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Cuide ri Cathy – Russell Watson

BBC ALBA Monday 12 November 10.00 – 10.30pm

Cuide ri Cathy – Russell Watson

BBC ALBA Diluain 12 Samhain 10.00–10.30f

Russell Watson & Cathy MacDonald

RUSSELL WATSON - THE VOICE SPEAKS TO BBC ALBA

Cathy MacDonald travels to Manchester to spend the day with a true classical music star, Russell Watson. Russell, whose nickname is “The Voice”, has sold thousands of records and has performed with megastars but he has become especially famous for having overcome a life-threatening illness not just once but twice.

Russell Watson was the first classical singer from the UK to become a celebrity, despite criticism of his style from within the genre, and his popularity paved the way for Katherine Jenkins and Il Divo.

He speaks to Cathy about his childhood and the influences that led to his career.

“I had a very uncomplicated childhood. My parents didn’t really encourage me to do much other than be a good human being. It was a very relaxed casual environment. I started playing Piano at the age of seven, so my interest in music started at a very young age. It continued with my best friend – a guy called Steve Cleave, basically we’d sit up in my bedroom at the age of 12, 13, 14 and strum through all the Beatles hits a little bit of the Jam and the Style Council as well. That was where my first introduction to singing came from and it was totally opposite to the classical repertoire that I perform now!”

At that stage the young Watson had no real desire to become a performer and was just performing for fun. This relaxed nature was pivotal in Watson’s early career when he plied his trade at various Working Men’s Club where he was frequently subjected to heckling.

“There was a point where initially people would heckle, you know the first year or so I’d be like “God, what do I say?” but after a while you kind of get to know the club circuit, you get to know the characters that are in the certain places that you’re going to and my responses to things that people said started to become quicker and I think again that put me in good stead for what effectively is now my career.”

Despite performing all over the world one of Watson’s career highlights was closer to home – when he nervously performed Nessun Dorma at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United Football Club –

“Right before the players come out, I strolled into the middle of the pitch and the music started and I started singing Nessun Dorma and you could feel there was still the buzz as a lot of the people were talking, probably not a lot of people paying that much interest to me in all fairness. But as I got into the aria you could feel the noise levels start to drop and it was almost like you could have heard a pin drop in the venue and as I went up to hit the top note - I held it forever! And the place went absolutely wild. I walked off the side of the pitch and my dad was there. My dad who is not an emotional guy is all filled up and I went “you all right, pop?” and he went “yeah, yeah, I think I’ve got something in my eye, son!”

Cathy discovers that Watson’s strong character would become pivotal when he was struck down with a life threatening illness not once but twice. Despite everything Watson explains that he had no intentions of giving up, he had to record his album as he needed to be able to leave something of himself behind.

“I thought I was leaving a legacy, you know it was one of those moments where I wasn’t going to give up. I knew that if I told everyone they’d send me home on the first plane I wouldn’t get to make the record and if I didn’t get to make the record then what would I be leaving behind?”

The illness recurred, leading to major surgery and a long period of recovery.

“I went to bed one night and I started being sick – they hadn’t got rid of the first tumour basically – they told me that they had, but it was still there and it was as big as ever and it had continued growing. And when they got me in the back of the Ambulance and one of the paramedics was saying “stay with us Russ”, I remember looking back to all the medical style movies and thinking “stay with us Russ means that I’m probably dying” and it was very scary.”

Watson agreed to the surgery, on one condition.

“The only proviso was that I was allowed to see my children before the operation, which was very, again quite selfish of me to put the children through that, but for me it felt like goodbye!”

Now fit and healthy Watson has a hankering to expand his musical horizons harbouring an ambition to partner with Noel Gallagher.

“At the end of the day I’m an artist and working with somebody of that nature would be absolutely fantastic.”

BBC ALBA CUIDE RI RUSSELL WATSON

Ann am prògram na seachdain seo tha Cathy NicDhòmhnaill ann am Manchester a’ cur seachad an latha còmhla ri fear aig a bheil guth sònraichte clasaigeach agus fear a tha air na mìltean de chlàran a reic. ’S ann mar “The Voice” as fhèarr a dh’aithnicheas daoine e agus tha e cliùiteach cuideachd mar fhear air an robh galar a chur a bheatha ann an cunnart dà thuras – Russell Watson.

Tha e air seinn anns gach ceàrnaidh dhen t-saoghal ach ’s ann aig Old Trafford, dachaigh Manchester United - nuair a sheinn e Nessun Dorma - as fheàrr air a bheil cuimhne againn air.

“Anns a’ ghèam mu dheireadh ann an 1999, sheinn mi aig Old Trafford nuair a bhuannaich iad na Trì Duaisean. Sheinn mi Nessun Dorma anns na beagan mhionaidean mus tàinig na cluicheadairean a-mach. Bha sàmhchair air feadh an àite nuair a thàinig mi chun a’ phuing àrd anns an òran agus chum mi air a’ phong greis mhath.”

Bha an neart inntinn a bha aige air leth cudromach nuair a bha a bheatha ann an cunnart ri linn galar. Tha e a’ cuimhneachadh nuair a thill an aillse airson an dàrna turas.

“Chaidh mi dhan leabaidh an oidhche a bha seo agus thòisich mi a’ cur a-mach. Cha d’ fhuair iad cuidhteas dheth ged a dh’innis iad dhomh gun d’ fhuair. Bha e ann fhathast agus dh’fhàs e na bu mhotha. Chuir iad a-staigh gu cùl a’ charbad-èiginn mi agus thuirt iad rium, “Fan còmhla rinn, Russ”. Chuir siud nam chuimhne gur ann an uair a bhios neach a’ bàsachadh a bhios tu a’ cluinntinn sin ann am film agus bha e gu math eagalach.” Tha cuimhne agam air Leggit a’ tighinn a-steach agus ag ràdh “Is mise an lannsair agad” agus gu robh feum agam air obair-lannsa agus thuirt mise “Chan eil mi airson ’s gun dèan thu sin, bàsaichidh mi.”


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