Review of An Evening with Lesley Garrett

King's Hall Ilkley

Wednesday 21st October 2015

YORKSHIRE'S Queen of Song held court at the King's Hall in front of a near capacity audience all eager to hear that unique voice and to know more of the extrovert personality behind the voice. This was always going to be a relaxed evening of music and conversation - Garrett doesn't do formal recitals.

Former BBC presenter John Thirlwell is the chairman of the Friends of the King's Hall and Winter Garden. John had the enviable task of interviewing the soprano and drawing on the memories of her career which now spans 35 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

Lesley made her grand entrance dressed in white and singing With a Song in My Heart. She then responded with candour and irrepressible humour to John's gently probing questions about her childhood and upbringing in a mining community near Doncaster. Music was an importance influence very early on thanks to Lesley's no nonsense Father and a supportive family. The decade as a principal soprano at English National Opera was among the happiest of her career. A period for which the singer expressed an enormous debt of gratitude to the late 7th Earl of Harewood who was managing director of ENO at the time. Cue for a plummy-voiced impersonation of his Lordship - " Do call me George". Lesley's gift for heavily accented mimicry found its forte in her imitation of a renowned German soprano who had exhorted the enthusiastic young singer to imagine when singing each note that she was, "hanging ze items of ze washing on ze clothes line."

Lesley's sheer joy in sharing music and a passion for communicating with her audience shines through every strand of her work. She strongly feels that Opera should be sung in the language of the audience and that no one should feel excluded from classical music. The eclectic selection of songs in which she was accompanied at the piano by Martin Pickard reflected the diversity of Garrett's career ranging from Tchaikovsky's None but the lonely heart to All around my hat; and from Puccini's O mio babbino caro to Handel's Ombre mai fu, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Some Enchanted Evening and Climb Every Mountain.

The audience loved her and nobody really minded the overrun of the show for which Garrett apologised as she quipped "I'm not really Ken Dodd".

An Evening with Lesley Garrett was presented by The Friends of the King's Hall and Winter Garden in support of ongoing improvements to the venue.

by Geoffrey Mogridge