Biographies from Hayley's official website
New Zealander Hayley Westenra signed her first international recording contract with Universal Records in the UK at the tender age of 14. Her first release under the deal, Pure (2003), then became the fastest selling international debut album in the history of the UK classical charts.
Her new-found success meant spending months at a time in the Britain, being supervised by one parent at a time. They alternated between looking after her younger brother and sister back in Christchurch. “Looking back it was tough on both my parents,” she recalls. “My Dad gave up his job, it was proving too much.”
At the time there was certainly a lot going on in the Westenra world. Signed to a major label making international albums, needing to promote them and still fitting in schoolwork and GCSE exams, there was a huge conflict. She valued her education, but at the same time, “I was thinking I’m going to be a singer. A big singer or a small singer, that didn’t matter, but I was going to be singing.”
With successive albums, Odyssey (2005), Treasure (2007) and River of Dreams: The Very Best of Hayley Westenra (2008), Hayley proved that that early success was no fluke; to date, she has sold over 4 million albums worldwide. Her last album, Paradiso (2011), took her status to a new level, when she recorded in Rome with legendary film composer Ennio Morricone and his orchestra.
“Over the years I’ve learnt more and more about music and my interpretation of the music is different,” she explains. “I suppose I’m digging deeper and deeper in myself and putting more out there rather than just singing a song – it’s no longer singing without any life experience.”
After all, she has sung for such luminaries as George W. Bush and Tony Blair, has been personal songbird to Her Majesty The Queen four times and has sung for both Princes William and Harry.
Hayley has also performed at many prestigious sporting events, including football (the FA Cup Final), baseball (the MLB in the US), tennis (the Mercedes Cup in Los Angeles) and rubgy, with her proudest duty – singing the New Zealand national anthem in support of her much-loved All Blacks rugby team.
Since the release of Paradiso, Hayley has had the honour of appearing in front of HRH The Princess Royal at the Royal Variety Performance; she was the special guest on the Operastar 2012 series finale in Seoul, South Korea; and she performed at the closing ceremony of the Second Beijing International Film Festival with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra with conductor Michael Seal.
In autumn 2012, Hayley took part in the prestigious David Foster & Friends tour of the Pacific Rim in autumn 2012, appearing alongside Chaka Khan, Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, Paul Young and of course, the legendary David Foster himself. To round a busy year off, along with Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt and Andrea Corr, she guested at the Tim Janis American Christmas Carol gala concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall, in aid of the Golden Hat Foundation, a charity set up to aid people suffering from autism, which has Kate Winslet as its figurehead.
Despite her busy career, Hayley works tirelessly for charitable causes whenever she can. She collaborates regularly with the Royal British Legion to support British troops, and is now commonly referred to as the ‘Forces Songbird’.
Hayley was also one of the youngest ambassadors for UNICEF when she first stepped into the role in 2005. Her special project was bikes for Ghana, raising money so girls could ride to school. “I’m looking at starting a new project in Laos. People always say ‘oh, it’s so great that you do all this charity work.’ But it makes you feel really good inside and it’s given me the opportunity to give something back.
“I am now also vice-president of the Vera Lynn Trust. We support children with cerebral palsy, helping the parents, the children and the schools, which the government does not fund.” Vera Lynn had asked her round to her house for tea to take on the role. Dame Vera has always been extremely fond of Westenra and they have worked together on several projects. “I am her baton carrier – someone who can keep up the work she started.”
In recent months, Hayley has been working on a new album, entitled Hushabye, which is scheduled for release in mid-June 2013. No doubt it will open yet another chapter in this songbird’s successful career.
Hayley Westenra began performing when she was just 6 years old and made her first recording in a professional studio at 12. She was still only 16 when she released her debut international CD, Pure. It rapidly became the fastest-selling debut album from a classical artist, and reached the Top 10 of the pop charts in 11 countries. Her albums have sold more than four million copies worldwide to date. "Pure" was certified by the official UK chart compilers as the best selling classical album of the 21st Century.
Her popularity and approachability have brought many opportunities, including offers to perform for royalty and Heads of State. She's also UNICEF's youngest-ever ambassador, an energetic supporter, both in awareness and financially, and after huge success with her ‘Bikes For Ghana Appeal' Hayley revisited Ghana in 2008 where she started work on her second project – building water pumps. Hayley is proud to be the first official ambassador of Classic Fm Music Makers.
But it's the mesmerising appeal of her music which has provided the platform for her other endeavours. Filing her under "classical" only tells a fraction of the story.
Hayley requires a quite different quality in her voice when she performs at any of the numerous sporting events around the World, which have included football (the FA Cup Final, in The European Champions League) baseball (the NBA in the US), Tennis (The Mercedes Cup in Los Angeles) and what is her proudest duty, singing the New Zealand anthem for her beloved All Blacks rugby team.
Hayley is in great demand as a duet partner and has sung with, among others, Jose Carreras, Bryn Terfel and Andrea Bocelli and toured with Il Divo. PBS recorded an hour long "Great Performances" TV Special in New Zealand and again in October 2006 PBS recorded another special with her during her trip to Canada for Celtic Colors. It was whilst recording another TV Special in Canada with Andrea Bocelli that Hayley saw the first Celtic Woman Special and although in the middle of recording her third album, she accepted the chance when invited to join the Celtic Woman project.
2008 has seen Hayley awarded the Global Kiwis Young Achiever Award. The Award was established to recognise a young Kiwi under the age of 35, at the start of their career, who has made remarkable achievements in their field of endeavour. In Spring 200 Hayley performed at and was nominated for Best Album at the Classical Brit Awards 2008. November 2008 saw Elaine Paige present Hayley with the Varity Club Showbiz Awards 2008 Classical Performer of the Year. Hayley rounded off 2008 with the release of her River of Dreams Album followed by her River Of DreamsTour, in between jetting off to Iraq on a Hercules where she was honoured to have launched the British Legion's Poppy Appeal live from Basra.
In December 2007 it was announced Hayley Westenra was the biggest selling Classical artist of the 21st Century.
Hayley's debut international album PURE went straight in at No.8 in the UK pop album charts and No.1 in the Classical Charts, making her the fastest-selling debut classical artist of all time. The album turned GOLD in the UK in one week and has since hit DOUBLE PLATINUM.
PURE went on to be the best selling album of all time in New Zealand, becoming 12 times Platinum and spending 18 weeks in the pop charts. It also went Platinum in Australia, Gold in Hong Kong and made the top 10 national pop charts in 11 countries.
Along with her second album ODYSSEY, third album TREASURE, West Side Story and Celtic Woman, Hayley has achieved combined sales of over four million albums around the world.
Hayley has performed for Her Majesty the Queen on a number occasions, President Bush and Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and in July 2007 Hayley was asked to perform for the Dalai Lama.
Hayley is the youngest ever Ambassador for UNICEF. Her Bikes for Ghana' campaign was a huge success and provided 6,000 bikes to help young Ghanaian girls attend school and find a better future. Hayley revisited Ghana in 2008 to continue her work with UNICEF, this time launching a new water pumps project. She has also been an Ambassador for Save the Children, Hong Kong, is a patron of the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre in Auckland, and is Matron of WEN (Women's Environmental Network).
Hayley has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, Wembley Arena, Royal Albert Hall, The White House and Kensington Palace. Hayley sang at Capitol Hill, Washington as part of 2008 official Fourth of July celebrations .
Hayley has duetted with Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras and Bryn Terfel. She has also appeared as a special guest with the World's leading orchestra's including the Moscow Philharmonic, The Boston Pops and the RPO.
Hayley's Film and TV work has been extensive. She took her first acting role on the US programme American Dreams where she played guitar and sang. In 2005 she recorded the theme for Al Pacino's ‘Merchant of Venice', two films for Disney, and Terrence Mallick's motion picture soundtrack for ‘New World'. In July 2007 Hayley recorded the theme for the BBC's six part drama series, ‘Jekyll' (starring James Nesbitt) and for ‘Flood' (ITV film starring Robert Carlyle, Tom Courtney, Joanne Whalley and David Suchet). Recently she has been asked to sing and play a small part in a major film due to be filmed in 2009.
Hayley has performed the relevant national anthems before many major sporting events, including Football (the FA Cup Final, The European Champions League), Baseball (the NBA in the US), Tennis (the Mercedes Cup in Los Angeles) – but her proudest duty is to sing the national anthem for her beloved All Blacks rugby team, who always win when she opens for them.
In Oct 2007 at the age of 20 years Hayley released her autobiography "In Her Own Voice".
Hayley kicked off her 2008 with a tour that sold out in record time in New Zealand.
In February 2008, Hayley was awarded Global Kiwis Young Achiever Award 2008.
November 2008 saw Elaine Paige presenting Hayley with the Varity Club Showbiz Awards 2008 Classical Performer of the Year.
Hayley performed at and was nominated for Best Album at the Classical Brit Awards 2008.
In September 2008 Hayley was asked to perform at Andrew Lloyd Webbers 60th Birthday celebrations in Hyde Park London.
October 2008 saw Hayley launch the Poppy Appeal from Basra, Iraq and then go on to perform at Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall in the presence of HM The Queen.
Biography is © www.hayleywestenra.com