Rebecca Newman is a very busy lady, in fact she has been for about the last decade, but in recent times her incredible workload has been on a rapid increase.
In 2005 she started busking where she could revealing her enchanting voice to those who could stop and listen, then she started self financing CD’s to engage with a wider audience.
She then started touring to help raise funds for charities such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.
Finally, with the help of her fans, known as the Newmaneers, she made the break into mainstream classical/crossover album production with a major philharmonic orchestra behind her as she went to Prague to record her number one selling album called Dare to Dream.
Sitting in the entrance to Hull New Theatre on the teatime a few hours before her appearance there on 17th June the People’s Soprano snatches a bit of time to speak about Dare to Dream, charity work and touring with international superstar Russell Watson, which is what has brought her to the 2017 City of Culture.
Asked about her success as the first ever self-released soprano to go to number one in the classical album chart she tells me how she felt confident when she first set out to do it, but then how that gave way to surprise at actually managing it at the time.
“I felt yes, we can do this when we started about 18 months to two years earlier, but then it was really hard work getting the infrastructure and we didn’t have as much of a pre-order period as I would have liked and pretty much no time on iTunes and Amazon so we kind of relied an awful lot on people buying it in the first week.
“Once it came to it I thought, oh I don’t think we’re going to do it, but then when we started getting the sales figures I was comparing my ranking in the overall top 200 to any other artist who would qualify for the classical album chart, I couldn’t think of anybody else that was actually higher in the chart who would be classical chart eligible.”
We then started discussing the tour which has brought her to Hull this time, I asked her what is it like touring with such a huge star as Russell Watson and, as I would expect from her generally very relaxed demeanor, she seems to be taking it all in her stride saying it’s the same as touring with anybody else, although you can see a definite excitement in her eyes.
“We’re both very professional in what we do, he turns up and rehearses with the choir, we’re almost like ships that pass in the night because we’re almost on different schedules, I’m at the front meeting people before the show while he’s rehearsing, then during the first act he’s on the stage whilst I’m getting ready so we do miss each other quite a bit.
Charity work is the next subject and she tells me about the homeless charity that she’s just become a patron of called Socks and Choc’s which was recently started in Birmingham and she is going to help expand across the country.
“It was set up by a man in the police force who was quite touched by a man dying in a fountain in Birmingham, it was a guy who had been a problem with other officers but he always used to get on with Ian, they used to have a bit of banter.
“He set the charity up as a way to break down barriers and encourage people to do collections and at the last count they had collected 8,500 pairs of socks and they had been distributed and it’s making a very big difference to people, small comforts like that.
“Now it’s expanded to include hats and scarves and sleeping bags and things like that, there’s lot’s of different things they’re doing with the charity but it’s focusing on socks and chocolates, a nice simple message.
“His motto is lot’s of people doing a little bit is better than a few people doing a lot.”
She then says why homelessness is a cause quite close to her heart, “For years I was out street performing and so I would regularly talk to Big Issue sellers and finding out how they’d become homeless like when they’d gone into care and then been in and out of Foster homes and they maybe had problems keeping themselves settled and secure.”
We then continue to the subject of City of Culture and a glint appears in the eye of the York based singer who confirms she would love to be involved in 2017 and then recounts about previous times she’s been working in Hull at things such as the Queen’s jubilee and the Christmas Lights switch on which clearly hold fond memories for her.
“I’m sure there will be lot’s of great events and I’ve been here a few times before so yes it would be great to do something here then.”
Singing with classical group Blake is another recent highlight for the new girl on the classical scene so i asked her if there is much of a difference between singing with them compared to singing with solo stars like Russell Watson or Aled Jones to which she replies that there is.
“When you’re singing with an individual you can be a bit more individual with what you sing, you still have to be sympathetic to the other person and not try to upstage them, you need to be sympathetic to how they sing.
“When you’re in a group you have to appreciate, it has to be a bit more structured, so it’s a little bit less free. But also what you’re getting in a group is bit more layer of a harmony and a different kind of sound and a different kind of sound around you as opposed to when you’re singing with just one other person, so they both have their own benefits.”
Finally chatting about Opera on the Marina, which will bring this wonderful singer back to Hull on 7th July as the headline act, there is again a brightening of the eyes which belies the tiredness that her energy sapping schedule must cause.
“That’s going to be a really great night, there’s some fantastic acts billed for that finishing with me in the evening, good food, good company and it should hopefully be a great night.
Opera on the Marina is taking place outside The Minerva pub with tickets available from HullBoxOffice.com starting at a price of £12.50 and includes Leroy Vickers, Farino and Tre Amici in its line-up.