Sacred Arias is the final album in the £1million, six album deal with the Universal Classics and Jazz label which has seen a meteoric rise in the singers popularity since her debut album Premiere in 2003. So, while it's time to say goodbye to the old label, it's time to move on, and the departure from Universal heralds the start of another six album contract, this time with the Warner label, and this time worth a staggering £5.8million.
The farewell Sacred Aria album marks a return to the classical market where she has found such success. Her first four albums enjoyed lengthy periods at No. 1 in the UK Classical charts, while the fifth (Rejoice) with less than 60% of its content being classical making it ineligible for the Classical Chart still enjoyed favourable sales and reached No.3 in the UK Album Chart.
The return to classical also introduces us to some of Katherine's personal favourites from the decade she enjoyed as chorister in her childhood days at St. David's Church in Neath, South Wales. She describes the experience:
`It taught me about discipline and musicianship, and it gave me a huge knowledge of the sacred music repertoire. I don't think I'd be here without it'.
The track list is either comfortably familiar or too predictable, depending on ones taste. Those who complained that the previous album Rejoice strayed too far into the pop direction will be pleased to see this return to the classics, while those who liked that pop foray will have to wait for Warner to reveal the route for the future. Personally I think she generally makes a comfortable transition from each genre.
I think Sacred Arias scores highly over previous albums for its subtlety of arrangement (credit to Simon Franglen), keeping it a firmly choral-based (Crouch End Chorus and The Rodolfus Choir) themed selection of church style singing which succeeds in giving some of the songs a hymn like quality. Examples of this are 'Abide With Me' and 'The Lord is My Shepherd'.
`Down In The River To Pray' is a lovely arrangement by Steven Baker which provides an almost gospel choir backing to the song, and `Hallelujah' (Leonard Cohen's version not Handel's!) is wonderfully dreamy performance. `Panis Angelicus' and `In Paradisum' are beautiful arrangements of pieces by classical composers Franck and Faure.
My favourites are the lesser-heard version (by Simon Lindle) of `Ave Maria', and `Agnus Dei' which is a vocally haunting version of Samuel Barber's popular Adagio for Strings.
In summary, a terrific album to say `Amen' to the fruitful five years with the Universal label, and the start of a new chapter which will almost certainly see a further successful six albums, perhaps one of which may even see a foray into opera singing to satisfy the purists, you never know!
But for now, it's time to enjoy the Sacred Arias.