Hayley Dee Westenra (born 10 April 1987 in Christchurch, New Zealand) is a New Zealand soprano of Irish heritage. Her first internationally released album, Pure, reached #1 on the UK classical charts in 2003 and has sold more than two million copies worldwide. Westenra has received awards for her contribution to music, both in New Zealand and elsewhere.
Pure is the fastest-selling international début classical album to date, and Westenra became an international star, aged 16, when the first of her international albums was released. In August 2006, Westenra joined the Irish group Celtic Woman and toured with them on their 2007 Spring Tour.
Westenra has performed for dignitaries around the world. She is the youngest UNICEF Ambassador to date and has contributed to charities around the world.
Her pursuit of a musical career began at the age of six, when she was cast in the lead singing role of "Little Star" in the Christmas play at her school, Cobham Intermediate. After the show, a teacher who had watched the performance approached her parents to tell them that their daughter was pitch perfect. The teacher encouraged Westenra to learn how to play a musical instrument to improve her abilities, and she duly learned to read music and play the violin, piano, and recorder. She began voice lessons and discovered a passion for musical theatre. By age 11, she had performed more than 40 times on stage but was often given male parts: "I got boy parts quite often. In ballet, there were not enough boys. So they ended up choosing half and half. I got chosen to wear the grey suit and the wig, and not the pretty dresses. In A Christmas Carol, I was Tiny Tim, so I got to be quite a sick, sick boy. There was a severe lack of singing boys and, at the time, it was quite disappointing."
At the age of 12, Westenra entered a professional recording studio to record Walking in the Air, a demo album originally created for friends and family; only about 1000 copies were made. Some time later, after finishing her album, both Westenra and her sister, Sophie, busked in Christchurch. The pair drew a large crowd, and one woman asked the girls if they had ever recorded anything. The woman turned out to be a journalist with Canterbury Television, and she asked Westenra to appear on air.
A concert promotion company, under the direction of Gray Bartlett, watched the show and became interested in working with Westenra. Shortly after this, she was offered a recording deal with Universal New Zealand before she met any representatives of the company. On this label, Westenra released a self-titled album of show tunes and light classical songs, as well as My Gift to You, a CD of Christmas music. Following the success of her albums, she was offered and later received lessons from Dame Malvina Major.
Pure's success ensured that Decca would take Westenra seriously. Some of her fame today can be directly attributed to the way in which Decca promoted her. Although the traditional audience of classical crossover music is that of adult women, they also promoted her music to children and teenagers. Westenra recorded the end-title song for Disney's movie Mulan II. They also featured her in the national Radio Disney music education tour for middle-school students. David Horn, the producer of her live TV special which aired on PBS' Great Performances, said, "Her singing is so gorgeous, it's reminiscent of the great boy-soprano sound of Anglican church choirs." This special was entitled, Hayley Westenra: Live from New Zealand.
Decca has also promoted Westenra on television. She took her first acting role on the US programme American Dreams ("Charade"), where she played guitar and sang "Who Painted the Moon Black?". While she was being promoted in Los Angeles, California, Marc Johnston, senior VP/GM for the Universal Classics Group, said, "When she was out there, people were giving her scripts to read, and she had a few rather impromptu auditions. So some film and TV roles are currently in the works." In 2005, she was featured in the song "Bridal Ballad" recorded for the movie The Merchant of Venice. In 2006, she was featured on the motion picture soundtrack for The New World for the song "Listen to the Wind".
Westenra was the 2004 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards winner of "Highest Selling New Zealand Album" and "International Achievement Award" On 20 February 2004, Prime Minister Helen Clark awarded her for being the first New Zealand artist to receive the tenfold platinum status in the New Zealand market, where she held the number one artist position for 18 weeks. She has won two Japanese Grammies for her work (Song of the Year, "Amazing Grace" and Album of the Year, Pure). Also in 2004, she began her world tour of New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and the UK, performing in a concert in November for Her Majesty The Queen, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush.. In her autobiography, she remembered feeling more nervous in her audition, where she sight read an unreleased piece to Andrew Lloyd Webber that he had written. Her successful career was again bolstered at the Sydney Opera House where she received a rare standing ovation. She concluded 2004 with a successful Christmas tour of the east coast of the United States as guest soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra.
In 2005, she released a new album called Odyssey. A mix of classical, pop, Celtic, and new age music, she co-wrote and arranged some of the tracks on the album, which was released in the United States on 18 October 2005. A more recent version of Odyssey containing several recordings not on the original album was released in the United Kingdom on 10 April 2006, her 19th birthday. To conclude 2005, she made an appearance on Kurt Browning's programme Gotta Skate, which aired on 18 December, in which she performed with Andrea Bocelli.
Westenra spent the first half of 2006 performing as a supporting act for the pop-opera quartet Il Divo on a worldwide tour, though in March she performed solo concerts in the U.S. as well. That tour officially ended in June, but was then extended by six performances. She then held several concerts in the UK and Germany through the end of the northern summer. On 5 September 2006, Westenra was named as one of the ten outstanding young people in the world by the Junior Chamber International. On 13 November 2006 she participated in the dedication of the New Zealand War Memorial in London. Three of Westenra's great-uncles served in World War II, one was killed.
After releasing Pure, Westenra and her family moved to London. She continues to live in a central London flat, even though her family subsequently returned home to Christchurch. Although she spent most of 2006 touring, she did visit them when her schedule allowed.
In August 2006, Westenra joined Celtic Woman and is featured on their second major DVD/CD album, Celtic Woman: A New Journey, which was released 30 January 2007 and immediately hit the Billboard Top 200 music chart at #4. She toured with the group in the United States in 2007, with scheduled appearances in 88 venues across the country; the tour ended in June of the same year.
Westenra's third international album, Treasure, was released on 26 February 2007 in the UK. All the songs on this CD were chosen by Westenra, who gave her record company "no say in the matter. I basically didn't let them in on what I was recording until the last minute so they had no choice. I didn't give them much room to disagree." Tracks on this album include "E Pari Ra", "One Fine Day", "Let Me Lie", "Danny Boy", and "Abide With Me". Westenra co-wrote four of the fifteen tracks, and the album also features singer Humphrey Berney. The US/Australia/NZ edition followed in March under the name Celtic Treasure. Westenra dedicated the album to her grandmother, Shirley Ireland. Inside the sleeve of the UK edition, she wrote "I come from a musical family, and one with a real sense of history. My forefathers were on the maiden voyage from Ireland to Christchurch, New Zealand in 1850 – there's even a commemoration plaque in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, which bears the name Westenra. My grandmother used to sit me on her knee and sing songs like Danny Boy from as early as I can remember. A singer herself in her earlier years, she has always been a never-ending source of songs. It's this legacy of music that she's been passing down to me since my childhood, and it's many of these beautiful old songs that I've explored here on my album."
On St. Patrick's Day 2007, she performed again for President George W. Bush at the White House. She had plans to present the president with a petition to place a mandatory carbon cap on the United States. The goal of the petition was compliance with the commitment made by President Clinton in previous years to follow the Kyoto Protocol. However, she was not able to present the petition because the president was rushed away after her concert, due to security concerns.
Westenra starred as Maria in the 2007 recording of West Side Story, which was released on 30 July. On 28 July, she starred in Woburn LIVE 2007, where she performed a selection of the music of West Side Story with the other recording artists from the 2007 release.
On Sunday, 17th August 2008 Westenra participated in the tribute concert Lyrics by Don Black which was held at the London Palladium featuring performances of Black's songs by a selection of guest artists. She performed the duet Amigos Para Siempre with Jonathan Ansell, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The evening, hosted by Michael Parkinson was recorded by BBC Radio 2 Friday Night is Music Night and broadcast on Friday, 22nd August 2008.
Westenra is known as a vegetarian/pescetarian, and was nominated for PETA's 'Sexiest Vegetarian' for 2007. However, when touring she is sometimes unable to carry on her modus vivendi, concerned about getting the appropriate amounts of nutrients. She is sometimes unable to obtain the vegetarian sources she prefers, and on those occasions she eats meat to fulfil her nutritional requirements. Westenra told the New Zealand Herald, "I'm completely bursting the bubble now, aren't I? That's that ruined."
The song "Prayer" composed by Secret Garden and performed by Westenra is featured in the trailers for the Nintendo Wii video game, Endless Ocean, as well as in the game itself. Westenra also contributes several other songs including her rendition of the Māori folk song "Pokarekare Ana".
Westenra is the youngest UNICEF Ambassador to date. In 2005, Westenra visited Ghana to publicize her project, Bikes for Ghana, and actively help funding for UNICEF; this involved raising money to purchase bicycles for young girls, allowing them to get to their schools from outlying surrounding areas. When she was later interviewed about her charity work in Ghana she had this to say, "I met girls who had been given bikes and I could see how much it meant to them. We wanted to borrow one just for a photo and they wouldn't let them go they were really reluctant".
In June 2006 she appeared at a fund raiser for UK charity Act Against Bullying. On 8 June 2007, Westenra performed in a fund raising concert for her UNICEF charity, Bikes for Ghana, at the Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent. She is currently working on raising funds for one of her favorite projects in Ghana, to install playgrounds for children, with rides which harness "kid power" to drive pumps used for providing clean drinking water from wells in that country. Hundreds of thousands of children have been victimized by contaminated drinking water in Ghana, and this project is the focus of Hayley.
In recognition of Westenra's charitable activities, the Junior Chamber International designated her as one of the ten most influential young women in the world in 2006. She was the first New Zealander so honored. In 2008, Westenra was selected by the New Zealand Society to receive heir Global Kiwis Young Achiever Award for remarkable achievement in her field of endeavor on a global scale.
She has also been the ambassador for Save the Children in Hong Kong. More recently, she took part in a breast cancer awareness campaign in New Zealand. One of the other charities which she helps is the Women's Environmental Network. Another major charity she helps is the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy. All the children who receive her help at this Center are disabled.
|2000||Walking in the Air||An independently produced "demo"||New Zealand|
|2001||Hayley Westenra||Her first studio album||New Zealand|
|2001||My Gift to You||A Christmas Music CD||New Zealand|
|2004||Wuthering Heights||The album is referred to as a "mini-album" in her autobiography||Japan|
|2007||Amazing Grace - The Best of Hayley Westenra||Japan|
|2007||Prayer||This album contains songs which were not previously released in Japan||Japan|
|2008||Hayley sings Japanese Songs||This album contains Hayley's English rendition of Japanese pop songs||Japan|
|2003||Pure||Her first release outside New Zealand and Australia; topped the charts at #1 NZ, #7 AUS, #7 UK, #70 US|
|2005||Odyssey||Released on 8 August in New Zealand; released 18 October in the US; hit the charts at #1 NZ, #10 UK|
|2005||Live From New Zealand||Recording of a live concert in New Zealand; also includes biographical information as a special feature on the DVD|
|2007||Celtic Woman: A New Journey||Westenra joined the group Celtic Woman in the production of their third DVD, A New Journey,|
|2007||Treasure||Third international album, released in the UK on 26 February and in the U.S. on 13 March (under the name Celtic Treasure) On 26 March, just a month after its release, Treasure topped the New Zealand album charts, and has so far gone two-times platinum (35,000 copies sold) in New Zealand). The album was #9 in the UK charts.|
|2003||Russell Watson Live||Sang "I Dreamed a Dream" and a duet with Watson on the song "Pokarekare Ana"|
|2004||Nussknacker und Mausekönig||Sang "Peaches and Creamy World"|
|2005||Mulan II Soundtrack||Sang "Here Beside Me"|
|2005||The Merchant of Venice Soundtrack||Sang "Bridal Ballad"|
|2005||Lilo & Stitch 2||Sang "Always"|
|2006||The New World soundtrack||Sang "Listen to the Wind"|
|2007||Celtic Woman: A New Journey||Joined the group and sang "The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun", "Over the Rainbow", "Beyond the Sea", "The Last Rose of Summer", "Spanish Lady", "Mo Ghile Mear" and "You Raise Me Up". She solos "Scarborough Fair" and "Lascia Ch'io Pianga".|
|2007||West Side Story||Sang the part of Maria|
|2007||Endless Ocean||Sang various songs including "Prayer" and "Pokarekare Ana"|
|2007||Music of the Spheres||Sang "On My Heart" and "On My Heart (reprise)"|
|2008||Passione||Sang "Be My Love" with Mario Frangoulis|
|2008||Tenor at the Movies||Sang "Un Giorno Per Noi" from Romeo and Juliet with Jonathan Ansell|
|2008||Songs of Praise||Sang "Abide With Me" from her album Treasure on Sunday 3 August|
|2004||Pure||New Zealand tour|
|2004||The Lord of the Rings Symphony||Featured Soprano|
|2005||UNICEF Benefit Concert||Sang the official UNICEF song "Children First" at the H.C. Andersen jubilee in Copenhagen, Denmark, 2005. The song is a duet and was sung with Morten Harket, vocalist of the Norwegian band, a-ha.|
|2006||Il Divo World Tour||Supporting act for some of the concerts in this tour.|
|2006||Celtic Woman - A New Journey Concert||During the live concert at Slane Castle in Ireland, Westenra made her début as the sixth member of Celtic Woman.|
|2007||Celtic Woman - A New Journey - US Tour||Toured with Celtic Woman between March and April, with additional appearances in May.|
|2008||The Central Band of the Royal British Legion||One performance as a special guest on 29th March at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon|
|2008||BBC Songs of Praise||Recorded with the Mevagissey Male Choir at Truro Cathedral|
|2008||Classical Brit Award Ceremony||Selected as a finalist and performed during the ceremony in Great Britain.|
|2008||Afghanistan Tour||Performed for North Atlantic Treaty Organization servicemen in war zone.|
|2008||Japan Tour||Performed in live venues and on television across Japan in May and June, 2008.|
|2008||USA - Independence Day Celebration||Performed "Shenandoah" at the U.S. Capitol before a live audience of 300,000 and a television broadcast audience (on PBS) of millions, and additionally on NPR. The concert was also carried live on the American Forces Network (AFN) to US military personnel in 175 countries and onboard 140 US Navy ships at sea around the world.|
|2008||United Kingdom Tour||Performed in numerous live venues across Great Britain in July and August, 2008.|
|2008||River of Dreams Tour||Performed in numerous live venues across Great Britain in October and November, 2008.|
Interview - Hayley Westenra: If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Choose to Be Me; Hayley Westenra Takes a Break from Exam Revision to Talk to Alun Prichard
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Go: Gran's Girl; Hayley Westenra's Appearing in Llangollen This Summer and You Could Win the Chance to Meet Her on a VIP Weekend
Apr 27, 2007; Byline: By DAVID POWELL SONGS inspired by Hayley Westenra's gran will be unveiled by the teenage opera star when she performs in...
On the Road Again; She Made Her UK Debut at Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival, Now Hayley Westenra Is Looking Forward to Performing in Wales Once More. the International Soprano Chats to Karen Price about Wedding Bells, Welsh Cakes and Singing with Her Heroes
Feb 24, 2012; FOR almost a decade, Hayley Westenra has been the darling of the classical world. She's topped the charts internationally,...