Best selling classical artist of the century, Katherine Jenkins opened the celebratory 40th anniversary evening accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra to conclude this year’s Henley Festival on Sunday.
Wearing a beautiful bright red ball gown perfect for a Ruby anniversary, Katherine floated elegantly across the stage and wowed the audience with her amazing, Mezzo Soprano voice, singing a mixture of classical and pop songs.
The Welsh superstar touched the audience with her spoken words too. Talking about her dear father who she lost when she was just 15 and asking her children (Aaliyah and Xander) in the audience if she could sing their song Never Enough from The Greatest Showman that she sings to them before they go to bed.
Talking about her Dad, Katherine said, “My Dad was my biggest fan. This song really helped me and I hope it will help if you have lost too” before singing Jealous of Angels. Afterwards she sang her Dad’s favourite song too, Singing in the Rain.
She surprised the audience with the next song (I Will Always Love You) by telling them she had to ask Dolly Parton’s permission (not Whitney Houston’s) to sing it in another language (Italian) which she then performed.
Her final numbers were Time to Say Goodbye and then a medley of Vera Lynn classics including The White Cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again. Katherine commented that Vera was her mentor.
Beforehand Katherine said, “After the last 2 years it’s been a joy to be back on stage with such massive talented musicians and I remember Henley that apart from the beautiful frocks, you sing pretty well.”
Coming back out for an encore, Katherine then sang a Queen medley of songs which she said she’d sung for the Queen’s Jubilee at Sandringham. The medley included Somebody to Love Me, Bohemian Rhapsody, Who Wants to Live Together and ended with We Are The Champions with the audience waving their hands in the air.
There was then an interval for a stage set change ready for the lesser-known pop singer, Jack Savoretti. Coming on to the stage he said, “It will be an honour to take you on a journey. You look spectacular tonight.”
Jack opened his set with the upbeat Who’s Hurting Who (written with Nile Rodgers) followed by Too Much History with the audience encouraged to la-la along in the chorus.
What More Can I Do? and Candlelight (With ‘My Baby Shot Me Down’ intro) followed and then Jack invited the audience to stand up again and dance along to When We Were Lovers. Before singing Greatest Mistake, he dedicated this song to the audience and said, “Thanks to you for coming out tonight after the last years. I‘ve previously taken my job for granted but never again, I love to play live.” Pointing at couple in the audience after this song, he said “They’re the coolest couple I’ve ever met; give them a round of applause.”
“Not wanting to make this political, but take a moment to think about being able to be here tonight whilst others are fighting a war they didn’t ask for,” Jack dedicated the song to the people of Ukraine, garnering a huge applause before Jack sang Soldier’s Eyes with the amazing talented Phil Granell on the violin.
Jack continued to talk about the affect the pandemic had on him. He told the audience his pianist Shannon Harris was the first person he saw after he was allowed to and they drank a lot of wine that night. They realised they had never written a song together and so they wrote The Way You Said Goodbye about his former girlfriend, now wife.”
Throughout charismatic Jack entertained the audience with his great guitar playing and his gravelly, tender and signature voice with hits that continued Knock, Knock, Secret Life and Dancing Through the Rain. There were no rain clouds in the sky just a stunning cluster of unusual ones over the river.
Jack returning to the stage for the Encore, asked if there were any Italians in Henley, before saying “For the next five minutes everyone in Henley is Italian,” going on to sing You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me in Italian before a surprise guest, soul singer Beverley Knight came on stage to sing the song as a duet in English to the delight of the audience.
Before singing his final song, Jack encouraged the audience to keep going to see live music. The last song of the night seemed to sum it up perfectly – Back Where I Belong.
The five nights of Henley Festival have been exceptional this year and the organisers should certainly be congratulated for all their hard work in bringing it all together to mark their special 40th anniversary.