Classical singers, popular sales
Sarah Brightman is one of many artists that have made the crossover from classical to pop
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Friday, August 20, 1999 5:41:46 PM EST
A CNN WorldBeat Report
(CNN) -- In one week, the Billboard Top 200 contained no fewer than three albums by Andrea Bocelli, one by Sarah Brightman and another by Welsh wunderkind Charlotte Church. The London Symphony Orchestra scored hits with its soundtracks for "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace" and "Titanic." And teen-age violin virtuosos Vanessa-Mae and Hilary Hahn are lighting up classical works.
With their sophisticated, orchestra-driven music selling as well or better than many that of many pop artists, they've become part of a new movement of classical crossovers.
"'Classical crossover' is a term that's been used for a while now," says Gilbert Hetherwick, senior vice president of Angel Records. "The word 'crossover' is used in lots of different kinds of music, moving from one style to another, moving from one fan base to another."
Among classical crossovers, there's no one style of music that dominates -- as Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, explains: "If you look at the list, of whatever this week is on the Top 10, Top 20 classical crossover chart, you'll see incredible variety of forms of musical expression -- many of which nobody, at least in the classical music business, would define as being classical music."
Perhaps one of the best examples of nonconformity in classics is Sarah Brightman, once Andrew Lloyd Webber's muse and the darling of Broadway. "Sarah has always kind of lived in this amazing world between pop music and theater and classical," says Hetherwick. "She really sees it, I believe, as being one sort of new form of music that can actually reach a lot of different people in a lot of different directions."
He also singles out the Grammy-nominated (1998, for best new artist) operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli as a crossover success.
Classical crossover isn't a new phenomenon. But many attribute the current boom to a renaissance in classical music in film scores, plus a change in the way the recording industry handles artists -- and changes in the artists, themselves.
Citing rock-violinist Vanessa-Mae, whose music videos are as pop culture-driven as anything released by Aerosmith or Collective Soul, Hetherwick points out that she arrives at her concerts in the same flashy miniskirts that Britney Spears might wear. "She acts just like a pop star."