A quick chat with Russell Watson

Opera singer Russell Watson gives Gareth Malone a run for his money this week when he helps train a 35-strong choir of people with cancer in the Channel 4 documentary Sing For Your Life.

The choir, called The Big C, was set up by the cancer charity Tenovus as part of a research project looking into the positive effects of group-singing, and cameras follow their progress under choir mistress Cat Southall as they prepare for their first major stage performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

TV&Satellite Week magazine caught up with 45-year-old Watson, who himself has been receiving treatment for brain cancer since 2006, to find out how things have been going…

This isn’t about whether The Big C choir is the best choir in the world… It’s about the community spirit. If there were more of these choirs around the country, it would be a very good thing.

I’ve been involved in giving them a few tips… I try to be as helpful as I can. They have come on leaps and bounds since I first met them.

The positivity of some of these people is inspiring… One of the guys said to me. ‘I’m terminal, but I was told three years ago I’d be dead and I’m syill here. I refuse to leave.’

I’ll never be 100 per cent free of cancer because all of my tumour couldn’t be taken out by surgery… But I’m alive and well, and very positive. Initially, they told me I wouldn’t be able to sing again, but I’m singing better than ever.

My voice improved after they operated on my tumour… Before that, the tumour got so big it broke through the front of my skull and into my nasal passages. When I listen back to my recordings in 2004, I can hear a real nasal quality.

I used to get a lot of criticism from the classical fraternity… I sing opera, but I’m not an opera singer. I’ve never been in an opera. I just perform the best bits, the arias. That’s why I get called The People’s Tenor.

My mum was a big classical music fan, so I grew up with it… But I’ve always had diverse musical tastes. As a teenager I was into The Jam, The Beat and Madness – the usual things that kids were into in the early-1980s.

Sing for Your Life is on Channel 4 on Monday, October 15 at 8pm

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