Singer Katherine Jenkins provided a graceful and memorable personal swansong for Tim French’s long-running series of concerts in Victoria Park, Haywards Heath.
Elegant Katherine’s heart-warming performance on a breezy evening was the last big-name gig in the park to be organised by Tim and his non-profit making It’s Magic team after 20 years of concerts.
The singer’s easy-listening and engaging style has always gone down well with the crowds at Haywards Heath, and she had the audience in the palm of her hand from the opening number with the excellent National Symphony Orchestra until the rousing patriotic ‘Proms’ finale.
During the show Katherine, who shared the second half with quartet Amore and mixed opera and lighter music, told the crowd, referring to Tim’s decision: “Thank you for having me here Tim. I have alwas loved coming to Haywards Heath. He’s an outstanding man and we love him very much.”
Tim told the audience after seeing Katherine he wanted to bring her to Mid Sussex.
He said: “I thought then that Haywards Heath needed someone like Katherine. This is the sixth time, and you have been wonderful. We thank you for coming.”
Over the years Tim, who became an MBE in the Honours list for his entertainment work, has put the fastidious planning and determination that he employed building up his Newick based joinery firm into that most hazardous of challenges in our unreliable weather - organising outdoor concerts of good quality for thousands of people. Saturday was a good example of the risks; a cloud-laden and gusty day after a run of clear skies but it stayed dry.
Before Tim’s arrival, outdoor entertainment in the park had been well-meaning but low-key and lacklustre.
As ex-Beatle George Harrison once sang on his album of the same name, All Things Must Pass Away, and the end of the Victoria Park gigs came after Tim decided that the 20-year anniversary was the right time to bow out of them.
On Thursday evening the joyful musical promise of Schools Aloud, including the charm of the Mid Sussex CIC Junior Orchestra, filled the park; on Friday personable Peter Andre showed that despite a lack of consistent hits he can still pull in and entertain a crowd. On Sunday the focus shifted to an entertaining variety of music for most tastes with an all-day Super Sunday.
Yet it was undoubtedly Katherine Jenkins who was the sweet-voiced and sometimes soaring icing on the farewell cake on Saturday to celebrate a considerable achievement by Tim and his team over the years. His grandchildren presented flowers to Katherine and the group Amore.
A relaxed Katherine read letters to her that included one from a couple who had just had a baby after becoming engaged at a previous concert and one from a man making a proposal to his girlfriend (fortunately accepted).
A possible star of the future was called from the audience by Katherine; Crawley’s Got Talent Winner Eve Ozmen, seven, from Worth, melted a few hearts with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s haunting Pie Jesu.
When Katherine sang the old favourite We’ll Meet Again as the final song it must have left the crowd wondering whether it would be in Haywards Heath. Fortunately for live music lovers the excellent all-day street festival in the Broadway will continue under Tim’s guidance. Thank heavens Haywards Heath will not lose all the musical soul that Tim has infused into Mid Sussex summers.
By Phil Dennett