From Gershwin to Puccini

Lytham Proms: Lesley Garrett
Lytham Proms: Lesley Garrett

Soprano limbering up in Caribbean for her date on a Lancashire village green

Ask Lesley Garrett what life’s like for her at the moment and she’ll reply with three quick-fire words… “busy, busy, busy”.

The 59-year-old soprano has just returned from performing in Barbados, she recently filmed BBC’s ‘Songs of Praise’ and has a packed summer ahead of her – including the renowned Lytham Proms Festival weekend.

Add to that a performance at the star-studded Olivier Awards, and there is definitely no sign of the ever-popular Yorkshire lass slowing down.

In fact, with her children now at university, she’s enjoying doing even more touring, bringing her distinctive voice to an even larger audience.

Lesley rattles off a host of concert dates and festivals across the country, including a forthcoming performance with the Russian National Orchestra.

She explained: “With both the kids at university, my husband, Peter, and I are enjoying a bit more freedom.”

Peter is a GP in London and Lesley said: “We love London, but it is good to get away and we’re often back in Yorkshire.

“I’m doing a lot more touring now than I did before the kids left home, then I tried to keep my career more home based, so I’d be there for them.

“Now I can go and tour and whenever possible, Peter tries to come with me, so we can make a holiday around a concert date. I’m really enjoying that and life is very sweet at the moment.”

That’s great to hear, especially after last year was a difficult time for the Doncaster-born classical music star, who was awarded a CBE in the 2002 New Year’s Honours List for services to music.

She said: “It was a bad year; I lost both my parents and a close friend in a very short space of time. It was tough.

“It did kind of knock me sideways,” she added. “But I’m feeling much better now.

“I’m back where my parents would want me to be.”

Lesley is looking forward to a sparkling summer of music. With her appearance at Lytham Proms on Sunday, August 3, set to be a major highlight of the season.

She will be taking to the stage for a massive evening of music that includes performances by stage star Michael Ball and the acclaimed Halle Orchestra.

A stellar gathering has been put together for the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ evening as the finale of the three-day festival in August.

Rhydian Roberts, X-Factor runner up, and ‘the first lady’ of West End musicals Kerry Ellis, will also take to the stage as Lytham Proms celebrates its fifth birthday in full voice.

Also on the bill are vocal group Tenors of Rock – and there will be a spectacular fireworks display to mark the anniversary.

Lesley is no stranger to the musical extravaganza on the green, which has become the Fylde coast’s biggest party of the summer, as well as Lancashire’s biggest live music event.

Britain’s most popular soprano first appeared in 2009 right at the start of its success story.

She is full of admiration for Lytham Proms’ founders Cuffe and Taylor and those who organise and promote the UK’s summer outdoor concerts.

“It was great and I really want to do it again.

“I’m up for it, absolutely, the organisers put on a great date and it’s not easy to create this type of festival. They are doing a brilliant job.”

She continued: “The big outdoor summer events are an enormous part of what I do and they are a fantastic way of getting out to an audience that may not be the core audience for this kind of music.

“There’s always a great mix of music, from Gershwin to Puccini and, as a result, it all becomes what it is – fabulous music without any boundaries.

“The message is this isn’t elite music. It’s simply the work of wonderful composers, who are all musically related, it’s all part of the musical world.”

As well as Lytham, Lesley is no stranger to the Fylde coast.

She danced the tango at the Blackpool Winter Gardens during the first series of top TV show Strictly Come Dancing.

She approached her time on the legendary BBC show with all her customary verve and energy. It’s that energy and approach that endears her to her fans and all music lovers. Lesley said: “It’s lovely the public still want to hear me and I’ve no plans to slow down.

“I’m guided by my voice, which is still as good as ever, and I’ll go on until it tells me ‘it’s time to hang up those tonsils, love’.”

And that’s likely to be a long, long time in the future. Until then she’ll continue to be “busy, busy, busy”.