Taking on Joni Mitchell, Judy Garland and an opera classic made famous by Maria Callas is an ambitious set list for even the most seasoned of singers.
Mary-Jess Leaverland’s homecoming concert at Gloucester Guildhall certainly didn’t pull any punches when it came to choosing what songs to perform. One minute we were listening to her rendition of the Downton Abbey theme tune and the next it was a jazz version of Silent Night finishing up with Mercy by Duffy.
Despite donning a sophisticated side split sequinned gown, at 23, Mary-Jess looks like she could be the older classmate of the girls from Ribston Hall School choir who sang for us before she came on stage.
But don't be fooled by her youthful looks as she has certainly packed in a varied career since she left Ribston to study music and Chinese at university and she performed on stage tonight as an accomplished singer looking totally at home.
It is clear singing in front of people, whether that is for an audience of seven or 70 million as she did when competing on the Chinese version of the X Factor, is what gets her up in the morning.
Mary-Jess put her all into every performance and her crystal clear vocals with perfect diction are clearly a result of a great deal of hard work over the years. She was faultless throughout.
In the big operatic classics such as Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro and Ave Maria, she held the audience in the palm of her hand.
Her soprano voice was packed full of emotion, particularly on Ave Maria which is a song her grandmother used to sing and by the time she had finished the number, there were quite a few rustling tissue packets being handed around.
This operatic side of her voice is clearly where her real strength lies and while she still gave fantastic renditions of the popular covers and more modern original work, the hairs on the back of the neck moment definitely came during the powerful classical performances.
Mary-Jess has a great 2014 ahead of her with plans for an EP and more on the cards and it is clear, the best is yet to come for this determined singer and songwriter and we wish her every success.