BORN and raised in Neath, Wales, Katherine Jenkins grew up singing in church and has since become the best-known classical singer in the UK. She was awarded an OBE in 2014. Before a summer concert in Haywards Heath – for which tickets are selling fast – Jenkins tells EDWIN GILSON about patriotism, her upbringing and her father, who died when she was 15

This will be your seventh performance in Haywards Heath – you clearly have an affinity with the town.

It might be the place I’ve returned to the most times. I honestly just have the best times in Haywards Heath. When I went there first time I had so much fun by I didn’t realise it would be repeated and repeated. When the organisers asked me again this time, I said “of course, Haywards Heath is one of my favourite places ever”.

Will you perform songs from across your entire career at the concert?

I’ll be doing everything from opera to classical versions of pop songs and musical theatre. If I’ve not got everyone singing their hearts out by the end, I haven’t done my job properly. I love to end the show with Land Of Hope And Glory and Rule Britannia.

Your most recent album Celebration featured a lot of patriotic songs like that. Does that reflect your own pride in the UK?

I’m very, very proud to be British and Welsh – I hope that comes across. I am really moved by that patriotic music and Celebration was an easy album to make in that respect. I am asked to sing at a lot of patriotic occasions which I feel very lucky to do.

Celebration was released before the EU referendum vote, but do you think it has taken on another dimension since Brexit? National identity is in a state of confusion at the moment.

Of course everyone has their own political views but that doesn’t come into the music I’m choosing. I’m not trying to send a message in any way – I try and keep my own views to myself. When people come to a concert they should be relaxed and be able to get away from it all and enjoy the music for what it is, rather than see the songs one way or another.

You recently made your debut on the West End in Carousel. Why did you decide to take that sideways step?

It was such a different experience to anything I’d done before. It was a time of a lot of firsts for me, including doing an American accent and doing eight shows a week. It was a huge amount of work and you have to be very motivated to keep healthy. I really enjoyed being part of a team – there were 71 cast members.

You hired a private acting coach for the role, didn’t you?

I hired several coaches. I take these things very seriously and I knew this was a huge opportunity. Before we started rehearsals I spent two months at home with an acting coach, a voice coach and an accent coach. I really didn’t know anything about it, so it was nice to start at the beginning of something. I would love a project where I could hire that same team again.

You were recently announced as the number one artist over the last 25 years in the Classic FM Chart. What do such accolades mean to you?

I was away on our family summer holiday when I got a call about that, and I still can’t believe that happened to me. I’m so overwhelmed by it because I remember making my first album and being shocked that I even had the chance to do that.

That album, Premiere, was produced by James Morgan who lives in Brighton. What else do you remember about the making of it?

My mum and I signed the contract to make it but we didn’t tell anyone for six months. My mum kept saying, “things like this don’t happen to people from Neath”. We always thought it was going to get taken away because it didn’t feel real, it felt like a dream. When I look at the album cover for the album now, I can see the excitement and naivety in my eyes. I was not looking past that album.

Both of your parents were very encouraging in your first steps in music. Was it a musical household you grew up in?

Most of my family sung in the choir at church but that was as far as it went. My family are very normal, lovely Welsh people doing normal jobs. I didn’t grow up in a household where classical music was ever played – I fell in love with singing through church.

My parents are role models in how I go about caring for my daughter; they weren’t pushy at all. In fact they were more on the side of holding me back and making sure I really wanted to do this [music]. They wanted to see a passion in me. They didn’t have much money to spend on singing lessons but whatever they had they gave, and having that support behind you is an incredible thing to go into the world with.

You still devote awards to your father – you must carry his spirit with you at all times.

Yeah, I do. He took early retirement so he was a stay at home dad while my mum went to work. He was the one who was ferrying me around to competitions and lessons. He was always making me laugh, telling me he couldn’t wait to see me on This Is Your Life. He supported me in a non-pressurised way and I’ll always be grateful for that. I really admire the way he handled it all – especially now that I’m a mum.

Would you encourage your daughter and unborn son to go into music?

I feel very strongly that they should be who they are. They’ll take their own path and all I can do is support them in that. My daughter has been singing a lot to various family members this week, not just for me, and I’m really excited to see that. If she loves singing, great – that’s something we’ll share. If she doesn’t, fine, I’ll just be that supportive mum who knows a lot about the thing she doesn’t do.

You’ve performed for the Queen a number of times. Would you like to sing at the royal wedding?

I’ll be having my baby. It would almost be impossible. But like all of us, I’m thrilled for them. We all love a wedding, don’t we?

Katherine Jenkins, Victoria Park, Haywards Heath, July 14. For tickets and more information visit