Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Classical superstars are back in the same orbit

Classical superstars are back in the same orbit

THEY are two giants of the contemporary classical music world — so much so that they were almost bound to be pulled into each other’s orbit one day.

Last year singers Aled Jones and Russell Watson joined forces for an album of arias and classical standards called In Harmony.

The record went to number eight in the UK and was certified gold.

Now its success has sparked a sequel, with Back in Harmony due to be released on November 1 — in the run-up to which Aled and Russell are touring the UK.

This will take them to the New Theatre Oxford next Friday (September 27) at 7.30pm.

At 1,785 seats, the George Street venue is an impressive size, but both Aled or Russell are well used to filling big rooms.

Aled, who shot to fame as a boy soprano in the Eighties but now sings baritone, said: “I sang with the choir at Bangor Cathedral as a child. Back then I thought it was a huge building, but since I have been lucky enough to sing in most if not all the cathedrals in this country I have discovered Bangor is a long way from being the biggest.”

For Russell, whose grandfather was a concert-level pianist, his earliest musical memories relate to the Steinway Grand that sat in the dining room where most families would have a table.

He remembers as a four-year-old standing with his leg pressed against the piano leg and feeling the good vibrations.

He also recalls frequent visits to his grandmother’s. “We used to go round to her house and there were two things you noticed as soon as you walked through the door — the delicious smell of freshly baked bread and a record of Mario Lanza singing The Great Caruso, which she had on repeat play.” Aled and Russell’s collaboration on their new album also saw them reunited with platinum-selling producer Ian Tilley, whose work has fed through into the pair’s forthcoming live shows.

Russell, who sings tenor to Aled’s baritone, said: “I think one of the major things is that this is a show of us singing duets — we are onstage most of the time together.

“It is not a case of Aled singing a few songs, then Russell comes on and sings a few, then halfway through the second half they do some duets. Ian Tilley has done a marvellous job working out orchestrations that blend our two voices, which come from different sides of the classical music genre.”

With the repertoire for the concert being drawn from In Harmony with a few previews of Back in Harmony, the audience can expect to hear a wealth of beloved hymns, arias, and popular songs — ranging from the likes of Ave Maria to more modern classics such as You Raise Me Up.

The pair certainly seem to be enjoying the experience of working together again. “Once again, teaming up with the mighty Voice — Russell Watson — has been a dream,” says Aled.

“It’s the proudest I’ve felt for a long time about a record,” adds Russell. “The production has gone to another level. Aled sounds amazing and our voices blend so well together.” Of the new album’s highlights, Russell adds: “I must admit In Flanders Field makes the hairs on my neck tingle when I sing it.”

Had they not been singing together again, who would Russell and Aled most have liked to have worked with?

“I would have loved to sing a duet with Nat King Cole,” says Russell. “His voice wasn’t perfect but it was those little imperfections that made his voice have that lovely distinctive style.”

Aled’s answer draws a surprised murmur of appreciation from Russell. “For me, I really would have loved to have sung a duet with Freddie Mercury.”

What else don’t people know about Aled and Russell?

Away from the concert platform they both have a love of playing tennis — so you might think that as they have been friends for years they would have played each other.

But no. Here there is a fear of being anything but in harmony as they both reply: “Definitely not, it would so end in an argument!”

In addition to the New Theatre Oxford, venues on their UK tour include the London Palladium and St David’s Hall in Cardiff.

But is there anywhere they would still love to perform where they haven’t yet done so?

Aled, who has sung at the Vatican for the Pope, says not. But it’s a yes from Russell, who says: “The only opera house that has so far eluded me is La Scala in Milan.”

Tickets for next Friday’s concert start at £33.65. To book, visit www.atgtickets.com

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