Former busker up for classical Brit awards

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The Independent Culture

A 16-year-old New Zealander described as "the new Charlotte Church" is poised for success at the classical Brits after being nominated for two of the top awards.

A 16-year-old New Zealander described as "the new Charlotte Church" is poised for success at the classical Brits after being nominated for two of the top awards.

Hayley Westenra is in the running for female artist of the year and for best album, Pure , which has sold more than 700,000 copies. Pure soared to the top of the British charts last year, beating Church's previous record for the fastest-selling classical album in the UK.

Westenra's musical career began at 11 when she and her little sister went busking on the streets of her native Christchurch and raised enough money to pay for a recording session at a local studio.

She was signed up by the music giant Universal after her parents made 1,000 copies of a demo CD and sent it out to record labels. Decca Music Group have since signed her up in a worldwide deal, and she has performed live at Wembley with tenor Russell Watson. Westenra has declared herself "baffled" by charges that increasing numbers of attractive young female artists have "dumbed down" the classical music recording industry. The classical Brits have come under fire in previous years for being too influenced by pop and rock concerts, with performances from the OperaBabes in 2002, and from the female crossover quartet Bond last year. The classical singer Renée Fleming, who recorded two songs for the soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings , will be presented with an award for her outstanding contribution to music at the ceremony on 26 May, which will be hosted by the ITN newsreader Katie Derham.

Myleene Klass, who started out as a contestant on Pop Stars , has been nominated for best album for Moving On .

Lesley Garrett's So Deep Is The Night , Luciano Pavarotti's Ti Adoro and Aled Jones's Higher are also on the shortlist for album of the year, which will be chosen by Classic FM listeners.

The Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, who was voted most popular classical performer at last year's Gramophone Awards, will contend with Westenra for the title of best female artist.

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