SOPRANO Katie Gilbert says the prospect of performing on home turf for the first time since she graduated is “more nice than terrifying”.

And that is despite the fact the venue is The Vault in Hexham, which is as bijou and intimate as a venue comes.

No, the Stocksfield lass, who gained a first class honours degree in music from Oxford University and a distinction in her vocal performance Masters degree from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, is most definitely looking forward to the gig on November 16.

Accompanied by classical guitarist and conservatoire peer Sue Whittaker, Katie will present her own eclectic mix of “just very lovely” classical and folk songs.

There will be Spanish songs that sound quite ‘flamenco-ey’, French songs from the Auvergne, songs written by Schubert and sung in German, Elizabethan-English songs, oh, and some rousing Geordie anthems to round off the evening.

When Katie (nee Cochrane) started at Oxford, “it was flute, flute, flute”, she said, but the influence of the choral singing she’d been introduced to as a sixth-former was percolating.

One of her teachers at Newcastle’s Dame Allan’s School had pointed her in the direction of an evensong choir that sang each week in Newcastle Cathedral.

“I enjoyed it so much I joined a chapel choir at Oxford and that’s how it all started,” she said. “That’s how I became a singer rather than a flautist.

“My background has been choirs and the choral tradition – it wasn’t ‘stagy’ or musical theatre.”

As she was in a choir at university, she qualified for weekly singing lessons, which was perhaps the factor that set her off on a professional musical path.

She still has lessons with a voice coach today, although not as often now she has to pay for them herself, she laughs.

“I can’t afford to have them every week, but I see my teacher, in Milton Keynes, about every six weeks, when she does what she calls an MOT on my voice.

“Because your body is your instrument when you’re a singer, you always have to be aware of tensions in your life and do your best to ward them off.

“You have to make sure problems don’t affect your voice and it takes someone else – someone who can look at you from the outside – to tell you if they are.”

Katie has private singing pupils herself and also teaches at a girls’ school in Oxford, although she will be leaving that particular job at Christmas.

One, it is too much of a commute from the home she shares with her mathematician husband Mark in London and, two, she is pregnant with their first child.

The latter is curtailing her operatic career for now. “Operas are queued up six or seven months in advance,” she said, “so auditions now are for productions that are going to take place next spring, and the baby’s due in March.”

As far as Katie’s concerned though, concerts don’t play second fiddle to opera. If anything, the joy of giving a recital reigns supreme.