[HOT TRACK]Teen's Voice, Choices Deepen

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[HOT TRACK]Teen's Voice, Choices Deepen

The Welsh soprano prodigy Charlotte Church describes her latest album as a blend of world sounds. "This album is very different from what's come before," she says. "I really wanted to try a lot of different things, but at the same time give my audience what they've come to expect from me."

Indeed, for fans of Church, some of her latest arrangements, including forays into pop, may come as an unpleasant surprise. But her bolder explorations range as far as Celtic folk songs.

Church was only 12 when she signed a recording contract with Sony. Her debut album, "Voice of an Angel," was an immediate smash, and established her as the youngest solo artist to top the classical charts in the United States and the youngest to crack the top five in the United Kingdom.

Now 15, the angel shows no sign of falling. Indeed, her voice is starting to fulfill the promise that won her the attention of the pope and the president of the United States, both of whom invited her to their respective millennium New Year's parties - but were turned down.

On "Enchantment," her fourth album, she strays from the choir girl selections on her earlier releases - chestnuts like "Amazing Grace," "Ava Maria," and "The Lord's Prayer." This time, her voice is more agile, and Church seamlessly navigates the shifts from opera to Celtic folk songs to hits such as "Tonight" from the musical "West Side Story."

Some of the added world-sound flavor on the album is provided by the flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook and the harpist Rhodri Davis.

Though Church has certainly matured since her splash debut, you still won't hear anything like the trained voices typical of older, more seasoned opera singers. The teen's music is still sweet and enchanting. She soars like a pure soprano on songs like "The Little Horses." Then the innocent wispiness of youth deepens a bit in "Habana."

Church also takes a charmingly novel detour in "The Flower Duet," in which she sings a duet with herself. She sings a more conventional duet with another prodigy, opera sensation Josh Groban, 19, in "The Prayer."

Church distances herself from being too associated with pop music. "I haven't got the right voice for pop songs," she says. But if her attempts at songs like "Somewhere," also from "West Side Story," are any indication, this classic artist just might defect.

by Joe Yong-hee

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