Interview - Charlie-Jade Jones (Serenade London)

‘I’ve always been kind of across two different genres. You know, I love opera and I love musical theatre.’

In July 2018, Serenade London debuted at The Other Palace with For The Love of Girls, a concert which celebrated the work of female composers and lyricists in musical theatre. 

Ahead of Serenade London's next concert, Love, Labour and Loss, The company's founder, soprano Charlie-Jade Jones, took some time to chat to me about her career, how Serenade London was founded, and what audiences can expect from the company in the future. 

A trained classical singer, Jones graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2015, with a Distinction in Musical Theatre. It was around that time that she met fellow performer Ifan Gwillem Jones, who would go on to co-found Serenade London with her a few years later. 

The pair found that although their vocal styles were very different, people enjoyed them as a combination. 'I really I enjoy crossing over. I enjoy doing really different things' Jones explains, 'and Ifan’s kind of the same. He's quite jazzy and poppy, and I'm obviously not in any way. I’m much more classical and legit.' Nevertheless, the unorthodox combination seemed to impress. 'We were digging out old favourites, a lot of Cole Porter stuff, and we found that it really worked.' And from that revelation, Serenade London was born. 'I wanted to create something. And I wanted it to be completely individual' she recalls. 'There was nothing that I knew of which combined musical theatre, opera, and jazz, and just celebrated song'. 

As previously mentioned, in July 2018 Serenade London made its London debut with For The Love Of Girls, a concert in aid of the charity Plan International UK which aims to empower girls at risk of harmful practices like child marriage, female genital mutilation and violence. 'The hundredth anniversary of women's right to vote in the UK was in all the headlines, and I really want to do a nice evening about education, which celebrated girls. And then an advert came on TV for Plan International UK and I guess all of my thoughts kind of aligned.'

‘Pretty much all of the girls that performed are either friends of mine who I've worked with, or friends of friends'. Jones tells me. But although finding performers was relatively easy, compiling the set list proved to be a bit more of a challenge. 'We suddenly realised it would be slightly harder than we first thought' she laughs. Thankfully, a bit of research led to the discovery of some absolutely perfect songs, which would've otherwise never come to mind. 'We loved finding all these gems that we had no idea about. And it was really nice for the girls as well.' Jones was determined to find a selection of songs which would fit her performers perfectly. 'I've been given songs before that just don’t suit me at all' she confesses, 'so I know how horrible it is'.

After the success of For The Love of Girls, the company's next concert has a lot to live up to. Luckily, the concept of follow up show Love, Labour and Loss, is extremely unique, and allows for a pretty fantastic set list! It will be an evening of musical selections inspired by the works of none other than William Shakespeare. 

'There's never really been a musical review on Shakespeare before' says Jones proudly. 'I spoke to The Globe briefly and they said it sounded really interesting and really cool.' The set list will include opera as well as musical theatre, with songs from musicals like West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate featuring alongside numbers from lesser known shows like Swingin The Dream, a depression era jazz musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. 'I'm not gonna give away the storyline but there is a vague through line, and there's quite a lot of comedy.'

So what's next for Serenade London? Jones is eager to share the company's future plans, which sound like a dream for music fans of all persuasions. 'We've got Serenade at Christmas in December, which is at St Botolph’s Church in Bishopsgate, the most beautiful church I have ever seen in my life, with stunning candle lit chandeliers. And we're also doing something for Valentine's Day as well'. But, Jones says, it's vital that the concerts maintain a sense of intimacy, no matter what happens. 'There are so many amazing companies doing huge concerts, but we really want to keep ours quite intimate. The whole point is to create really intimate, beautiful concerts where people can go and chat to the singers at the end.That's how we started.' And that's how they mean to go on.