad - and aged between 18 and 80.

"These are people who don't buy much music, and especially not classical music - we call them the massive passive."

And Mr Wilkinson predicted that, with another album due out later this year and a foothold in America, Jenkins was on the way to becoming "a global success story".

Emma Baker, deputy editor of Classic FM magazine, agreed that Jenkins had the whole package.

"She can certainly sing, and she looks gorgeous and that helps," she said.

"She is the popular side of classical, and there is something about her voice - she is a real natural, she is charming and comes across as warm.

"I think people like her and what she does - it is not pure classical, but what she does, she does very well - she is using the talent she has to the best of her ability."

She was very focussed on being successful, and had a determination to be a star from a young age
Huw Morgan, Dwr-y-felin school

Ms Baker said Jenkins had spoken of her desire to sing opera, but did not have the vocal weight for a role such as Carmen at the moment.

"A mezzo probably hits her peak at around 30 as her voice takes time to mature into a deeper, louder, more powerful voice," she said.

"Time will tell, but it is difficult to tell how a voice will develop."

One person not surprised by Jenkins' success though is Huw Morgan, deputy head teacher at Dwr-y-felin school.

He said Jenkins was a popular girl at the school, which she attended from 1991-96 and where she racked up straight A grades at GCSE and A-level.

"She was very focussed on being successful, and had a determination to be a star from a young age," he said.

"She was always involved in school productions like Calamity Jane, Guys and Dolls, and she always wanted to be centre stage from the age of four.

"We are very, very proud of her - she has been back to do the prize-giving and she was really well-received."


However, the rate of Jenkins' rapid rise has even shocked her agent.

"Last April we did a showcase at a restaurant - we were shaping things in September 2003," said Joe O'Neil.

"I think the speed that this has happened is incredible. After 20 years in the business, it has surprised me.

But he said her appeal was built on a firm base.

"She is very down to earth, she has a clear idea of what she wants to do," he said.

"And she is very typically Welsh - she has her feet on the ground and treats everyone with great respect and kindness."

Welsh singers win Classical Brits
25 May 05 |  Entertainment


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