Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lesley and the Lads Promise Fine Music; Lesley Garrett Is to Make Her Operatic Comeback in Newcastle but First Comes a Night out with the Boys, as DAVID WHETSTONE Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Lesley and the Lads Promise Fine Music; Lesley Garrett Is to Make Her Operatic Comeback in Newcastle but First Comes a Night out with the Boys, as DAVID WHETSTONE Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVIDWHETSTONE

SOPRANO Lesley Garrett has a hot date on Tyneside this weekend - with the massed ranks of the Lemington Male Voice Choir.

It promises to be quite a concert at Newcastle City Hall with the Doncaster diva and the Lemington lads joining forces to make beautiful music.

Actually, Lesley comes from just outside Doncaster. She was born in the little town of Thorne which sits amid flat acres of rich arable land.

Clearly it provided fertile ground for her. Born into a music-loving family, she went to the Royal Academy of Music, won a coveted Kathleen Ferrier Award in 1979, became a principal soprano at English National Opera, won a CBE for services to music and became a well-known figure on television by dint of her voice and bubbly personality. Significantly for North East music-lovers, she was one of the very first professional singers to perform at The Sage Gateshead.

"It's such a sexy hall with all those curves," she said back in January 2005, and added modestly: "It makes me sound better than I am."

Talking the other day about this Saturday's concert in Newcastle, she said: "I've been asked to do concerts with male voice choirs before and I've put them on the back burner because there's always been something more urgent that I've had to do.

"But last year I thought, I've got so many of these lovely male voice choirs on my back burner that it's time I started honouring my promises.

"I've since had a lovely 18 months going round the country singing with these choirs and finding out about the tradition that surrounds them.

"You do the concert and then they always have a wonderful do afterwards and they all start singing again.

"They are so enthusiastic about the music and communicating and performing that you can't not be swept away by it."

Lesley went even further. It was quite humbling, she said, to be involved in something so important to a community, and "almost part of my duty" to help keep an important facet of British life alive and well.

She explained that the choral singing tradition was in her blood. There was her father's wonderful tenor voice, which he put to good use in a barbershop quintet, and her mother's enthusiastic membership of a local choral society, even in her 80s.

No mystery, then, about where Lesley's love of singing comes from.

She spoke of the musical heritage kept alive by the likes of the Lemington choir, of the songs born of mining and other industries and of the social value of men coming together to sing for fun.

Saturday's concert would follow a familiar format, she said.

"They usually ask me to do a couple of solo spots, one in each half, and they ask me to suggest which songs we might do together. Some of them get taken up and some don't. …

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