Soprano Lesley Garrett CBE is performing in a fabulous charity concert at The Royal Hippodrome, Eastbourne, on Thursday, July 18.
The renowned singer has worked in opera, musical theatre, concerts, TV and radio, and travelled the world in a career that has spanned almost 40 years.
She will be joined in Eastbourne by fellow soprano Faryl Smith, The Trapdoor Theatre School, Concentus and the Bourne Chorus.
All profits from the event will be going to St Wilfrid’s Hospice.
“I think it’s absolutely vital to support charity in general,” Lesley tells the Eastbourne Herald. “But hospices are something I’m particularly keen to support. My husband’s a GP and we’ve used hospices, the hospice movement, for various members of our family and my husband’s very supportive of them professionally.”
We all try not to think about dying, Lesley explains, even though it’s something we’ll all have to do. But it’s comforting to know that there are caring and sympathetic professionals out there who can help people near the end of their life.
“It’s a bit like having a midwife at birth, you know? You wouldn’t try to have a birth without midwife would you? So why would you try to have a death without a hospice? I look at it like that really.”
It’s certainly a sobering subject to think about, but the Hippodrome concert itself will be an uplifting affair.
“It’s a wonderful mixed bag,” says Lesley. “I’m singing some opera and the Habanera from Carmen, that’s always a favourite. I’m singing some show music as well, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Misérables for instance.
“I know Faryl’s going to be singing ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’,” she adds.
Other pieces may include ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, Sting’s ‘Fields Of Gold’, Michael Legrand’s ‘The Summer Knows’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ and ‘Moon River’.
Lesley is particularly looking forward to performing with Faryl Smith: “She’s got enormous talent and great potential and she takes her study very seriously.”
“I know Faryl because we both go to the same singing teacher,” Lesley continues. “Joy Mammen in North London. I’ve been going to Joy for 40 years and Faryl has been going to her for about four years.”
“A regular singing lesson every week is absolutely vital to keeping the instrument healthy,” she explains. “I’ll be celebrating 40 years as a professional singer next year, and it’s only because I take care of my instrument and have regular lessons with Joy that I’m still here and still singing.”
Getting back to the upcoming concert, Lesley says she’s also excited to be singing with choirs, especially ones with a mix of younger and more experienced performers.
“I am very keen to support the choral tradition in our country,” she states. “I do a lot of concerts with choirs because I passionately believe it to be the foundation of the fantastic musical tradition that our country is internationally famous for. I think it’s so important to continue that fine tradition, which is where I come from. My upbringing in South Yorkshire was all about choirs, and I think the work that (choirmaster and broadcaster) Gareth Malone has done has been inspiring to so many young people.”
“I think it’s important that all singers like myself pay back to the tradition that we spring from and I always try to say ‘yes’ when I’m asked to sing with young choirs. It’s important to try and inspire them and to share the opportunity to make music together.”
So, after the Eastbourne show, what’s next for Lesley?
“Well I’ve got a major tour coming up in the autumn where I’ll have my own one-woman show, well one woman and a pianist.”
This will offer all kinds of music, pieces that have been significant to Lesley throughout her career, and she’ll be taking the show all over the UK.
“I’m also working with Emma Johnson, a wonderful clarinetist,” she adds. “We perform together regularly and we’re doing King’s Lynn in a couple of weeks time.”
On top of that she’s got her opera commitments.
“I’ve recently just finished at the English National Opera in Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel, where I play Catherine Eddowes who was his fourth victim. It’s very interesting. It’s told from the victim’s point of view and we’re going to be revisiting that in Opera North next year.”
It’s a ton of work but Lesley still has the drive to continue, even after all this time.
“I think it’s the people who come to listen,” she says, explaining the joy she feels at a smiling audience jumping to their feet at the end of a show.
“I pick up on their passion for the music. It’s always been the music that’s motivated me too. I’ve always felt that my job was to express a composer’s wishes, whoever that composer is. It’s an interesting symbiotic relationship that performers have with composers or writers because we can’t exist without each other. The composer or writers work, it doesn’t exist without the performer to make it happen and equally we wouldn’t have a job without them.
“I find it fascinating to find exactly what a composer needs from me because it varies so much. For instance, I don’t sing Bach in the same way I sing Puccini and I don’t sing Puccini in the same way as I sing Sting. The quality of the music that they’ve written demands different things from me.”
Tickets for the concert cost £25. Concessions (over 60s, under 16s and students) £23. Call the box office on 01323 802020 or visit royalhippodrome.com.
Find out more about Lesley’s music at www.lesleygarrett.co.uk.
Eastbourne entertainment listings, Friday, June 28, to Thursday, July 4. Click here to read more.