Proms & Prosecco in the Park headliner, Mary-Jess, is busy touring the UK and has just released her new album, Inspire, but we managed to squeeze in a quick chat about all things music, Downton, and Proms
Mary-Jess tell us how a girl from Gloucester ended up singing live on Chinese TV?
I was very lucky, Mandarin Chinese was offered as an extracurricular GSCE at my high school in Gloucester, so when I was thinking of what to study at university, I knew that Chinese would be a good back up to music as I just love the language. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that Music and Chinese Studies was offered as a dual honours degree at Sheffield! The second year of my degree took me out to Nanjing University and that’s when I entered and won the show.
We’re huge Downton Abbey fans so do tell us more!
I got to meet the cast at Highclere Castle when I sang there for a Forces event. Not only did I have a connection to that event through Downton Abbey, but also through my long family connection with the forces, starting with my family owning Whitehead Aircraft which built biplanes for the first world war, to my Dad being in the navy when he was younger. Plus ‘Glorious’, the first single from my debut album ‘Shine’, was written for the forces.
Proms and Prosecco in the Park is all about celebrating British music but especially The Last Night of the Proms. What’s your take on the Proms and the classical music associated with the occasion?
I love the ‘togetherness’ of it all, it’s great to see so many people enjoying Classical and Crossover music together, and everyone singing along creates such a warm and exciting atmosphere!
Why do you think other people still love the tradition of the Proms?
It’s also a great way to get out in to the great British countryside and explore some of that ‘green and pleasant land’ we always sing about at the Proms!
How old were you when you started listening to classical music?
Very young, as my Grandparents would always listen to Classic FM. Though I didn’t truly start to appreciate it until I started singing Classical music myself. Up to that point my mum would tell my sister and I to imagine a Tom and Jerry cartoon in our heads and that helped us enjoy it more!
What is it you like most about classical music?
I love that it is the base of all music, so I can take inspiration from other genres and cultures of music and build on that wonderful classical foundation. That’s how I became a Classical Crossover artist, I love how it affords versatility and also makes my music more accessible to those who don’t often listen to classical music.
What’s your favourite piece of music to listen to?
When on tour with G4 in March, I went to see The Greatest Showman. I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack now! And if it’s not playing through speakers it’s playing on repeat in my head! I just love it!
What’s your favourite piece of music to perform?
I have different favourites for different reasons; different memories associated with different pieces. For example, firstly I love singing Barcelona on tour with G4, so much so that I recorded it with Kyle Tomlinson (David Walliams Golden Buzzer performer on BGT) for my latest album ‘Inspire’. Secondly, my favoruite Chinese song, ‘Spring Ballet’ I love because it’s so much fun to sing, it’s such a happy song, I sang it live on Chinese TV, and now to share the joy that I associate with that song I give it away for free when people sign up to my mailing list. And thirdly, Time to Say Goodbye I love as it was the first Classical Crossover song I learned and I sang that song when I won the Chinese X Factor. That song literally changed my life forever.
If you were attending Proms and Prosecco in the park as a guest rather than performing what would you pack in your picnic basket?
Firstly, a blanket, some sun cream and an umbrella, as you never truly know what the weather is going to be doing! Then food wise, I love a good chocolate biscuit or two (aka a whole pack), a Linda McCartney or Quorn sausage sandwich, some homemade coleslaw and a flask of tea with honey. Local set honey that’s good for the bees – my favourite!
What are you looking forward to most about performing at Proms and Prosecco in the Park?
Performing my favourite songs in such a beautiful setting with a wonderful crowd all singing along and sitting in (hopefully) glorious sunshine! Can’t wait!
Do you have a message for all our Prom Goers?
I guess what my Mum always says to me about outdoor events is very appropriate here! She says ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing!’ So as long as we are all prepared for whatever British summertime has to throw at us (beautiful sunshine please!!) we should all have a wonderful time!