Born: Cardiff, Wales, 21 February 1986
Best-selling album since 1990: Charlotte Church (1999)
Classical singer Charlotte Church proved to be one of the unexpected stars of the late 1990s with the success of her debut album Voice of an Angel (1998), recorded and released when she was only twelve years old. Church's albums showcase her soprano voice in a variety of musical contexts, including opera arias, folk songs, art songs, and show tunes, all accompanied by world-class orchestras. Church is as much a product of the classical music industry struggling to maintain its shrinking market position as it is a product of her own drive toward success. As a crossover artist, Church has successfully brought her voice, and the music she sings, to a large audience.
An only child from a middle-class Welsh Catholic family, Church began singing publicly at an early age, making a name for herself in local karaoke competitions. Her mother, a former classical guitarist who worked in city government prior to Church's rise to fame, supported her daughter's singing. However, Church herself was responsible for many of her early breaks. She was famously discovered while introducing her aunt (also a singer) on a televised talent show. Her first manager, Jonathan Shalit, quickly arranged for an audition with Sony U.K., which offered her a generous five-album contract.
Church's albums chronicle her development as a singer. Voice of an Angel features songs in three languages—English, Latin, and Welch—carefully chosen to display her voice's best assets while appealing to a wide audience. Her signature song, the "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's play Requiem, showcases her voice's finest qualities: clear high notes, light vibrato, and an often mature sense of phrasing. Charlotte Church (1999) expands her repertoire with carefully selected Italian arias, including "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi. Like Voice of an Angel, it includes a range of folk and show tunes, such as "Summertime" from George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess. With her youthful voice, Church shifts the narrative position of "Summertime" from the mother to the child, and what was once a dispirited lullaby loses its melancholy.
Her next album, Enchantment (2001), is a stylistic departure from earlier albums, with a much greater focus on show tunes rather than opera. Released on the Sony Music imprint (instead of Sony Classical), this album represents Church's concerted effort to shift her focus to pop repertoire.
Church's critics have been many and vocal. While some will grudgingly admit the appeal of her voice, most are quick to lament its inevitable destruction. Others have accused her parents and Sony U.K. of child abuse. Unlike instrumental child protégés, who are often praised for their interpretive abilities, many have declared Church not old enough to understand what she sings. When critics point out that many other children have good (or even better) voices, they either ignore or downplay Church's charisma and stage presence. Many of her fans find her voice a refreshing change from older opera singers too deeply steeped in convention. Church's repertoire of familiar favorites matches their expectations as much as her sweet voice appeals to their ears.
Voice of an Angel (Sony Classical, 1998); Charlotte Church (Sony Classical, 1999); Enchantment (Sony Music, 2001).
caroline polk o'meara
"Church, Charlotte." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/church-charlotte
"Church, Charlotte." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved May 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/church-charlotte
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Church, Charlotte (b. 1986)
Church, Charlotte (b. 1986)
Having released a solo album every year between the ages of twelve and sixteen, Charlotte Church has become the young face of classical music in the early twenty-first century. A self-initiated appearance on a popular local television show featuring talented children thrust Church into the international spotlight from her tiny hometown of Cardiff, Wales, where she was born in 1986. She attended school when home, but had a tutor when on tour performing for such distinguished audiences as Pope John Paul II, President and Mrs. Clinton, and Prince Charles. While she listened to popular singers such as P. Diddy and Gloria Estefan, her own albums included renditions of the Celtic folksongs "Men of Harlech" and "Carrickfergus," Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Pie Jesu," and "Ave Maria." Her personal and professional tastes evolved on each successive album as classical pieces made way for Broadway hits and popular classics.
Charlotte Church's image was defined by the title of her first recording, 1998's Voice of an Angel. Inspired in part by the success of the Three Tenors, or their marketing, record industry executives sought to broaden the audience for classical music. By packaging it in the form of a young performer, they hoped to further refute the genre's image as an inaccessible respite of the elite. While her cherubic image promised salvation through music, it also rescued classical music from poor record sales.
Church's music was nonthreatening to audiences, but critics argued that it was harmful to her still-developing voice. A soprano voice, such as Church's, only achieves full maturity in early adulthood. Some critics claimed that her voice was not technically suitable for the material she performed; others questioned how faithfully and passionately a young girl could sing such works as Stephen Adams's "Holy City."
While the description of Charlotte Church as a child prodigy referred to her talent, her status as a child star was a reflection of the image spun from it. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was commissioned to compose his first serious opera, Mithridates, King of Pontus, at the age of fourteen. However, Mozart's father was promoting only his son, while Church's record company began marketing an entire genre of music via one performer, one child. To many, Charlotte Church became the personification of opera.
Many hoped that Church's angelic image would herald a new age for classical music by bringing other musicians to the mainstream in her wake. This long-term goal was complemented by the immediate one of attracting an audience from among the largest CD-buying demographic groups– adults over forty-five and children between ten and nineteen. The fact that at the age of fourteen Charlotte Church was one of the sixty wealthiest people under the age of thirty in the United Kingdom was at least proof of her image's, if not her own, success.
Official Charlotte Church Website. 2003. Available from <www.charlottechurch.com>.
"Church, Charlotte (b. 1986)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-charlotte-b-1986
"Church, Charlotte (b. 1986)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved May 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-charlotte-b-1986
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Welsh-born soprano prodigy Charlotte Church virtually hip-hopped to fame with the same ease as other children her age might bounce on a pogo stick. She progressed from an impromptu audition over the telephone at age eight, to a spontaneous show stopping performance on British ITV’s Big Big Talent Show at age ten. By the age of twelve she unwittingly found herself immersed in a world of popcorn, pigtails, and Puccini, having earned legitimacy in the recording industry as a classical soprano. By her thirteenth birthday, she had accommodated a series of command performances at the request of a queen, a pope, a president, and a prince respectively. Yet she took her fame in stride and has remained, by all reports, a perfectly normal, albeit talented teenager. Church, who debuted in the United States in January of 1998, earned name recognition by the summer of that year. Later, in October, she performed at the invitation of His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales, at his fiftieth birthday party, and her “Christmas at the Vatican” concert marked a command performance for Pope John Paul II.
Church was born in Llandaff in Cardiff, Wales, on February 21, 1986, the only child of James and Maria Church. Her father worked at a security firm, and her mother managed a housing project prior to supervising her diva daughter’s career. After a brief debut when she was a toddler—singing “Ghostbusters” to a resort crowd with her cousin—Church first auditioned for a children’s television show at age eight. She called the show in response to a broadcaster’s solicitation and sang an impressive rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” over the telephone line for the production personnel. She began voice lessons at the age of nine, and her voice matured with unusual speed and grace. She was not quite eleven years old when she literally stole the spotlight from her own aunt during a talent show performance, again singing Webber’s “Pie Jesu.” When a clip of Church’s solo on the talent show fell into the hands of Jonathan Shalit of Shalit Entertainment in the fall of 1997, the agent recognized her potential within moments of starting the videotape. He signed Church and arranged for an audition with Sony Music in the United Kingdom.
Charlotte Church was not yet a teenager when she entered into a five-record contract with Sony, and she insisted that the recording company include a critical provision in the contract—a trip to Disneyland. She was eleven years old at the time, and her career blossomed within the year, long before she entered her teens. Her first album, Voice of an Angel, was released in March of 1999. The recording includes “Ave Maria,” and what by then was her signature song, “Pie Jesu,” from Requiem. Voice of an Angel, recorded with the orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, earned not only the number one
Born on February 21, 1986, in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales; daughter of James and Maria Church.
Contracted with Sony Music, 1997; albums: Voice of an Angel, 1999; Charlotte Church, 1999; spokesperson for Ford Motor Company’s “Face of the Millennium” campaign, 2000.
slot on the British classical chart, but rose to number ten on the British pop chart, even before its release in the United States. The album sold more than three million copies globally by the year 2000. Other selections on her debut album include “Danny Boy,” “Amazing Grace,” and selections from Franck, Orff, and Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck. In reviewing the album, J. D. Considine of Entertainment cited her “well-schooled vibrato.”
As her album paid testament to her exceptional talent, she received invitations to perform at the finest venues in Britain, including Wales’s Cardiff Arms Park, London’s Palladium, Royal Albert Hall, and at the Lyceum Theatre. She appeared in command performances for England’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and went on to sing in Washington, D.C. before the President of the United States. She sang also for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, and the pontiff impressed the young soprano by his peaceful piety.
Unlike many classical singers who find a limited audience among opera fans, Church has achieved name recognition beyond the spectrum of classical music. Paul Burger, a spokesman for Sony Classics, Church’s record label, noted that the adolescent soprano marketed easily as a crossover artist. She appeals in many ways as a popular singer, despite the classical nature of her repertoire. Burger said of Church, “This girl is a pop star, and she happens to sing classical music,” according to Billboard. Regardless of labels, her youth combined with her mass appeal inspired Toronto Sun’s Jim Slotek to call her “a walking dichotomy of classic versus pop culture.”
Overall Church shies from nothing; her repertoire includes “La Pastorella” by Rossini, “O mio Babbino caro,” by Puccini, and Mozart’s “Voi che sapete.” She is ranked as the best-selling female classical artist worldwide according to a report in January of 2000. Ivor Geraghty in World of Hibernia was impressed that at just 12 years old, Church is “the possessor of a voice more befitting a singer twice her age…. She could well become one of the world’s finest sopranos.” He said of her “Panis Angelicus:” “Church makes this well-known piece her own.” Opera News called Church “this undeniably talented nascent singer,” and added, “Charlotte Church is a plucky young woman who will no doubt survive the maelstrom of a publicity juggernaut whose existence is not her fault.”
In the wake of her sudden fame, Church’s schedule included appearances on the David Letter man Show, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and with Rosie O’Donnell, Jay Leno, and Oprah Winfrey. Church accepted an invitation for January of 1999 to perform at a convention of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM). She made an acting debut on CBS-TV on Touched by an Angel and scheduled an appearance at the rugby World Cup finals in Cardiff, Wales. Ford Motor Company also coaxed Church into a million-dollar contract to appear as the company’s “Face of the Millennium.” The millennium promotion not only furthered the reputation of Ford automobiles, but provided added exposure for Church’s second album, Charlotte Church, released late in 1999. On the Ford commercial, Church sang the album’s single release, “Just Wave Hello.” Also in 2000, Church signed with the William Morris Agency, and her family assumed greater control of her career which by then had earned for the child star approximately $10 million (about six million pounds) in 1999 alone. Prior to severing ties with Shalit, Church signed a deal with Time Warner to publish her memoir.
By January of 2000, Church’s records had sold over two million copies in the United States alone. She surpassed three million records by her fourteenth birthday in February of 2000. Additionally, she was the youngest musician ever to have an album reach the number one position on the classical music charts in the United Kingdom, a distinction that earned her a mention in the Guinness Book of Records.
Church attends school in Wales, and although she spends much of her time with a tutor when her career takes her on tour, her time is well spent, as she scores high grades in her classes—including music, French, and history. Church, who wears glasses when she’s not on stage, enjoys typical teenager pastimes, including video games, pajama parties, and listening to the Spice Girls. Church readily admits to her admiration of other popular singers—such as Gloria Estefan, Puff Daddy, and Celine Dion—and opera virtuosos as well. She loves to shop for clothes, as much as her monthly allowance of approximately $100 per month (50 pounds) permits. As for Church’s dislikes, she hates the traditional ballroom attire that she wears for her classical performances. She nonetheless looks toward a future where one of her greatest accomplishments will be to one day perform as the 15-year-old heroine in the title role of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. It is Church’s further ambition to sing the part of Butterfly at La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy. Church, who is neither proud nor haughty, dreams of standing ovations nonetheless.
Despite her broad travels, her well publicized royal command performances, and her appearances before a president and a pope, Church maintained that the greatest thrill of her career occurred at the MTV Music Awards when she had the opportunity to meet the popular rap singer and movie actor Will Smith.
Voice of an Angel (includes “Pie Jesu”), Sony Classical, March 1999.
Charlotte Church and the London Symphony Orchestra (includes “Just Wave Hello”), Sony Classical, 1999.
Billboard, January 30, 1999, p. 11.
Biography, October 1999, p. 63.
Entertainment, April 23, 1999, p. 60.
Newsweek, February 1, 1999, p. 67.
Opera News, September 1999, p. 98.
People, April 12, 1999, p. 146; December 31, 1999, p. 118.
Telegraph, January 13, 2000.
Time, June 21, 1999, p. 77.
Toronto Sun, February 3, 2000, p. 57.
World of Hibernia, Spring 1999, p. 1952.
“Charlotte Church,” Sony Classical, http://www.sonyclassical.com/music/64356/bio.html (March 7, 1999).
“Charlotte Church: bio,” Yahoo! GeoCities, wysiwyg://57/ http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/State/6542/bio.html (March 7, 2000).
"Church, Charlotte." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/church-charlotte
"Church, Charlotte." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved May 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/church-charlotte