Jane Mc­Don­ald cruis­ing along waves of suc­cess

Gulf Times Community - - POP SPOT - By Ge­of­frey Row­lands

Cruise ship hol­i­days are be­com­ing ever more pop­u­lar. They have cer­tainly been very help­ful in the ca­reer of English singer Jane Mc­Don­ald. Now back in the UK top ten with her lat­est al­bum, Cruis­ing with Jane Mc­Don­ald, fea­tures the 1998 BBC Tele­vi­sion ob­ser­va­tional doc­u­men­tary se­ries, The Cruise, which trans­formed Jane into a star.

She was 34 and had been singing for more than a decade when BBC de­cided to make 12 pro­grammes, board­ing the lux­ury cruise ship Galaxy as it sailed around the Caribbean. Jane’s per­son­al­ity and her vo­cal tal­ent was re­vealed dur­ing the clips of her per­for­mances.

BBC also broad­casted two spe­cial Cruise pro­grammes fo­cus­ing on Jane. The first cov­ered her mar­riage to Dan­ish plumber Hen­rik Brixen in St Thomas, Vir­gin Is­lands. The cou­ple had met dur­ing an ear­lier cruise when they were work­ing on Cen­tury, Galaxy’s sis­ter-ship.

The sec­ond spe­cial was Jane’s Cruise to the Stars. Air­ing on De­cem­ber 31, 1998, it ef­fec­tively topped and tailed the most re­mark­able year of her life. The first episode of The Cruise was broad­casted on Jan­uary 13 while Jane Ties The Knot had been tele­vised in July. This was also the month when her self-ti­tled de­but al­bum had stormed straight to num­ber one on the UK chart.

“It was un­be­liev­able,” she smiled. “I be­gan 1998 as a largely un­known girl from Wake­field in York­shire who had sung in so many clubs around north­ern England with­out ever be­ing no­ticed by any re­ally im­por­tant peo­ple and ended the year as a house­hold name. I recorded as the best­selling al­bum and even had a top ten hit on the Christ­mas week sin­gles chart.”

Iron­i­cally, Jane al­most turned down the of­fer to per­form aboard Galaxy. Apart from meet­ing Hen­rik, from whom she is now di­vorced, she had an un­happy time on Cen­tury. There were de­lays in be­ing paid, tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties with the sound equip­ment and gen­er­ally stress­ful work­ing con­di­tions. Jane re­turned to singing in the clubs. It was only the op­por­tu­nity to be­come the head­lin­ing singer on Galaxy which tempted her back to sea.

“I never imag­ined what the out­come from the TV se­ries might be. But I had al­ways con­sid­ered my­self a suc­cess even if it had been on a much lower level.

“I think if you have a job like a singer, where you’ve been blessed with a gift and you’re mak­ing a liv­ing from it, then you’re a suc­cess even if you’re not fa­mous. I was do­ing some­thing I loved and that was a suc­cess it­self, even if a club did close the cur­tain on me part ways through a song be­cause it was time for the bingo.”

Fur­ther big hit al­bums fol­lowed Jane’s chart-top­ping de­but. These were pro­moted on nu­mer­ous sold-out con­cert tours. But her pop­u­lar­ity with tele­vi­sion view­ers was such that Jane was also able to carve out a ca­reer as a tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity. Her many cred­its in­clude guest ap­pear­ances on a wide va­ri­ety of shows rang­ing from Ready Steady Cook to Tip­ping Point: Lucky Stars. Her pre­sen­ta­tion work in­cluded eight years on Loose Women.

“I’ve been very lucky to be able to do so many things which I’ve thor­oughly en­joyed. Even those times when I’ve de­cided to stop do­ing some­thing, usu­ally against good ad­vice, I’ve then had of­fers to do some other re­ally in­ter­est­ing projects.

“The most ex­cit­ing of these was play­ing Griz­abella in a re­vival of Andrew Lloyd Web­ber’s won­der­ful stage mu­si­cal, Cats.I had de­cided to stop do­ing tele­vi­sion shows. I’d reached a point where I thought I needed to do some­thing else but had no ac­tual plans. A lot of peo­ple thought I was be­ing fool­ish. In some ways, I just wanted a rest. I had al­most done 97 shows of some sort one right af­ter the other.

“But the of­fer came for me to au­di­tion for Cats. I was a lot older than the other peo­ple au­di­tion­ing and thought I didn’t stand a chance. Fun­nily enough, hav­ing no ex­pec­ta­tions took some of the pres­sure off when I au­di­tioned for Andrew but I still couldn’t be­lieve it when they called me to say I’ve got the part.”

Jane freely ac­knowl­edges that per­form­ing in Cats made her a bet­ter singer.

“I didn’t re­alise how un­fit I was.

The warm-up ex­er­cises were all about strength­en­ing the core of the body. Do­ing them al­lowed me to belt out songs like I’ve never done be­fore. I got into my fifties and felt like I was just learn­ing to sing.”

Along­side all her stage work, Jane re­turned both to tele­vi­sion and cruis­ing in 2017 with her Bri­tish Academy of Film and Tele­vi­sion Award­win­ning se­ries, Cruis­ing with Jane Mc­Don­ald.

“I al­most didn’t go to the BAFTA cer­e­mony. I didn’t think there was any chance of the show win­ning and I was film­ing my other new show, Jane and Friends. I didn’t pre­pare any ac­cep­tance speech. Mark Pow­ell, the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, wrote a speech for me and said I should put it in my pocket just in case. I al­most didn’t take it with me.”

Part trav­el­ogue, part doc­u­men­tary and part en­ter­tain­ment, it is the songs sung by Jane at the end of each pro­gramme which make up the track list on her Cruis­ing with Jane Mc­Don­ald al­bum.

“It’s been won­der­ful for me to be able to sail off on so many dif­fer­ent cruises. I’d never been on a river cruise be­fore do­ing one for the show. Record­ing the songs for the al­bum brought back all the fan­tas­tic mem­o­ries of vis­it­ing the beau­ti­ful coast­line of Cal­i­for­nia, colour­ful Cuba, rugged Iceland and so many other won­der­ful places. It made me want to sing my heart out.”

ON SONG: Jane Mc­Don­ald is back again in the UK top ten with her lat­est al­bum, Cruis­ing with Jane Mc­Don­ald.

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