Katherine Jenkins all set for concert in her Kenwood 'back yard'

Welsh songstress Katherine Jenkins leaves Ed Thomas mesmerised as he manages to track her down before she performs at the Last Night of the Kenwood Proms TWO months of world-class music on Hampstead Heath are coming to an end on Saturday in the shape

Welsh songstress Katherine Jenkins leaves Ed Thomas mesmerised as he manages to track her down before she performs at the Last Night of the Kenwood Proms

TWO months of world-class music on Hampstead Heath are coming to an end on Saturday in the shape of Katherine Jenkins.

The stunning Welsh diva is the special guest for the Last Night of the Kenwood Proms, and there could be no one better to round off the successful season which has seen the likes of Brian Wilson, Rufus Wainright, Diana Krall and Van Morrison grace the stage.

Getting an interview with Katherine ahead of her Kenwood appearance was a Herculean task, started as soon as the programme was announced in the Spring.

But the glamorous, beautiful mezzo soprano squeezed in the time to talk to the Ham&High this week, following the conclusion of her Viva La Diva tour with Darcey Bussell.

"Things have been manic recently," she huffs with a smile in lilting, Welsh tones.

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"I've been with Darcey and doing lots of concerts abroad. Hopefully this next year is going to be a bit quieter."

This year has taken Katherine around Asia, Europe and British Isles both with the Viva La Diva singing and dancing show and with her own brand of 'classical crossover' which has seen her sell millions of albums worldwide.

For a performer aged 28, her rise to stardom has been meteoric. Having grown up in the small town of Neath in South Wales, she was named Welsh choirgirl of the year and won a place at the Royal Academy of Music. By 23 she had signed a £1million record deal. She's never looked back.

This October sees the release of her sixth album - Sacred Arias - which is a collection of hymns, carols and spiritual songs.

"There will be a lot of the music I sung as a chorister, so this is going back to my roots really, with songs I sung as a child," she says.

Previous albums have seen Katherine showing off the variety of her repertoire, from classical, operatic numbers to stirring Welsh renditions and covers of pop songs.

"My music falls into the classical crossover genre. I've got to be able to do both - classical and popular," she explains.

"I do well-known pop songs, but I've also been working on my real opera singing with Placido Domingo in Hong Kong this year.

"I still haven't done 'opera proper' yet, but I'm only 28 and

a mezzo soprano. My voice won't be ready for opera until I'm at

least 30.

"But as long as my fans are happy, that's all that matters to me."

Her loyalty to her fans is admirable. And her fans are becoming innumerable.

This is hardly surprising, given the alluring mixture of powerful voice, good looks and genuine down-to-earth personality.

Many will be making the journey to Kenwood this weekend to catch a glimpse of her in full flow. And after her busy schedule this year, she says the concert will be like a homecoming gig.

"I live very close to Highgate now, so it will be a bit like singing in my back yard!" she chirps.

"Kenwood is such a beautiful setting for a concert. I go running on the Heath and I love this part of London.

"This is something I've been really excited about for a while. I cannot think of a better way to finish my summer season of concerts."

She will be singing a selection of the most popular sings from her back catalogue, and will also be accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra and four-piece tenor band Blake.

"Land of Hope Glory is definitely going to be sung, so everyone should come along and bring their flags," enthuses the songstress.

"It's going to be so much fun. I find outdoor concerts so chilled out and relaxed - just bring a blanket and a bottle of wine."

Recent years have seen Katherine branch out and widen her appeal beyond the musical staves. She has become a modern day 'forces sweetheart', like Vera Lynn in her day, with morale-boosting visits to our troops on Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'm going off to Iraq again on September 5 and I'm really looking forward to it," she says.

"I've become a Trustee of the British Forces Foundation, and I'm trying to encourage other artists to get involved."

She is also involved in charity work, has penned a book and is now the face of Mont Blanc for their jewellery and perfume range around the world.

"It's so strange," she laughs. "Mont Blanc is such a massive brand globally.

"Sometimes I'll get off a plane and feel jetlagged and sit in the back of a taxi and drive through the streets of a foreign city and see an enormous poster with this girl on it. And then I realise it's me!"

Once Kenwood is out of the way, she is looking forward to a well-earned rest before embarking on a fresh solo tour in the winter and more vocal work to help her on the road to opera.

The Last Night of the Kenwood Proms starts at 7.30pm. For ticket information, call 0844 847 1637.

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