Jenkins soars beyond her comfort zone

This is a week for great voices on PBS. Friday has Audra McDonald; see previous blog. And Sunday has Katherine Jenkins and more, on the Capitol lawn. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Katherine Jenkins has strayed so far
from her comfort zone that she's probably fogotten where it is.

Her latest adventure is singing Sunday
in the National Memorial Day Concert. There will be a sprawling crowd
(200,000 or so), an imposing setting (U.S. Capitol lawn) and
impressive company – “American Idol” winner Candace Glover,
Tony-winner Alfie Boie, “Voice” finalist Chris Mann.

That's enough to make many people
quake; but at 32, Jenkins is used to big settings.

She's sung at Royal Albert Hall, the
Sydney Opera House, Wembley Stadium and Westminster Cathedral. She's
sung for the Queen and the Pope. “I'm not usually a nervous
person,” she said of the latter, “but that time, I was.”

And lately, she's stepped beyond music
to try:

– The “Dancing With the Stars”
American edition. “I totally thought I was going to be the first
person voted off, because no one had heard of me.” Instead, she was
runner-up to Donald Driver.

– A marathon run this spring. “I
kept telling people I would never do it again, but now I'm not sure.

It takes that spirit to go from a Welsh
town of 20,000 to global success. Yes, Jenkins (a former model) has
the look of a pop star and the voice of a classical diva, but she
also has an adventurous soul. She attributes that to an attentive

When she was born, he was 55, in his
second marriage, retired and relaxed. “My mom went back to work and
he took care of me,” she said. “My dad was very calm and

Jenkins grew up with confidence. She
spoke Welsh as a second language and won singing festivals. When she
was a teen, her life kept changing: A teacher steered her to
classical music … her dad died … she went to the Royal Academy of

First, she starred in “Guys and
Dolls,” in high school. “Everyone expected me to be Sally Brown
(the sweet Salvation Army worker),” Jenkins said, “because that
was closer to me.” Instead, she was Adelaide, dancing at the Hot
Box. It was a first step in dancing outside her comfort zone.

– “National Memorial Day Concert”

– 8 p.m. Sunday (actually, Memorial
Day eve), PBS, repeating at 9:30 (check local listings)