Classical-popular music crossover star Russell Watson is celebrating his life in song in Sheffield next week.
His new tour is called Songs for the Heart. Russell said: “They’re a collection of songs and material that really mean something to me.
“Over 16 years they’re songs I’ve recorded that reflect the highs and lows of my career.
“The highs include singing for Pope John Paul II and at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and for US presidents and the Queen.
“Other songs go all the way back to my childhood. They’re songs that my gran, mum and dad used to listen to, things like that. They’re of personal significance.”
He added: “They’re songs I’ve continued to sing when I was at my peak and they’ve been there at my side when my life’s not been so good and my health’s not been so good.
“As you grow as a human being and artist, they become more and more relevant to you. I think back to the first time I sang a piece of music and they were just dots on the page. They now mean something completely different.”
Russell said that his gran was a big Mario Lanza fan, so he’s included a couple of the tenor and 1950s Hollywood star’s hits in his set.
He said: “Whenever I sing Intermezzo from the Cavalleria Rusticana, I feel an immediate connection to my gran.
“If I don’t feel that, it’s almost as if I go lookingfor it. I think. where’s my gran and I want to recall that emotion. It’ part of what that specific piece means to me.”
His career lows include being diagnosed with two life-threatening brain tumours.
He said: “The second tumour nearly ended my life. It was a difficult, troubling time.
“I had to have blasts of radiotherapy and it took a long time to get back from. It affected my health and confidence.
“I felt like I was 200 feet from the ground on a tightrope with a pair of slippers on. It was a tough time to go through. Thank god I’m still here.
“It changes your perspective on life. When I walk on stage, I feel like a different person in a good way. I’m fortunate.
“I wouldn’t recommend to be a trapeze artist but I was happy to get through it.”
One song that means a lot to Russell is Nella Fantasia, based on a theme from the 1986 film The Mission.
He said: “When I first sang it, that was just dots on the page but now it has a real emotional significance. I have a real emotional attachment to the music.”
He knows that emotion comes through in his performance and thinks that if he gets a tear or two from the audience he’s doing his job.
Russell’s bringing out a new album for Christmas, called True Stories, which he says will go right across the board of his repertoire.
He’s also writtten several original tracks which he’s really excited for people to hear.
He said: “It’s the first time I’ve written from scratch. I’ve written lyrics before and given them to a pianist to construct the music. It’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is.”
Russell Watson is at the City Hall next Friday, July 15. Box office: www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk or call 0114 278 9789.