She is Britain's favourite diva. Her albums sell in their millions and many more gather round the television set for her BBC2 shows.

Lesley Garrett has brought music out of the opera house and into the world in her mission to make all song accessible to a mass audience.

She is a down-to-earth Yorkshire girl known as "the small soprano with the big heart".

I caught up with her the day after she finished filming a BBC2 programme of sacred music for Easter.

She said: "I am a little tired this morning. It was a late finish last night and I am hoping for a bit of a rest today."

From her chatty, bubbly voice, still more Doncaster than Drury Lane, this is a diva with a passionate belief in the role of music in everyday life.

She said: "I grew up with music all round me. Even today my mum sings in two choirs and my dad is a member of an amateur operatic company. My sisters sing and we have since we were very young. It's in our genes.

"Singing makes people feel good and certainly in the north, where I grew up, singing was a great community thing.

"It kept communities going in hard times and, although most of the hard and dangerous industries such as mining and steel have gone, the communities which are left have maintained the tradition of brass bands, choirs and great choral pieces.

"Singing came naturally to me and I think it's only natural I want to bring it to others. Opera is viewed by many people as something not for them, as something elitist.

"Well, thanks to television I have been able to break down that barrier and show people opera is only singing, just with a trained voice.

"In Brighton I shall be singing a variety of songs. Some from my latest album The Singer are folk songs but I shall also be singing Baroque arias by Vivaldi as well as folk songs by Canteloupe and a lot of English folk songs.

"You know so many people who say opera isn't for them know far more classical music than they think. These days it is everywhere, on film soundtracks, TV advertisements and Classic FM."

The Singer is Lesley Garrett's 11th album and her second non-operatic adventure.

It contains reworkings of some of the finest English folk songs, such as Jerusalem, Greensleeves and Scarborough Fair.

Later this year she will be off to Australia on a promotional tour prior to a major tour there next year.

She said: "I hate going away from home, leaving the children and my husband here."