Aled Jones and Russell Watson team up again for Christmas at York Barbican

Aled Jones and Russell Watson: New album, new tour, with a Christmas theme

ALED Jones and Russell Watson are to reunite for Christmas 2022 with a new album and tour, taking in York Barbican on December 6.

Performing together again after a three-year hiatus, the classical singers will embark on a November and December itinerary to coincide with the November 4 release of Christmas With Aled And Russell. 

Available to pre-order now, the album features new recordings of traditional carols such as O Holy Night, O Little Town Of Bethlehem and In The Bleak Midwinter, alongside festive favourites White Christmas, It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Little Drummer Boy and Mistletoe And Wine.

In addition, Jones and Watson are recording a duo rendition of Walking In The Air – first sung by boy soprano Aled in 1982 for the animated film The Snowman – specially for the new record.

Bangor-born tenor Jones, 51, says: “After a crazy couple of years for us all, I can’t wait to be reunited with my mate Russell again for our third album together! I’ll always be associated with Christmas, so it’s an honour to be working with him.

“We always have a blast on tour, so getting to sing our favourite Christmas songs together in so many stunning venues later this year will be a real treat! You never know, ‘Traffic Cone’ might even make an appearance…and hopefully Chicago has given Russ the chance to brush up on his dancing skills!”

Salford tenor Watson, 55, who has been playing slick lawyer Billy Flynn in the 2022 tour of Chicago, says: “Aled and I had a great time recording our first two albums, so I’m immensely excited to be back in the studio together working on our third. We had a really tough time choosing from so many magnificent Christmas songs, but we’ve whittled it down to a fabulous selection of tracks which truly mean something to us both.

“And to get to share a stage again during our UK tour later this year will be such a special experience after three years apart. I hope Christmas With Aled And Russell is on all of your Christmas lists, and I can’t wait to see you all on tour throughout November and December!”

Aled & Russell: Third album of duets

Christmas With Aled And Russell will be looking to match the success of 2018’s In Harmony and 2019’s Back In Harmony, after both recordings topped the UK Classical Album Chart and made the top ten of the UK Official Album Chart.

Classical crossover singer Jones has released more than 40 albums and achieved more than 40 silver, gold and platinum discs since his chorister days when Walking In The Air brought him fame at 12.

In November 2020, he released Blessings, a multi-faith album featuring songs from different religions, and in February 2022, he reached the semi-finals of ITV’s The Masked Singer in the guise of Traffic Cone.  

He has pursued a career as a television and radio presenter too, at present hosting a weekly show on Classic FM and BBC One’s Sunday staple, Songs Of Praise. 

Watson’s debut album, 2000’s The Voice, topped both the British and USA classical charts, making him the first British male artist to attain a simultaneous transatlantic number one.

Watson has performed for HM The Queen, the late Pope John Paul II and former USA Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama.

He last played York Barbican in a Sunday matinee in November 2021 on his 20th Anniversary Of The Voice tour.

Tickets for December 6’s 8pm performance of Christmas With Aled & Russell are on sale at

Beth McCarthy heads home from London to play The Crescent in York next month

Beth McCarthy: May 2 concert at The Crescent York

BETH McCarthy will play a home-city gig for the first time since March 2019 at The Crescent, York, on May 2.

Promoted by Kilimanjaro Live, tickets for Beth’s return are on sale at

Beth, singer, songwriter and erstwhile BBC Radio York evening show presenter, has moved from York to London, since when she has been buoyed by the online response to her singles and videos, drawing 4.8 million likes and 300,000 followers on TikTok and attracting 465,000 monthly listeners and nine million plays of her heartbreak hit She Gets The Flowers on Spotify.

Beth has been singing since the age of seven when she started performing in musical theatre shows. She joined a band at 11, picked up an acoustic guitar and became a singer-songwriter at 13, playing 150 gigs all over England and releasing her debut EP by the age of 16, when she appeared on the BBC One talent show The Voice in 2014.

Coming up this spring for Beth is an appearance on Kilimanjaro Live’s stage at Liverpool Sound City on May 1 and gigs at Camden Assembly, London, on May 3 and Deaf Institute, Manchester, on May 7, followed by a set at Kilimanjaro Live’s new festival in Norwich, Neck Of The Woods, on May 29.

The Voice, the concert, the return of Russell Watson for York Barbican Sunday matinee

RUSSELL Watson, ‘the People’s Tenor’, does not sing to live but lives to sing.

Armed with that philosophy, reinforced by so many months of stage inactivity enforced by the Covid pandemic, the Salford tenor is back on the road for his Celebrating The 20th Anniversary Of The Voice tour, playing York Barbican on Sunday afternoon.

That classical-pop crossover debut entered the Official Classical Artist Album Chart at number one on release in September 2000, becoming that year’s biggest classical seller as it peaked at number five in the UK album chart.

Watson’s journey took him from a Salford estate, a bolt-cutter by day, a working men’s club act at night, to performing for popes and presidents and singing at Champions League and rugby cup finals and a Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

Along the way, he has overcome two brain tumours, and now he is performing once more, singing his most loved songs and career highlights from the past two decades. “It’s become much more relevant to me these last 18 months or so that I don’t sing to live, I live to sing,” says Russell.

“It’s something that is very personal to me, so when I’m not in tune with performance, the adrenaline rush and the thrill that it gives me to be on stage in front of an audience, it fundamentally affects me and who I feel as I am as a human being.”

Looking back over the long months of lockdowns, Russell says: “At the start, it didn’t feel like too much of a struggle. It was more like a chance to regroup and think, as well as rest my voice, as I’ve been touring constantly for 20 years with only small gaps in between.

“Once I’d done the I’m A Celebrity… show and winter had set in, though, I can admit I really struggled. Obviously, we’ve gone through the darkest of times and there are many, many people way worse off than me, but it still wasn’t easy. The entertainment and hospitality industry has really been left behind.”

“I’m here for a reason; I will be back on stage,” vowed Russell Watson as lockdowns dragged on. Picture: Mark Hayman

Hence Russell could not wait to set foot on the stage once more on September 19 at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre. “It’s felt like an eternity these last 18 months, like I’ve lost my purpose. I just want to get back out on that stage again and do what I love doing more than anything in the world. I’m just so thrilled to get that opportunity to do that again,” he said at the time.

“I remember my wife saying, ‘oh god, are you ever going to get back on stage?’, and my response was to think, ‘I’m here for a reason; I will be back on stage’.

“I didn’t go through what I did 12 years ago for nothing. I’ve had a few scares, the lumps on my vocal cords being cut out in 2003, the tumours, and I have to take medication every day, but there’s never a day I feel sorry for myself. Life is so short and as you grow older you become more aware of the generational changes.

“As a child, at eight, all I wanted to do was kick a ball around, with three generations around me. My great grandparents have gone, my grandparents have gone, and now there’s only one generation before me, and the years just seem to go by quicker. Where’s this year gone? It’s like, can we just slow down, it’s going too quickly.

“That’s why I don’t take anything for granted. Mentally I still feel like I’m in my 20s, and the body’s not too bad!”

As for the voice, “It’s funny; it once got to the point of wondering if anyone was going to ask how I was, rather than just my voice, as if the voice was a separate entity, but in some ways it still is,” Russell says.

“On some days, I can feel dreadful, but the voice will be fine, and on other days, I’ll be on top of the world, but the voice isn’t quite there. As a singer, you’re balancing on the high wire; that’s where you are when you’re singing some of the great arias; hitting those vocal peaks is like walking a tightrope.”

As Russell built up his voice for touring again, he recalls doing his vocal scales one day in his games room, acoustically the most resonant space in his home: “I was doing a bit of Donizetti, on my own, no-one else in the house, and coming up to the big note, I hit it clean as a whistle. Afterwards, I had tears in my eyes: it’s just so good to be singing again, so pure and so clean.

The poster for Russell Watson’s 2021 tour, marking 20 years since the chart-topping debut success of The Voice

“I feel like I’m back in heaven. The only time I feel trepidation is if I can feel a sore throat coming and I feel great but the voice doesn’t.”

How does Russell feel about being “The People’s Tenor”? “It’s like a term of endearment,” he says. “In my early days, people saw me as this young man who came from nowhere with very little formal training and wasn’t a stereotypical classical singer. My background was as someone who spent the first six years of my professional life working 12-hour shifts on a factory floor in Salford.

“My only knowledge of classical music and opera came from my grandmother playing music on an old radiogram in the corner at her home in Atherton.”

Calling a debut album The Voice proved to be inspired too, rather than an act of chutzpah. “It was never meant to be some kind of pretentious statement!” he says.

That voice has been back in action in the recording studio too, recording the 20th anniversary album 20. “It’s basically reimagining my favourite 14-15 songs over the last 20 years,” says Russell. “There were the obvious ones that had to be in there, those ones the fans always demand, like Nessun Dorma and Volare. They made it straight on to the record.

“Another easy choice was Where My Heart Will Take Me, the theme from Star Trek: Enterprise. That was such a career highlight for me, to be asked to sing something that’s going to go down in history forever. I watched Star Trek as a kid, so it was a real shock that out of all the artists in the world, Paramount chose me to do that. I’ve always been very proud to have been involved with that.

“Overall, the album kind of chose itself, though there are still a few that maybe could have been there too, such as You Raise Me Up.”

The Voice: the album cover in 2000

Having decided to make new recordings, rather than merely assembling a greatest hits compilation, Russell and producer Ian Tilley then had to settle on whether to re-work the songs or mirror the original tracks.  

“Some were definitely approached differently,” Russell says. “Where My Heart Will Take Me, for example, we completely rewrote that into a ballad. I’m so pleased with how that turned out, versus the old version, which is very Eighties’ rock in its approach, like a Rod Stewart track or something.

“We’ve brought that into a more modern-sounding piece; it’s less of a statement and more reflective. Volare and O Sole Mio were changed more subtly, just in terms of tempo and rhythm, which worked really nicely. You don’t mess with the core classical tracks like Nessun Dorma, though; you don’t start rewriting Puccini.”

Reflecting on his career path ahead of turning 55 on November 24, Russell says: “I do feel in many respects that I’ve been very lucky with what I’ve achieved. When I look back on it though, a great deal of that success has come from my own hard work and drive, as well as constantly thinking about what’s coming over the hill and responding to it before it arrives.

“I won’t sit and think about storm clouds ahead, I’ll do something about it. I’m in charge of my own career now and am already planning two years ahead at least. The only way you can sustain long-term success is with drive and long-term planning, as you can’t stay in the same place forever.

“That’s why the repertoire changes all the time, too. Doing a soul record, or Sinatra and Nat King Cole covers, brings new people into what you do. You need to follow your instincts, which is something the music industry doesn’t do enough of.”

Looking to the future, Russell says: “I just hope the next 20 years don’t go so quickly!”

Russell Watson: 20th Anniversary of The Voice, York Barbican, Sunday, 3pm. Box office:

Olly Murs to play Scarborough Open Air Theatre and Harewood House next summer

Olly Murs: Completing a hat-trick of shows at Scarborough Open Air Theatre next summer

OLLY Murs is the first booking for next summer’s Scarborough Open Air Theatre season after Covid-19 ruled out the entire 2020 programme.

Tickets go on sale at 9am on October 9 for Murs’ July 10 2021 concert, when he will complete a hat-trick of shows on the North Yorkshire coast after playing Scarborough OAT in 2013 and 2017.

The Essex singer, show host and talent-show judge, 36, will perform his biggest hits at Britain’s biggest outdoor concert arena.

Scarborough OAT venue programmer Peter Taylor says: “We are really excited to reveal Olly Murs as our first headline announcement for the 2021 season.

“Olly played two brilliant sold-out shows here in 2013 and 2017 and fans are constantly requesting we bring him back, which we are delighted to be able to do.

“It goes without saying we cannot wait for live music to return to Scarborough OAT in 2021, so it’s fantastic to be able to kick off the announcements for our new season by revealing Olly Murs is returning.

“We have a brilliant summer of live music to reveal, so watch this space for many more headliners being announced very soon!”

This year, Murs has captained England in this year’s Soccer Aid and he is looking to retain his crown as winning judge on his third series of The Voice, at present postponed at the semi-final stages.

In lockdown, Murs “managed an impressive body transformation” in tandem with personal trainer Rob Solly. As for music, he is working on new material for release in 2021.

Next summer, his 25-date tour from June 5 to August 29 will take in a further Yorkshire show at Harewood House, near Leeds, on August 11. Scarborough tickets can be booked at; Harewood House, and, again from 9am next Friday.