Nominees for this year’s Classical BRIT Awards have been talking to Billboard.biz about the importance of the event, while it has been confirmed that teenage newcomer Faryl Smith will open the ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Smith, 13, who appeared on TV talent show “Britain’s Got Talent” has just returned from a U.S. promotional tour for her debut set “Faryl” (UCJ). In the U.K., it was the fastest selling classical solo debut, according to the Official Charts Co.
Other performers at the 10th anniversary ceremony tonight (May 14) include lifetime achievement winner Jose Carreras, who will receive his award from the Duchess of Cornwall, along with Placido Domingo, Katherine Jenkins, the Priests, Jonas Kaufmann, trumpeter Alison Balsom and a collaboration between Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock.
Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins will also be taking part in a collaboration, she tells Billboard.biz. She is nominated for her set “Sacred Arias” (UCJ) in the NS&I album of the year category, which is voted by listeners of Classic FM via its Web site and recognizes the 10 biggest-selling classical albums of 2008.
“It would be wonderful to win but everybody in the category has done really well,” Jenkins tells Billboard.biz. “And I’m singing with Placido Domingo, which is my bonus for the night.”
As a former winner, Jenkins adds that a Classical BRIT is still an important award. “I’m not beyond that level – I would love to win the third one,” she says. “Because it’s voted for by the public it means so much.”
She is also up against New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra, nominated for her best-of album “River Of Dreams” (Decca). At 22, Westenra is already a veteran of the Classical BRITs.
“Apparently I’ve been nominated four times previously and this is the fifth, and I’ve performed about three times,” she tells Billboard.biz. “I haven’t won an award but maybe this time. I find the ceremony really exciting and it’s just wonderful being a part of it all and a real honor.”
“I’m sure it’s helped,” she adds of her various nominations. “It’s great it [the ceremony] gets mainstream media attention, as it should do like the pop music awards.”
And she welcomes a nomination that is based on sales figures: “It is important to me, I like knowing that I’ve reached lots of people.”
British trumpeter Alison Balsom, signed to EMI, is nominated for female artist of the year, the sole instrumentalist in the category alongside opera singers Anna Netrebko and Danielle De Niese.
“It’s a real honor for me – the other two nominees are amazing singers,” she tells Billboard.biz. “So it’s really tough but I’m really honored to be in that group and it’s nice to be the only instrumentalist.”
“In the U.K. it brings [classical music] to a wider public which is fantastic, and I suppose it has helped [me] in some [other] places,” she says of the awards. “The razzmatazz showbiz side of it is incredible and it’s a really good party.”
That side of the awards does not sit well with some in the classical music world, who have criticized the ceremony. However, the host Myleene Klass – a classical musician and TV presenter – says the ceremony has to make an impact with a mainstream audience.
“I do think that’s changing,” she says of the low media profile for classical music in general. “But you’re right it’s a shame that sometimes to a degree we have to sex things up for the crowds to come. Especially when you think that when these pieces were originally written – when ‘The Magic Flute’ was written – these were for the masses.
“But now you realise that we have to break down the stigma so that classical music can be cool. And because you’ve got people using it on adverts and movies, people are more accepting of it now.”
The Classical BRIT Awards will be broadcast at 10.35pm on May 19 on ITV1. See Billboard.biz later this evening for the results.