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Ciao, that's what I call music

Carly Paoli tells Philip Halcrow how her music has been influenced by her English and Italian roots

I pray every time I go onstage

WITH some of them in the UK and others in Italy, Carly Paoli’s family have been a passport to a varied musical education. The singer received formal training at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts and the Royal Northern College of Music in the UK. But she also learnt her art by singing in Italian piazzas.

‘I grew up in Mansfield, but my mother’s family was based in Puglia, and the time I spent there became part of my training,’ she says. ‘Italy is hot in the summer, and every night, even in small communities, people hold festivals and celebrate music. All the generations gather together on the piazza and listen to classical music.

‘So during my free time from studying in the UK, I spent lots of time in the south of Italy, performing in the piazzas. It was invaluable stage experience.’

Carly – who describes her sound as ‘classical crossover’ – seems to have discovered early in life that singing was her forte.

‘Even when I was four years old, I would sing from morning to night,’ she says. ‘It started with me watching Disney movies and singing along with all the characters. Then my mum began to buy me the MGM musicals, so I became interested in stars such as Judy Garland and Gene Kelly.

‘When I was about nine, I went to my first performing arts school at the weekends. It was there that a singing coach pulled my mum to one side and suggested that I have private lessons.’

Carly is now sharing stages with figures such as José Carreras. She says she had always looked on the tenor as a ‘go-to singer’, explaining: ‘Whenever I was given a new song by my coach, straight away I’d look on YouTube to see how some of the greats sang it, and one of the main names I’d look for was Carreras.’

She recently completed a tour of the UK with Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro, and she is preparing to headline a concert at London’s Cadogan Hall in February. But Italy has also continued to play a starring role in her career. Last year, alongside Andrea Bocelli and Elaine Paige, she took part in a concert at the Forum in Rome. Earlier this year, she sang at an event at the Castello Angioino di Gallipoli in Puglia during which she was awarded the Premio Barocco, an honour given in recognition of achievements in art and culture.

The Italian influence can be detected on her debut album, Singing My Dreams. Among its tracks is a version of Ennio and Andrea Morricone’s theme music for the film Cinema Paradiso, to which Carly has added English lyrics.

‘To see my writing credit alongside a legend such as Ennio Morricone is beyond anything I could ever have dreamt of,’ she says. ‘But so much has happened, and it’s all because it is part of God’s tapestry. I believe that everything happens for a reason. It took me three years to get the album ready for release. When you go to colleges to study as a singer, you’re taught that the first thing you have to learn about is rejection, because you’re going to experience a lot more rejection than acceptance. Doors were slammed in my face. I went through all of that, but I had to be patient and trust in God’s timing.’

Carly says that she and her family ‘have a strong faith in God and in Jesus’. She traces the origins of her faith back to her mum’s experience of The Salvation Army.

‘My grandmother had it quite difficult as a young mum. My grandfather had left and gone back to Italy, and she had five children to look after. One day, a Salvation Army man came round to my grandmother’s house – I think he was collecting. She had nothing to give anybody, but she brought him in and made him a hot chocolate. He could see how they were struggling and how, although it was cold, she couldn’t afford to keep the fire going. The following day he came round with two big bags of coal.

‘After that, my grandmother and my mum and her brothers and sisters went to The Salvation Army, where they found friends and a huge amount of support.

‘My mum got her faith from The Salvation Army.’

Carly says that faith goes hand in hand with her music-making.

‘I pray every time I go onstage. I pray for God’s blessing and hope that my music can do some good.

‘I always get nervous before a performance,’ she says, ‘so I often listen to songs by a Christian singer, David Phelps. He’s so free when he sings. You can tell that when he sings it’s not actually for the audience, but for God. He makes me feel good. And that’s what music can do – it can celebrate faith and love, and lift your mood.’

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