Many moons ago I first heard Lesley Garrett sing all the Songs of the Auvergne at the Barbican and she obviously still loves these evocative portraits of pastoral life in France.
To my ears her best moments of an entertaining “It’s Magic” concert at the Triangle in Burgess Hill came when she sang one of those beautiful songs by Canteloube.
Bailero was also the sweetest combination between Miss Garrett and the Sussex Symphony Orchestra.
As if to prove size counts, orchestra conductor Mark Andrew James later produced the long 1895 baton used by Proms father Henry Wood and joked: “This is huge”.
After a shaky start the orchestra had settled to play consistently well, with some beautiful solos, including excellent clarinet, oboe, and flute work that deserved applause of its own.
Miss Garrett has atracted some needless criticism from some of the snootier music critics for the “opera greatest hits element” of her cross-over career.
Maybe she was never going make a lead role at £180-plus a seat Glyndebourne, but her voice is good enough to bring beautiful arias to people paying just over £20 who might never otherwise get to hear them live.
What Miss Garrett has in spades as well as a decent voice is a warm, engaging down-to-earth personality and an endless supply of dresses.
All of which endeared her to a willing crowd of 500-plus and managed to create some kind of intimacy in the functional atmosphere of what is esentially a sport centre. How Mid Sussex needs a proper, comfortable concert hall.
There were plenty of greatest hits on the programme, and the rousing Drinking Song gave tenor Nicholas Ransley and Miss Garrett a chance to let their hair down.
Songs like Lover and I Could Have Danced All Night and the smoothly stretched notes of Summertime showed where Miss Garrett’s range really excels, while Ransley used his creamy tones to blend with the layers of higher notes from Miss Garrett in Tonight from West Side Story. His solo highlight was a powerful performance of the wonderful old enduring Fifties melody Be My Love, though perhaps lacking the searing intensity of the peerless Mario Lanza version. His version of Maria from West Side Story was another standout.
Miss Garrett enjoyed highlighting some songs, including a powerful performance of the Bold Grenadier, from her folksy new album A Northern Country Lass.
The elegant singer told the audience: “It does what it says on the tin”. Rather like a Lesley Garrett concert.