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Jon's Riverside Proms

He'll be at Wembley this weekend but yesterday Jon Christos was at one of our great sporting venues.

He'll be at Wembley this weekend but yesterday Jon Christos was at one of our great sporting venues. David Whetstone caught up with him.

Jon Christos
Jon Christos

Singer and sports fan Jon Christos was at the Riverside in Chester-le-Street yesterday to size it up ahead of this summer's Northern Proms concert.

It is becoming a tradition for the beautifully appointed Durham County Cricket Ground to give itself over to music. This year's Northern Proms will be the fifth there.

Stars such as Elton John, Lesley Garrett and Jamie Cullum have all performed for the Riverside picnickers.

This year the Northern Proms in July will feature Jon, up-and-coming soprano Hannah Clarke and the Tavistock Chester-le-Street Riverside Band, all hot on the heels of The Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular the previous evening.

To call 30-year-old Jon Christos a star in the making sounds a little disrespectful. For someone who has already performed at some of the world's great opera houses and concert halls, built up a TV profile and been the atmosphere-stoking entertainment at some major sporting events (the Powergen Rugby Cup Final at Twickenham and the Heineken Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium), he has hardly been hiding his light.

But you sense that this is just the start. He is a self-assured young man with clear aims, a great singing voice and a packed diary. He will be the first classical singer to perform at the new Wembley Stadium on Saturday, leading in a rendition of the National Anthem before the under-16 international football match between England and Spain (he says he was offered the FA Cup Final but it clashed with an engagement at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall).

He is also a friend and fan of cricketer Freddy Flintoff and has offered him voice coaching. They met at a charity function, had a drink or two and Jon said he would teach him to sing if the England all-rounder would help to improve his batting. "I'm a pretty reasonable bowler already," says Jon who acknowledges that we probably won't be seeing a Freddy Flintoff CD in the near future.

After looking around the Riverside ground yesterday, Jon said: "It's a beautiful place with the castle in the background. I can imagine what it will look like at night with fireworks going off all around - absolutely brilliant."

His only previous performances in the North-East have been with Opera North at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.

Jon lives in Salford, "born and bred", and supports Manchester City.

His musical education was all in the North-West, beginning at the local Chetham's School of Music, where he studied violin and piano, and then the Royal Northern College of Music, also in Manchester.

"I'm from a very humble background," he says. "My mother worked as a part-time nurse and I had to rely on scholarships to help me through. But members of my family also chipped in so they have all played a part in my success."

He says it was hearing Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma as the TV soundtrack to the 1990 World Cup Finals (when Gazza famously cried) that made him determined to become a singer. "I was just 14. My father loved Nessun Dorma but he died not long after. I did it because of my dad and it took off from there."

A tenor with perfect pitch, and who can also hit top D, he found himself in demand with opera companies. He has sung leading roles in La Bohème, The Magic Flute and Tosca, and has sung in more than 60 performances of Handel's Messiah.

But a change of direction came when he met Perry Hughes, manager and producer of some of the leading classical stars. Perry heard Jon sing Nessun Dorma and signed him up. Jon's first album, Northern Light, came out in October 2005.

"I was being offered Covent Garden and the English and Welsh national operas but I was getting fed up with what I perceived as the elitism of it all. I don't think it's so bad now.

"But I didn't feel I was achieving what I felt I could achieve, singing the same role for 18 months and singing to relatively small audiences. I wanted to make the music accessible by reaching bigger audiences."

Having performed for 75,000 at the Millennium Stadium, you could say he has already achieved that aim.

He will lead the singing at the Riverside on July 14 but will be joined by 18-year-old Hannah Clarke who is also signed to Perry Hughes. "She is one of the finest talents in this country - and she's beautiful," says Jon appreciatively.

For tickets to the Northern Proms concert on July 14 and The Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular the night before, tel. 0870 389-1991.

 

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