Charlotte Maria Church (born February 21, 1986) is a Welsh singer and television presenter. She rose to fame in childhood as a classical crossover singer before branching into pop music in 2005. By 2007, she had sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, her first three classical crossover albums accounting for the majority.
Church was born Charlotte Maria Reed in Llandaff, a district of Cardiff, Wales. She was raised a Roman Catholic by her mother, Maria, who was separated from Church’s biological father. Church was adopted by her mother’s second husband, James Church in 1998. Her break came at 11 when she sang “Pie Jesu” on the television show Talking Telephone Numbers in 1997, followed by her performance on ITV’s Big, Big Talent Show in 1998. This led to concerts at Cardiff Arms Park, the Royal Albert Hall and opening for Shirley Bassey in Antwerp. She also received a vocal scholarship to Howell’s Girls School in Cardiff where she started in 1998. She balanced performing and school with help from tutors for when she was on the road and said in many interviews that she was “just like every other girl her age”.
Church was then introduced to the Cardiff impresario, Jonathan Shalit, who became her manager and negotiated a contract with Sony BMG. Her first album, Voice of an Angel was a collection of arias, sacred songs, and traditional pieces that sold millions worldwide and made her the youngest artist with a No. 1 album on the British classical crossover charts.
Church appeared on PBS specials. Her self-titled second album also included operatic, religious, and traditional tracks. One, the soaring and inspirational Just Wave Hello, was the centerpiece of a millennium-themed ad campaign for the Ford Motor Company. The song’s full-length video, featuring Church, won acclaim at the Detroit Auto Show and introduced her to new fans. The track reached #31 in her native UK.
In 2000, she released Dream a Dream, an album of Christmas carols. It included Church’s first foray into a more pop-influenced style in the title track Dream a Dream, borrowing the melody from Fauré’s Pavane and featuring young American country singer Billy Gilman. Church also sang with Gilman in “Sleigh Ride” on his CD Classic Christmas.
In 2001, Church added more pop, swing, and Broadway with her album Enchantment. That year, movie audiences heard Church for the first time in the 2001 Ron Howard film A Beautiful Mind. Celine Dion was beginning a concert engagement in Las Vegas and was not available to perform the film’s end title song, “All Love Can Be”, composer James Horner enlisted Church and the song was re-written for her vocal range. Church also handled other vocal passages throughout the score.
In 2002, at 16, she released a ‘best of’ album called Prelude, and took part in the Royal Christmas tour alongside Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, concluding her classical music career. Her next album, Tissues and Issues, would be a pop release.
Articles emerged in the UK press in March and April of 2008 stating that she was still training classically and was contemplating a return to classical crossover at some point. Church has sung in religious services in Taizé. She has also performed before Pope John Paul II and Bill Clinton, the former United States President.
Church made her first venture out of classical music in February 2003 providing vocals for the Jürgen Vries (aka Darren Tate) single “The Opera Song”. She was credited on the sleeve with her initials, CMC. The track reached number 3 in the UK charts.
In 2005, she issued her first pop album Tissues and Issues and the first four singles have all been at least moderately successful in the UK with “Crazy Chick” reaching no. 2, “Call My Name” number 10, “Even God Can’t Change the Past” number 17, and “Moodswings (to Come at Me like That)” number 14. Although these were released in Australia as well, they failed to reach the same level of success there, and in March 2006 it was announced that there would be no US releases of Church’s pop work until she had achieved a number 1 hit in the UK.
In April 2006, she performed three concerts in Glasgow, London, and Cardiff, in venues holding between 2,000 and 3,000 people; the dates at London and Cardiff were sold out. Supported by Irish band the New Druids, Church performed a mix of tracks from her debut pop album and a number of pop covers including Prince’s “Kiss” and Gloria Estefan’s “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”. Though Church hinted at the possibility of a full tour in the future, none has taken place to date.
In November 2006, it was announced that she and Sony had parted ways. According to her publicist, this was a mutual decision reached after a series of meetings, ostensibly since her five and later six album deal had come to an end. There was some speculation that Church had decided to take a break from her singing career, in order to focus on her more successful television show. Others suggested that the performance of her pop releases in the charts also contributed to the decision.
Acting and television career
Church has made a number of cameo appearances on television. She appeared in the CBS series Touched by an Angel, starred in the 1999 Christmas special of Heartbeat, and in 2003 she presented an episode of Have I Got News For You. In 2005 she played herself in an episode of The Catherine Tate Show, in a sketch with the fictional character Joannie Taylor.
She made her silver screen debut in 2003’s I’ll Be There, co-starring and directed by Craig Ferguson. Church played the role of Olivia, the daughter of a washed-up 80s rocker from a one-night-stand, played by Ferguson. The film did not meet with widespread success, playing for only ten days in UK cinemas and being released directly to video in the US.
Church currently appears in a high profile television advertising campaign for Virgin Holidays for 2008 which features her singing in an Operatic style for the first time in a number of years.
The Charlotte Church Show
In the summer of 2006, Church began work on her own entertainment TV show, The Charlotte Church Show. After a pilot episode which caused some controversy and which was never released to the public, the series began on 1 September 2006, on Channel 4.
The show, hosted by Charlotte and featuring two celebrity guests each week, involves a mixture of sketches, reality TV, interviews and music, as well as a recurring Welsh theme. The first show included a Wales vs. the World competition and a Welsh remake of Will & Grace. Denise van Outen, Michael McIntyre, Ruby Wax, Billie Piper, and Patsy Kensit were amongst the first celebrities to appear on the series.
The show has averaged 1.9 million viewers and 10% of the available audience, and on 6 October 2006, it was announced that Channel 4 had commissioned a further two series of the show. However, the show’s ratings have yet to seriously compete with the well-established Friday Night with Jonathan Ross which is broadcast on BBC One in the same timeslot. According to her official website, the final series, originally planned for summer of 2007, was deferred until after Church gave birth. However, on 18 December 2007, Church stated in an interview that she had no immediate plans to shoot the final series, as she was too busy being a new mother.
Church won a British Comedy Award for “Best Female Comedy Newcomer” in 2006, and the ‘Funniest TV Personality’ award at the 2006 Loaded Magazine’s ‘LAFTA’ awards. In 2008 she was nominated for the Rose d’Or Special Award for Best Entertainer.
It was announced on the 10th February 2008 that Church was ready to make her return to TV. Channel 4 are said to be still in the planning stages but the show will air some time in the summer.
Church’s personal life has often been portrayed in UK tabloid newspapers, inspiring the song “Let’s Be Alone” on her album Tissues and Issues.
Church released an autobiography titled Voice of an Angel (My Life So Far) at 14, before the release of “Enchantment” and just after she had wrapped up her “Dream a Dream” Christmas CD. Her change of music direction is hinted at in the final chapter, “Turning Corners.” She released a second autobiography titled “Keep Smiling” in fall of 2007, very different in tone than the first.
Revisited with particular frequency is her love life. In 2002, aged 16, she moved out of the family home to live with her rap DJ/model boyfriend, Steven Johnson. This relationship inspired “Casualty of Love”, from Tissues and Issues). The couple split at the end of 2003. The tabloid press documented her subsequent relationship with Kyle Johnson (no relation of Steven Johnson), which ended in February 2005. The couple stated that they remained friends, though shortly afterwards Johnson revealed graphic details about the couple’s sex life to the press, leading to a slap from Church.
Other aspects of her personal life have been criticized in the press. In 2002, she was photographed smoking, and it emerged that she had developed a habit. This was alluded to on her album Tissues and Issues, in the song “Confessional Song”.
In recent interviews, Church stated she has stopped smoking and that her behaviour is more low-key.
The press has devoted much attention to Church’s relationship with boyfriend Gavin Henson, a Welsh International Rugby Union player: they have reportedly bought a manor in Glamorgan. At the end of 2005, she purchased a property in her native Llandaff, Cardiff, for a reported £500,000, although Henson said he is not part-owner of the property. The couple have mentioned marriage on talk shows and in the press,[ but put off marriage while Church was pregnant.
On Thursday, 20 September 2007 at 10:35pm Church gave birth to a girl named Ruby Megan Henson.
The couple have been nicknamed the “Welsh Victoria and David Beckham”. In 2007, Church made another appearance on a British young people’s rich list with Henson. They were ranked 49th richest young people in Britain with an estimated joint wealth of £10 million.
Church has lent her support to the production of limited-edition T-shirts or vests for the ‘Little Tee Campaign’ for Breast Cancer Care which donates money for breast cancer research.
She has also been a long time and very visible supporter of the Noah’s Ark Appeal to build a children’s hospital in Wales.