Hayley Dee Westenra's musical talents were spotted by a teacher after she had performed in a school Christmas play as a small girl. Recognised as having perfect pitch, she was encouraged by her parents and teachers to learn to read music, to take up a musical instrument and to have singing lessons. Adding the violin, recorder, piano and guitar to her musical armoury she performed in a succession of school productions before she professionally recorded her own CD Walking In The Air
which she would give away while busking with her sister Sophie on the streets of Christchurch. It was during this period that she was spotted by Universal Records who immediately offered her a contract, eventually releasing both her self-titled debut album and the Christmas themed album My Gift To You in 2001. Still only fourteen and attending school Westenra took vocal lessons from New Zealand opera singer Dame Malvina Major and later signed a recording contract with Decca Records who released her first international album Pure in 2003. A huge success, the record topped the UK Classical charts in which it became the fastest selling International debut in history, it also peaked at No 8 in the UK's mainstream pop charts and with twelve times platinum sales became New Zealand's biggest selling album by a home grown artist ever. Balancing her education with the increasing demands of a professional singing career Westenra's teenage years found her touring the World. In 2003 the sixteen year old soprano performed with the Spanish tenor José Carreras and the Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel at the Vaynol Music Festival in North Wales while the following year she recorded the song 'Here Beside Me' for the animated Disney video movie Mulan II.
In 2005 she released her second international album Odyssey that once again topped the New Zealand charts and peaked at No 1 and No 10 respectively in the UK Classical and mainstream charts. After the release of her own Treasure in 2007 (her third consecutive album to top both the New Zealand and the UK Classical charts) she joined the all female vocal group Celtic Woman, performing with them live and on their 2007 album Celtic Woman: A New Journey. Although her 2009 Christmas album Winter Magic was her least successful release up to that point two years later she was back at the top of the charts with one of her most outstanding recordings. Paradiso was a collaboration with the legendary Ennio Morricone and in addition to pieces especially composed for the project it also included new vocal versions of some of his most famous works with lyrics written by Tim Rice, Don Black, Marilyn and Alan Bergman and Westenra herself. Many songs recorded during her career have featured the soprano singing in different languages and in addition to English she has sung in Irish, Welsh, Maori, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese (Mandarin) while she has released two albums exclusively for the Japanese market - Hayley Sings Japanese Songs (2008) and Hayley Sings Japanese Songs 2 (2009) both of which contain a mixture of songs in English and Japanese. Westenra has built a significant following in the Far East and has released a number of other English language records specifically in that territory including; Wuthering Heights (2004), Crystal (2006) and Prayer (2007) as well as several compilations. She also contributed songs to several other movies and TV series including Lilo & Stitch 2 (2005), The Merchant Of Venice (2005), The New World (2006), Flood (2007) and Jekyll (2007). Later that year she also starred as Maria (opposite Vittorio Grigolo as Tony) in a
studio recording of West Side Story. In 2013 she released the album Hushabye, an intimate collection meant for both children and adults that included songs from films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ('Hushabye Mountain') and Mary Poppins ('Stay Awake') plus traditional lullabies including 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'.
Throughout her career she has performed live and on record with numerous musicians and singers including Andrea Bocelli, Alfie Boe, Aled Jones, Mike Oldfield, Russell Watson, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, André Rieu, DinYi, Blake, Mario Frangoulis, Lee Mead, Helmut Lotti, Jonathan Ansell, Paul Potts, Junichi Inagaki, Rolando Villazón and The Choirboys. She has also performed in front of the great and the good including Queen Elizabeth II, President George W. Bush, The Prince Of Wales, Prince William, Prince Harry, the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra, British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron, plus successive New Zealand Prime Ministers Helen Clark and John Key.
Charitable causes have figured large in Westenra's career from the earliest days of her success, she became an ambassador for UNICEF in 2005, has lent her support to: Act Against Bullying, Classic FM's Music Makers, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (of which she is a patron), the Royal British Legion, Save The Children, the Women's Environmental Network, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, Children With Cerebral Palsy, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Cancer Research UK, Wales Air Ambulance, Children In Need and she is vice president of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust.
Possessing an incredibly pure singing voice Hayley Westenra has established herself as one of the most popular artists of her generation.
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