Kate Dimbleby has released six albums, toured internationally and appeared regularly on national radio. She grew up in a family where telling stories and performing was everyday life. Her father is broadcaster David Dimbleby, and her mother Josceline is a trained classical singer. It leads naturally to an enjoyment of rural touring and ‘singing along with always-up-for- it village audiences.’
A lot of the songs in Sing Happy are those that Kate has improvised from audience suggestions in village halls around the country, whether it’s covers or her own songs. Her new show Sing Happy features songs that range from the 50s to 80s to present day pop as well as my own songs. She puts it simply: ‘It’s about having a lot of fun.’
Her work has changed over time. She began singing in a close harmony group at school and won Sky Star Search, a precursor to shows such as the X Factor! The talent show format didn’t fence her in but allowed her to spend the next 25 years creating theatrical shows about other singers. From Peggy Lee and Dean Martin to George Michael and Freddie Mercury; Dimbleby has gained a reputation as a leading interpreter of song. Her critically acclaimed shows, Who is Dory Previn?, I’m a Woman, Music to Watch Boys By and Fever! The Making of Peggy Lee, were all devised and produced by her in collaboration with One Man Two Guvnors director Cal McCrystal and writers Amy Rosenthal, Emma and Beth Kilcoyne and Lucy Powell.
Her music is Acapella soul. These are songs made with just the human voice that express our full range of human emotion. Dimbleby explains, ‘For my shows, I build up full-bodied layers of rhythms and harmonies using a vocal looper a bit like an old eight-track recorder – and when the audience start joining in, it feels as if we are all celebrating together.’ It is the complex harmonies and rhythmic feels that Kate produces from her own voice that make her a must-see performer. When covering anything from Buddy Holly to Michael Jackson to Pharrell Williams, she doesn’t need a full band behind her to create that sound and energy. The feeling is already innate.
Moving away from London, she started to write the songs for her most recent album Songbirds, released in 2017. It is travelling and meeting people that has shaped Dimbleby’s work. Esepcially the time, ‘I trained with Bobby McFerrin (Don’t Worry Be Happy) who’s a genius at building songs entirely with his voice and the audience.’ It saw her touring with a vocal looper to recreate the songs live, with a story always running concurrent with the music and the audience interaction.
Her parents also played an influence, introducing her to groups such as the Ink Spots and then her own discovery in the 1980’s, of the soundtrack to the film, Stand By Me, which had her hooked on greats like Buddy Holly, The Charlottes and BB King. Annie Lennox has always been an inspiration for her voice and her role as a woman in the music industry.
It is right for Dimbleby to say that ‘no technology can ever reproduce the sound of the human voice.’ Dimbleby sees the human voice as raw and strong. It is our best asset in this age of electronic music; the need to hear one another’s voices is more prevalent than ever for Kate. So what reaction does her voice get most from audiences? “I laughed, and I cried” is the thing I hear from so many audience members.’ It is all about the journey for Dimbleby, taking the audience members along for the ride is part of the fun. ‘I talk about the voices I grew up with in my family’, she continues, ‘love and loss, singing with my grandmother at the end of her life and the power of singing to reflect our life experiences.’ The experiences she gathers on her tours stay with her. They move her. Especially, the spontaneous duet with a wonderful singer in a village hall. The willing singer had been ill, and her performance with Kate, in their local village hall, was a return to form. It is those moments of spontaneity that make live performances so singular and not just for her as a performer. She finishes with her audience in mind, ‘I’ve made Sing Happy to create the opportunities for finding them.’
Kate has shows throughout our spring/summer season. For more information click here.