Music interview: Soprano Michelle Palmer on Celebrate Leeds at Centenary Pavilion, Leeds

Michelle Palmer
Michelle Palmer
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Classical crossover soprano Michelle Palmer will be among the performers at the charity concert Celebrate Leeds – A Night of Excellence at Leeds United’s Centenary Pavilion on June 25.

The Lincolnshire-based singer was inspired as a child by the likes of Judy Garland and Julie Andrews. “I’ve always from a young age watched the musicals, back in the day of videos I’d have Annie going round and round in circles,” she says.

In her teens she moved into the classical sphere. “My family knew I loved singing but in their eyes they wanted me to have a secure future doing something else, so I studied fashion and textiles at De Montfort University in Leicester and while I was there at 18 I joined the chorus and that’s where I got all my classical training.”

At the same time she met her future husband Mark, a music promoter, who put Palmer in touch with record store owner and producer Wayne Allen. “He had contacts with EMI and he was like my manager with Mark who took me down to EMI to meet up with Clive Black, who was the managing director at the time, and I was going to be transported into the world of pop.”

Despite the fact that it veered off from her classical training, she gave it a go before starting a family.

Yet over time her yearning to return to music became stronger. She managed a boy band for a while and developed a talent show for young urban music artists then began singing herself, first at private events then in public.

When I’m singing a song I love to get into the meaning behind it and I find that classical songs allow you to do that.

“Now I’m 37 I’ve decided to utilise the training that I had, plus I just love singing classical songs, some from musicals and Italian opera – I find it just suits my voice the best,” she says.
“Not only that, the sentiment. When I’m singing a song I love to get into the meaning behind it and I find that those songs allow you to do that.”

Palmer has just released her debut EP, Serenity, which shot to No2 in the iTunes classical chart. It was produced by the Grammy Award winner Chris Craker, after her husband sent him demos. “It was a dream come true working with such an amazing producer who’s concurrently working with Hans Zimmer,” she enthuses.

“He did want me to go to Thailand to his studio but as I’ve got a family it would mean quite a lot of time spent over there, so he arranged with Miloco studios in London and he flew over and worked with us down there.”

The EP includes a rendition of the John Legend ballad All Of Me in a classical style. The idea, Palmer says, was to reach a mainstream audience.

“I’ve got a 15-year-old son and he’s not much interested in classical music so it was my aim as well to introduce the classical world to a younger audience. When researching what tracks to use I wanted something that was very familiar worldwide and could lend itself to a slower tempo and to lengthen out the phrases so that I could allow my voice to transcend to that genre to pop. After a few experimental sessions I found it really suited that style.”

Following the EP’s success she’s looking forward to appearing at Celebrate Leeds, with the vocal group Collabro, winners of the 2014 series of Britain’s Got Talent, and the Masquerade String Quartet who are currently accompanying tenor Russell Watson on tour. Proceeds from the concert will go to the charity Angels in Africa. “it’s going to be fantastic,” she says.

For details on the concert visit https://www.facebook.com/putleedsonthemap/?fref=nf.

For more on Michelle Palmer visit http://www.michellepalmer.co.uk/

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