Katherine Jenkins On Her New Christmas Film
When the pandemic hit, Welsh classical music superstar Katherine Jenkins felt she had to do something to lift spirits. “I knew I couldn’t do anything like the amazing people in the NHS, but I thought: I can sing a few songs and keep people company,” she tells C&TH. And so her at-home lockdown concerts were born, which saw the superstar mezzo soprano performing via Facebook to people all over the world. Over the course of 20 weeks, over five million people tuned in.
This inspired Katherine, 40, to do something similar – on a bigger scale – for Christmas. In lieu of her annual concert at the Royal Albert Hall, she’s starring in Katherine Jenkins: Christmas Spectacular, a festive movie filmed in the historic venue. And, today, the original soundtrack to the film is being released, featuring a whole host of Christmas classics. Below we chat to Katherine about virtual concerts, why the Royal Albert Hall is such a special venue and her favourite Christmas traditions.
Can you tell us about the new film and soundtrack?
The idea came about in the summer when I heard that Christmas concerts and carol services wouldn’t be going ahead in the normal way. I felt so disappointed because Christmas music is so important: it brings us peace and joy and warmth and nostalgia, and at the end of a really tough year I thought it was important that we found a way to make it happen. So, in the absence of being able to perform a normal concert in the Royal Albert Hall, I decided to make a fully-fledged film there, to be shown as a theatrical event in cinemas. It’s my family trying to bring some joy to families out there with a massive Christmas extravaganza featuring carols, contemporary songs, dance, special guests, orchestras and even the Sugar Plum Fairy.
How was it performing in the Royal Albert Hall without an audience?
Obviously it was very surreal and emotional at times. At the end of the film we sing all the community carols like ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, and when I was looking out and singing it to the empty Royal Albert Hall I was tearing up because it was just so sad that nobody was there. But I try and look at the positives, and knowing we wouldn’t have an audience I thought: how can we use the Royal Albert Hall in an interesting way that we’ll never get the chance to do again? They gave us amazing access to film all over the venue in places that I didn’t even know existed – and I’ve been there 50 times. We filmed songs on the roof, in the basement, in the boxes and backstage. The film isn’t on a concert on the stage, it’s a story – like Night at the Museum, but Christmas Eve at the Royal Albert Hall. In this fantasy world me and my family live there, and the venue comes to life as my children run around and sneak out and see all the magic of Christmas.
You’ve performed at the Royal Albert Hall 50 times – what are your best memories there?
It is my favourite venue in the world because so many personal and professional things have happened there: from being a student and paying £18 to stand at the very top in the gallery through to winning my two Brit awards. I’ve sung there pregnant, I’ve sung there five weeks after my son was born and my children have run amongst the orchestra backstage.
What do you think makes it such a special venue?
Firstly the actual building takes your breath away every single time. Stepping out on stage, I feel how I imagine a gladiator would feel stepping out into the coliseum. It has huge prestige value, it’s internationally renowned and so many artists from all over the world have done iconic performances there. It’s so versatile too, hosting everything from The Proms to pop concerts to tennis matches.
How did you find doing your at-home concerts during lockdown?
When the pandemic started I had the feeling that I needed to do something to help. I knew I couldn’t do anything like the amazing people in the NHS, but I thought: I can sing a few songs and keep people company. I said I would sing each week during lockdown, having no idea that it would be 20 weeks long! Just like anyone else doing a Zoom call for their work my children were crashing in the back of the concerts and my husband was having to manage WiFi issues. It took a while to get used to singing into my iPhone – but that’s what propelled me into doing the Christmas Spectacular. I had no idea that we’d have 5 million people watch over 20 weeks. It shows the power of music in bringing people together – especially in a difficult time. It was so nice to see people really going to town, putting on tuxedos and having a glass of champagne, while others were tuning in from Australia with their morning coffee on a Sunday.
How did you find lockdown life?
Lockdown life for me was actually really busy – my husband and I were both continuing to work from home, like a lot of people, with the children there. What it taught me is that I’m very slow on the uptake with anything technological – I’ve only recently got a laptop! Lockdown taught me to get with the programme a bit. Another takeaway has been the amazing amount of time we’ve had with the children. Mine are so little (two and five) and we normally miss a couple of the milestones because either my husband or I is away. Having been with the children all the time this year, I’ve come out of it even more besotted with them.
You’re starring in Minamata, a new film directed by your husband (Andrew Levitas). How was that experience?
Minamata is a straight acting role, but I did do the music for the soundtrack as well. In my first scene I was thrown in at the deep end with Bill Nighy and Johnny Depp – but I really enjoyed it. It’s a true story about a manmade environmental disaster in Japan and how you have to stand up against corporations and give people a voice.
What are your favourite Christmas traditions?
In our house we really are enjoying Elf on the Shelf – my Instagram is all about documenting our cheeky elf at the moment. We always play Trivial Pursuit on Christmas evening and we watch the Queen’s speech too. This year will be different because I’m not sure we’ll get to see family – half of my family are in America, the other half are in Wales – so it might be the quietest we’ve ever had. Hopefully with all this amazing news of the vaccine it won’t be long until we’re all together again.
Favourite Christmas song?
I really love ‘O Holy Night’, that makes me feel quite calm and appreciate the sentiment of the season, but if I want to dance around the house with the kids it would be Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’.
What are your hopes for 2021?
It’s just about health, returning to some normality and getting to see friends and family again. We’ll all live life differently and hopefully to the fullest in 2021 so bring it on, I can’t wait.
Katherine Jenkins: Christmas Spectacular is in cinemas and available to own and stream now. The soundtrack is out now. Book tickets and pre-order the film on DVD/Digital and the soundtrack now at katherinejenkins.film
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