International classical crossover star Katherine Jenkins always enjoys a cosy family Christmas.
And the top-selling mezzo-soprano, forces sweetheart and now acclaimed dancer includes Sheffield on her festive itinerary this year as she returns to town for her City Hall concert next Wednesday (Dec 12). She’s also back next April with Il Divo.
It is part of a UK tour to promote the 32-year-old’s first Christmas CD, and when I chatted by phone to her as she was being driven to Los Angeles airport last week, the girl from South Wales told me of her eager anticipation for the Sheffield visit.
Katherine, who was in the middle of her smash-hit US tour with Andrea Bocelli as we spoke, said: “I’ve played Sheffield many times and I always get a lovely welcome. And it’s extra special this year because this is my first ever purely Christmas concert.”
When the tour closes in Gateshead on December 21 it will mark the end of what Katherine described as a manic working year with the warmth and togetherness of Christmas to look forward to.
She said: “Wherever I am in the world I always make sure I get back to Neath for Christmas
“Even when I’ve been in Iraq for the services at that time of year, I’ve made sure I was back in the nick of time on Christmas Eve for the festivities’ beginning.”
There she joins her mother, sister Laura and the rest of the extended Jenkins family.
Christmas Eve it’s out to the pub with Laura to meet old friends, then its Midnight Mass at the church in which Katherine sang as a girl.
“Christmas is really special and being back in Wales with family and friends is just like stepping back in time.”
To get the setting just right for the recording of the CD, This is Christmas, in the summer Katherine even insisted on special preparations at the studio in Malta.
“There were fairy lights, candles and giant Father Christmases everywhere.”
She stopped just short of fake snow: “I’m not a diva you know,” she laughed.
It has been an amazing year for Katherine after the heartbreak of her split from TV presenter Gethin Jones.
Having performed at the Queen’s Jubilee and as an ambassador at the London Olympics Katherine won the hearts of America when finishing second in the TV series Dancing With The Stars – the US version of Strictly Come Dancing – which regularly attracts 20 milliion viewers.
Her American tour, which ended this week, included dates in Las Vegas, Dallas, San Jose, Houston and New York.
She even found time to run a half marathon for charity.
All this on top of her Christmas CD.
Last weekend saw her first TV special – Steppin’ Out with Katherine Jenkins’ – a 75-minute spectacular on ITV.
The show included a series of spectacular song and dance routines, including the waltz, the Argentine tango and a breath-taking tap routine inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
It is not the first time Katherine has displayed such great versatility following the brilliant success of her Viva La Diva tour and DVD with ballerina Darcey Bussell back in 2008.
This is Christmas is the ninth studio album for the girl who took her late father’s advice as a girl with stunning results.
When she was a schoolgirl member of the church choir dad Selwyn always used to urge her to “give it a go Kath,” when new opportunities came up.
Mr Jenkins died when Katherine was 15 but she remembered his advice and regards him as her inspiration for the unbelievable success she has enjoyed since. And each album has been dedicated to his memory.
Those nine CDs have come in just eight years; six under her six-album deal with Universal in 2004 reputed to be worth £1m and three already with Warners in a 2008 deal worth £5.8m.
She once held the top four spots in HMV’s classical albums charts, is said to be worth more than £11m and has more than 224,000 followers on Twitter.
I must declare an interest and say that I am a huge fan, having followed her from her first album and first watched her on the, now sadly defunct, TV channel Classic FM TV.
So as our chat came to a close, I couldn’t resist telling her: “L’amore sei tu, Katherine”.
And she laughed her head off!
Katherine Jenkins appears at the City Hall on Wednesday, December 12 (7.30) with the National Symphony Orchestra. Box office: 0114 2789789 ; www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk
The CD This is Christmas is in the shops now.