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Among the more charming--and improbable--of pre-millennial success stories is the left-field crossover triumph for this Welsh soprano, 12 years old at the time of her debut, and still on the near side of her teens in this concert video derived from a hit PBS special. At a time when "teeny pop" reigns over MTV and radio playlists, Church's serene program of Welsh and Irish folk airs, devotional hymns, and generally tranquil classical melodies gives alternative music an entirely new meaning.
Then again, it's just possible that Church's very appeal rests on the delicate balance between the unapologetic sweetness of her music and the unforced girlishness she flashes between songs, rare qualities indeed against the harsher foil of sexualized pop culture. Given the degree to which various predecessors, from Brenda Lee to Tanya Tucker to LeAnn Rimes, have been groomed to transmit a precocious "maturity," Church's virginal typecasting may be methodically anachronistic, but at least it offers a calming refuge from the mixed messages and soft-core spin offered by Britney Spears.
Director David Mallet, who's become the DeMille of up-market music videos and a staple for PBS fund drive specials, applies a familiar balance of sure technical craft and slick sentimentality. He dresses the Brixton Academy concert site with a faux stained glass window, flickering candle light, and delicate laser lighting units that imbue Church with a backlit radiance, just so we won't miss the angel connection. Skeptics will also note her Andrew Lloyd Webber connection (the signature Pie Jesu), as well as canny nods to Celtic chic in the inclusion of such warhorse choices as "Danny Boy" and "My Lagan Love." Still, whether or not the young star achieves her dream of singing Tosca at La Scala, for the moment Church achieves a poised lyricism that's no mean feat. --Sam Sutherland
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