THE old saying goes that our school days are the happiest of our lives. For New Zealand born Soprano singer, Hayley Westenra, they were also the start of her love of music.

The girl from Christchurch has established herself as one of the most significant and talented crossover performers currently around.

She says: “When I was six, I was chosen to be the singer in the school production of the Christmas Play. I sang the solo number Little Star.

“And that was it, I knew then that I wanted to be a singer, it felt so right and music quickly became a part of me,” laughs Westenra down the phone, as she prepares for a UK tour that includes a show at the Pavilion in Bournemouth this Thursday.

By the age of 11, a veteran of more than 40 stage performances, Westenra was expanding her musical knowledge, and admits that the first album she bought was by Andrea Bocelli – although she adds that the second one was by the Spice Girls.

It’s this appreciation of all styles of the musical spectrum that has seen Westenea become one of the most popular classical/pop crossover artists. Add to this her extraordinary self belief and you can see why the soprano singer, has never doubted her ability or talent.

“I am really a shy person, but for some reason when I start to sing, this air of confidence comes over me. My sister and I used to busk around Christchurch, and we would sell copies of my version of Walking In The Air. Music is such a part of me, it’s who I am” she explains.

Signing to the Decca Records label saw her music reach a much wider audience. Her first major album Pure, a mixture of light pop, classical and traditional songs, topped the British classical charts, even reaching number eight in the pop charts.

“The record deal took everyone by surprise, but Decca really promoted me and soon the album was selling really well. They promoted me to adults and children, I recorded the song for Mulan II, for the end credits, so my audience is quite a mixture of people, and I think the younger ones relate to me because of my age,” she says.

While the young singer likes the atmosphere of the recording studio, it’s the live situation that she feels is “magical” and with her ability to deliver stunning versions of older classical tunes alongside modern day pop tunes, her live performances are guaranteed to appeal to one and all.