Born on February 21, 1986, in Llandaff, Wales; daughter of James and Maria Church. Addresses: Record company--Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., c/o Sony Classics, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211;; Management--William Morris Agency: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 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'sJim 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 Letterman Show,the TodayShow, 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 more than 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.
by Gloria Cooksey
Charlotte Church's Career
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.
- Selected discography
- "Just Wave Hello," 1999.
- 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).