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Katherine Jenkins is coming to Thetford Forest

PUBLISHED: 12:12 06 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 May 2014

Katherine Jenkins.  Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Katherine Jenkins. Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

2014 Getty Images

Katherine Jenkins talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage about how she could've missed out on her OBE, her fight to keep her private life private and why Thetford Forest audiences need to pack their flags

Katherine Jenkins 2014Katherine Jenkins 2014

It’s 8am in LA when Jenkins answers the phone. Still in her dressing gown, she’s missing the British weather.

“The last few days have been quite grey and miserable here. I’ve been hearing the weather has been a little bit better at home,” says the 33-year-old, Neath-born mezzo-soprano. “When I came home for a week in March, honestly the weather was so gorgeous.”

About that week in March . . .

“It’s crazy. I never in a million years thought I would get an OBE and to get one at 33 . . . It was even more emotional than I think I gave it credit for. I was quite overwhelmed,” she says, joking that part of her was just trying to remember all the protocol involved and not fall flat on her face in front of the future King of England.

She was lucky to make the ceremony.

“I’d just been to Afghanistan, after a trip like that my mum wanted to see me and I hadn’t been home to Wales for a little while. By the time I got there it was evening and I walked in the front door and my mum’s practically having a meltdown because there’s a letter that says cabinet office on it.”

Weirdly it hadn’t been sent to her home in London, where she’s lived for ten years, but to a house a few doors down from her mum’s. “Luckily, Wales being as it is, everybody knows everybody so the neighbour brought the letter and said ‘I think this might be important’,” she laughs. “When you get this letter you have to reply immediately so it worked out well that I happened to have gone home.”

Jenkins, who’s currently recording her tenth album in LA among other places, was especially touched the award was for both her music and her work with charities like the British Forces Foundation and Macmillan. She’s a passionate supporter of our armed forces, visiting troops in various war-zones.

“It can be dangerous. When you fly over the border on a military plane and they black everything out so you can land without being shot down, you really understand the situation and how hairy it is.

“You really appreciate these men and women do this day in, day out so I’m very very proud I got to go to Afghanistan again,” says Jenkins, whose helicopter was targeted by a surface-to-air missile on her first visit to Iraq.

“You think ‘let’s just remember we’re in a war zone’. But I also always try to have a sense of calm around me because I know I’m being looked after by the best. In a weird way, those kind of things make you realise that’s why you should be there. I dealt with it once, they’re dealing with it nine months of the year.”

Luckily few of Jenkins’ international travels involve her being shot at. Last year alone she toured South Africa, the US, China, Japan, Abu Dhabi and continental Europe. Maintaining a personal life is a learning curve. The trick, she says, is working out the best way to keep the people important to you in your life.

“My family are really important to me, they’re a support mechanism as well. They are normal people and keep me as normal as I possibly can be within all this craziness.

“I’ll have my mum come on tour with me. She’s funny, she’ll pick the country she hasn’t been to or that interests her or maybe where the weather’s nice,” laughs Jenkins, adding FaceTime, Skype, etc, all help.

“When you’re home and you do have sowme time my priority is seeing them in a normal setting. I would honestly say my friends are my friends since way before I was famous, I don’t really have celebrity friends.

“My time off is spent trying to be that normal friend with them, whether it’s taking my godson to the park, going on my friend’s hen do. That’s what all the girls are doing, so I’m one of the girls.”

The tabloids don’t make it easy. Joined by her artist-professor boyfriend Andrew Levitas when she collected her OBE at Buckingham Palace, she is very guarded about her personal life. It amazes her when she constantly reads she’s dating somebody she’s never even met.

“That kind of stuff happens – you’ve got to just develop a thicker skin and see it as part of the culture where we seem to be so much more interested in and maybe a little bit more judgmental about what women in the public eye do rather than what men do sometimes.”

Part of her attempt at staying sane in a crazy business, it’s a line she’s tried to draw since day one.

“It’s not that I’m hiding my personal life but I want people to know me for my music and for the things I believe in rather than who I’m dating and all that kind of stuff. Obviously I want a home life, I want to be happy in my relationship. Those things are for me and I will always want to guard that and keep that private.”

The award-winning, multi-Platinum selling classical crossover star can’t wait to return to Thetford Forest on July 12, where she’ll be joined by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis.

“I’m really excited about it because when I did the Forestry Commission shows before they were so lovely and the outdoor concerts are my favourite. I can’t wait to see you all in Thetford. I really look forward to singing with you all because I remember there being excellent voices in Thetford last time.”

Audiences can expect songs from her previous nine albums with everything from opera arias and songs from the shows to pop numbers given a classical twist.

“We’ll be ending the show with a big proms segment where we get everybody up, waving their flags and singing Rule Britannia – it’s really, really fun.”

Whether there’ll be any tracks from the new album remains to be seen – details are still very much under wraps. It’s early days says Jenkins, who’s excited to have come full circle and return to Universal.

She was just 23 when they offered her what was at the time the biggest-ever recording contract for a classical artist.

“It’s just really exciting. We made the first six albums together, I’ve gone back to a company that really understands classical crossover and what that means. It feels like I’m back in the family so I’m having an amazing time.”

Tickets for the concert are available by calling 03000 680400 and from www.forestry.gov.uk/music

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