Katherine Jenkins (born 29 June 1980 in Neath, Wales) is an award-winning Welsh mezzo-soprano. Her first album Premiere made her the fastest-selling mezzo-soprano to date and she later became the first British classical artist to have two number one albums in the same year. She also stands as the first female artist to win two consecutive Classical BRIT Awards.
Jenkins has released four classical number one studio albums to date, with a fifth album recently released on 19 November 2007. Her albums feature arias, popular songs, hymns and classical crossover music and she has performed in a large number of concerts around the United Kingdom and other countries, including the United States and Australia.
At school Jenkins received A grades in both GCSEs and A Levels and participated in productions such as Calamity Jane and Guys and Dolls. Two years after she had become a choir girl at her church, she shattered a chandelier whilst singing “O Holy Night” at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall. Jenkins’ music talents continued to progress and she achieved Grade 8 distinctions in singing and piano.
Between 1990 and 1996 Jenkins was a member of the Royal School of Church Music Cathedral Singers, where she achieved the St Cecilia Award, which was, and still is, the highest RSCM award for female choristers. Jenkins was also a member of the National Youth Choir of Wales for three years. She twice won the BBC Radio 2 Welsh Choirgirl of the Year contest, won the BET Welsh Choirgirl of the Year and was also awarded the Pelenna Valley Male Voice Choir Scholarship for the most promising young singer.
At the age of 17, she won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At the Academy, she also studied Italian, German, French and Russian and graduated with honours. She finished the course with a degree a music teacher’s diploma and then made some money as a freelance singing teacher and a model for hair and make-up. After entering a modelling competition, Jenkins was made the Face of Wales in 2000 and then decided to focus more intently on her musical career. When Universal Classics & Jazz heard one of Jenkins’ demo tapes, she was called to an interview, and she sang “Una voce poco fa” by Rossini. Universal then offered Jenkins a six-album deal just an hour later. This meant that at the age of just 23, Jenkins had signed the largest record deal in United Kingdom classical recording history, reportedly worth £1 million. Universal Classics’ marketing director has since said, “She is an utter professional, a wonderful singer and has a team utterly committed to her.”
2003—2004: Premiere and Second Nature
Jenkins first came to public attention when she sang at Westminster Cathedral honouring Pope John Paul II’s silver jubilee in October 2003 and then supporting singer Aled Jones on his tour. At the Rugby World Cup in 2003, she made her Sydney Opera House debut. In August 2004, she made her first US appearance supporting crossover soprano Hayley Westenra at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
Her 2004 debut album, Premiere, lasted a total of eight weeks at the top of the classical charts, which made her the fastest-selling soprano of all time. She soon became the first British classical artist to have two number one albums in the same year with Premiere and Second Nature, and she now stands as the only person to have held the number one and two classical album chart positions. Second Nature reached number 16 in the UK pop charts and was later named Album of the Year at the 2005 Classical BRIT Awards. This award is chosen by listeners of Classic FM.
Jenkins was also the first person to perform the Home Nations anthem “The Power of Four”. She then began to appear regularly as the singer for the Welsh national anthem, “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau“, at Welsh international rugby matches and sang with Bryn Terfel at the 2005 Wales-England Six Nations match at the Millennium Stadium. Jenkins is now the official mascot for the Wales rugby team As well as her appearances before Rugby Union matches, in 2004, Jenkins sang at the Rugby League Powergen Challenge Cup final between St. Helens and Wigan.
2005—2006: Living A Dream and Serenade
On 22 January 2005 Jenkins sang at Cardiff at the Tsunami Relief Concert in order to raise money for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. In April and May of 2005, Jenkins supported Irish tenor Ronan Tynan on his first US tour as a solo artist. At the Berlin stage of Live 8 in 2005, Jenkins sang the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Her interpretation was partly a vocal solo; for the rest she was accompanied by a single softly played piano.
In May 2005, Jenkins sang at Trafalgar Square to 15,000-strong audience to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of VE Day, and later helped to launch the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal at Covent Garden whilst wearing a dress made of 2,500 poppies.
Jenkins’ Italian-language version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” (“L’Amore Sei Tu”), first performed live at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire on 28 August 2005, was the first cut on Jenkins’ third album Living A Dream. When the album was released, she held the positions of one, two and three in the classical music chart at the same time along with her first two albums, becoming the only singer to do so. The album held onto the number one position for nearly a year and reached number four in the pop album charts. Jenkins repeated the success of Second Nature with her Living A Dream album when she won the classical BRIT award for Album of the Year for a second time. She now stands as the first female artist to win two consecutive Classical BRIT Awards.
Jenkins, with the Blue Man Group, sang “I Feel Love” in front of The Queen at the Royal Variety Performance on 21 November 2005, whilst wearing a flashing, multicoloured dress. She also performed at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, Norway on 11 December 2005.
Her fourth studio album entitled Serenade, released on 6 November 2006, became number five in the charts and sold more than 50,000 copies in its first week. This ensured it was the biggest seller for a classical CD in Britain. On HMV’s classical charts, the top four albums were all held by Jenkins. Also in November, she performed live before The Queen at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and joined fellow Welsh singer James Fox in the final verse of “Anthem” from the musical Chess. On 23 December 2006 Jenkins appeared as a guest and performer on ITV’s Parkinson show, where she sang the Welsh national anthem informally during her interview and a Christmas song backed by the Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir and a brass band.
At the start of 2007, Jenkins made her first appearance on the British young people’s Sunday Times Rich List which ranked her as the eighty-third richest young person in Britain with an estimated wealth of £6 million. As of the end of 2006, she is estimated to have sold about 2 million records since her debut in 2004.
She made a cameo appearance in two episodes of Emmerdale on 16 and 17 May 2007, which saw her opening the village pageant. In July, Jenkins performed live on Saving Planet Earth on BBC One, to raise money for the BBC Wildlife Fund and later that month a special concert starring Jenkins was held at Margam Park in south Wales. It was entitled Katherine In The Park and saw Jenkins perform alongside Paul Potts and Juan Diego Florez. Jenkins extended a personal invitation to Potts to sing “Nessun Dorma” at the concert. On 12 August 2007 Jenkins appeared on ITV’s Britain’s Favourite View where she nominated Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower peninsula to be voted as Britain’s favourite view. She took cameras on a tour of the bay and commented on the great sentimental value the bay has to her: “I grew up on the edge of the Gower, but it was still a holiday place for our family. We’d go on weekend breaks to Three Cliffs Bay – six miles down the road! That’s how gorgeous it is.” In September Jenkins catwalk modeled at Naomi Campbell’s Fashion Relief event for charity in a Julien MacDonald dress which was then bought by Sir Philip Green for £10,000. On 21 October 2007 she sang “Time to Say Goodbye” with Andrea Bocelli on the Strictly Come Dancing results show.
In November 2007, she again sang at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, and won classical performer of the year at the Variety Club Showbiz Awards. Her fifth album, entitled Rejoice, was released on 19 November 2007. The album contains a mix of classical and pop music in which some songs have been written specially for her. Two of the songs are written by Take That’s Gary Barlow. The album entered the pop album charts at number three, beating the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud. Jenkins commented “I never imagined when I was a young girl listening to them on the radio that I would outsell the Spice Girls and Celine Dion. It’s almost too much to take in. I can’t thank my fans enough for all their support.”
She has also teamed up with Darcey Bussell, who organised to stage a song and dance production to pay tribute to the stars which have inspired them which include Madonna and Judy Garland. With a £1 million budget, the show was launched in Manchester in November and is entitled Viva la Diva. As part of the preparation for the show, Jenkins has learned to tap dance, spent eight hours a week in dance studios learning choreography, and running three miles a day to get fit. Jenkins and Bussell performed a segment of Viva la Diva before the Queen at the 79th Royal Variety Performance which was televised on 9 December 2007. On 15 December Jenkins performed on The X Factor final with contestant Rhydian Roberts, performing the song “You Raise Me Up”. She performed the Welsh National Anthem on 17 May 2008 at the 2008 FA Cup Final between Cardiff City and Portsmouth, becoming the first person to do this at an FA Cup Final.
Jenkins’ autobiography, Time to Say Hello, was released on 28 January 2008, and was also serialised in The Mail on Sunday. Jenkins is also an ambassador for Montblanc pens and gifts. Being an ambassador for the company she is able to borrow their jewellery to wear to events, but in order to guard Jenkins and the expensive items, she is chaperoned by Montblanc bodyguards. She wore £6 million worth of Montblanc diamonds to the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008.
Jenkins has one sister. Her father, Selwyn Jenkins, died of cancer when she was a teenager, and she has remarked on missing him in her album liner notes.
After Jenkins and Dame Vera Lynn were both seen centre stage together at the 60th Anniversary of VE Day in 2005 during the song “We’ll Meet Again”, the newspapers dubbed Jenkins “the new Forces’ Sweetheart”, a nickname given to Lynn during World War II. Lynn had said to Jenkins that she should “go out and entertain the troops” to which Jenkins promised. In December 2005 and 2006 Jenkins travelled to Iraq to sing to the soldiers for Christmas. On her first visit to Iraq in 2005, when travelling to Shaibah, the largest British base in Southern Iraq, the helicopter she was travelling in was targeted by missiles. Anti-missile flares were deployed and the group landed safely.
Jenkins was in a relationship for four years with songwriter and former Worlds Apart boy band singer Steve Hart. However, they kept details of their relationship private, and were rarely seen in public together. Jenkins confirmed the couple had split in November 2006, so that she could concentrate on her career. She is currently dating Welsh television presenter Gethin Jones. Jenkins confirmed “Yes, it’s pretty serious, but honestly I don’t want to go into it very much. I like to keep my private life private and I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to exploit the relationship. We are together because we like each other and not because we want any publicity from it.”